SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- Only hours after he lost the starting quarterback job to Colin Kaepernick, San Francisco 49ers backup quarterback Blaine Gabbert stepped in front of reporters and answered questions in just about the most professional way possible.
Gabbert also answered those questions directly and without much sugarcoating.
"It's a tough deal, but a change is made like that, it's what the coaches felt best for this team," Gabbert said. "It sucks. I don't like it. I don't like not playing. I'll be very forward about that."
For Gabbert, who is about as consistently on message about hard work and focusing on the process as any player in the 49ers locker room, his Tuesday media session was a bit of a departure from the norm and understandably so after he was informed that he lost his job.
Asked when he heard from coach Chip Kelly that he would no longer be the starter, Gabbert offered another blunt assessment.
"This morning, good news to wake up to,” Gabbert said.
None of that is to say that Gabbert plans on mutiny after losing his job. Even after the loss Thursday to Arizona, Gabbert said he would understand why Kelly would look at possible changes. Those comments came after Gabbert stood just a few feet away while Kelly answered questions about his precarious job security.
Gabbert earned the respect of his teammates in the first place for the way he approached his job the same way every day. It's something Gabbert doesn't plan to stop now.
"I'm still going to come into work the same way I've always come into work the three years that I've been here," Gabbert said. "Put my best foot forward. Still continue to prepare. I'm not going to slack on the film work just because I'm not playing. That's not how I am as a person. That's not how I'm going to approach this situation. So, moving forward, I'm going to still prepare the same, be the same guy in the locker room, lead these guys and just keep chipping away.”
Although he's now the No. 2 quarterback, Gabbert said he learned long ago from Luke McCown that he still must prepare as though he's going to be the starter. That means plenty of film work, which is what Gabbert did on Tuesday in preparation for this weekend's game against the Buffalo Bills even after Kelly told him that Kaepernick would be taking over.
"My film study and my preparation throughout the week, it doesn't change whether I'm the 1 or the 2," Gabbert said. "That's how I've always been. I'm not going to slack whatsoever in how I prepare for this football team, how I watch this film, how I get myself ready to play a game. That's never going to change as long as I'm playing.”
Through the first five weeks, Gabbert undoubtedly struggled after a strong opener against the Los Angeles Rams. Through Tuesday night, Gabbert ranks 30th in the NFL in passer rating (69.6) among qualified players, is tied for the fifth-most interceptions (six), 26th in completion percentage (58 percent) and 31st in yards per attempt (5.93).
In looking back at those outings, Gabbert acknowledged that there were some throws and decisions he'd like to have back but he also pointed out that he's well aware that when you play quarterback, you're always being examined closely.
"The quarterback is under such a microscope," Gabbert said. "But, yeah, there's always going to be throws you want back, always going to be decisions you want back. I can honestly say I played hard, gave it my best shot. I wasn't good enough. We didn't win enough football games. We didn't score enough points on the offensive side of the ball and that's the way it goes. It's a tough situation and coach Kelly had to make a call.”
After a preseason quarterback competition with Kaepernick that never truly materialized, Gabbert said he didn't have time to wait and wonder when Kaepernick was going to take over. Even when 49ers fans began chanting for Kaepernick in last week's loss to Arizona, Gabbert said he didn't hear it as he tried to focus on his job.
"You're never going to play your best ball when you're looking over your shoulder," Gabbert said. "This game is tough enough to begin with and if you're playing like that, that's not a recipe to be successful. That definitely wasn't the case at all the first five games of the year.”
Of course, Gabbert is now always just one play away from being back in the lineup and if Kaepernick struggles, it's possible we'll see Gabbert again before the season is over. In the meantime, Gabbert hopes to make the best of the 25 or so percent of the reps with the first team offense he will get moving forward and attempt to find the repetitive accuracy that has eluded him thus far in his career.
"It's the consistency factor," Gabbert said. "That's something that we're always striving to be more and more consistent drive-in and drive-out, game in and game out. You get consistent with reps and just happens to be I got five games, didn't make the most of the reps and that's kind of the way it is.”