“As a backup quarterback, you never know when your opportunity is going to arise,” Gabbert said in a conference call with reporters Wednesday. “So, from that standpoint you have got to be prepared every single week. Each week for the last year and a half was just stay prepared. Trust that you’ll get another shot and make the most of it.”
A St. Louis native, Gabbert will lead the 49ers (4-11) against the visiting St. Louis Rams (7-8) on Sunday.
Gabbert was the No. 10 overall pick in the 2011 Draft by the Jacksonville Jaguars — selected one spot ahead of Houston Texans defensive standout J.J. Watt — following his junior season at the University of Missouri.
But his time with the rebuilding Jaguars didn’t go as planned after being forced into action early as a rookie. Jacksonville went 4-10 in his 14 starts that season, 1-9 the following year and 0-3 the next.
So in Gabbert’s three seasons with the Jaguars, they went 5-22 in his 27 starts. He completed 53.3 percent of his passes for 4,457 yards, with 22 touchdowns against 24 interceptions, and a QB rating of 66.4.
“There were definitely some ups and downs in Jacksonville,” Gabbert said. “The biggest thing that I took from it was that it was a learning experience. I saw a lot. I learned a lot of different offensive and different schemes on the offensive side. Over the last five years it’s just been a learning process. You take bits and pieces from every scheme, every experience starting, every experience you have preparing for a team week-in and week-out. You just try and apply those to the current week.”
The Jaguars traded Gabbert to the 49ers following the 2013 season for a 2014 sixth-round pick and the quarterback appeared in just one game during the 2014 campaign, a blowout loss to the Denver Broncos.
The 26-year-old Gabbert was elevated to the starting spot this season after Colin Kaepernick struggled in a 27-6 loss to the Rams on Nov. 1.
Gabbert has had some ups and downs since becoming the starter.
He’s led the 49ers to wins over the Atlanta Falcons and Chicago Bears, but the team is 2-5 in his seven starts. His season numbers — 63 percent completion rate, nine touchdowns against six interceptions and a QB rating of 86.1 — show improvement over his time with the Jaguars.
“He goes about his business just in a terrific manner,” first-year 49ers coach Jim Tomsula said in a conference call. “You can set your watch to Blaine Gabbert coming in this building somewhere around (5:50) every morning with a cup of coffee. He's going right to the film room. He's done that every day he's been here. He's prepared every single day like he's starting.”
San Francisco signed Gabbert to a two-year contract for $4 million last offseason, so he’ll remain under contract with the 49ers for at least one more year. He’s got one more game this season to build on what he’s done so far and show he can be an asset for them going forward.
“I think he’s used his time here wonderfully,” Tomsula said. “We’ve got a 26-year old guy that’s been in the National Football League for (five) years.”