The wait is over for the San Francisco 49ers fans as the announcement was made on Tuesday that Turlock's Colin Kaepernick will start in the team’s Week 6 contest against the Buffalo Bills.
"We are going to start Colin this week and I believe we have to say it out there early since our ones get more reps obviously than our twos, so we need to get it done at the beginning of the week,” said Head Coach Chip Kelly in a press conference on Tuesday. "It’s a football decision, I don't even know where his contract status is but I never discussed it with him nor will I ever discuss it with Colin.”
Kelly announced the decision Tuesday to bench Blaine Gabbert and to give back the starting job that Kaepernick lost midway through last season. Kaepernick has only played briefly in the opener but has generated attention with his refusal to stand for the national anthem as a form of protest.
"We were very analytical and sat down as a staff and watched tape and went over everything," said Kelly. "We've had a couple days to digest everything where we are. I think offensively, we just need to be better and we just need to make a move."
Gabbert has struggled this season for San Francisco (1-4). He is last in the NFL in yards per attempt (5.9) and has the second-worst passer rating (69.6) in the league.
"It's not Blaine's fault," said Kelly. "I think as a group, offensively we need to be better in a lot of ways. So we're going to see what we can do and make a move here. It's really one of the only maneuvers we can make based on our depth."
Kelly said Kaepernick's ongoing protest had no bearing on his decision.
After leading the Niners to the Super Bowl following the 2012 season and the NFC title game the following year, Kaepernick has struggled. He lost his job to Gabbert midway through last season and then had three operations that limited his work in the offseason.
There have been questions about his arm strength and overall ability after the surgeries. Kaepernick underwent surgery in January for his right thumb and his left knee after previously undergoing left shoulder surgery to repair a torn labrum last November.
"I'm ready to play," Kaepernick said Tuesday. "It's been about a year since live-game action. So I'm itching to get back out there."
Kaepernick said looking at the offense, "there's just small things here and there that we need to clean up, we need to correct, as a whole.
"Hopefully those are things that we progress on this week and show Sunday," he said.
Kaepernick confirmed there have been discussions with the team about restructuring his six-year contract extension, but he said he feels "no pressure" to get the deal done before Sunday's game.
Kaepernick has a regular season winning percentage of .574, well above the average of many quarterbacks who are currently playing in the National Football League. The list includes: Drew Brees (.568), Cam Newton (.567), Alex Smith (.564), Philip Rivers (.564), Tyrod Taylor (.556), and even two-time Super Bowl Champion Eli Manning (.527).
Kaepernick's winning percentage in the postseason is also well above average at .667. He is above Ben Roethlisberger (.647), Brees (.545), Newton (.500), Aaron Rodgers (.538) and Andrew Luck (.500).
The 49ers have lost consecutive home games to the Cowboys and Cardinals while both teams started backup quarterbacks the last two weeks. Gabbert threw three interceptions and two touchdown passes combined.
He shouldered the responsibility for the most recent loss to Arizona on Thursday, when two of his interception on the 49ers' side of the field led to 10 points for the Cardinals.
Gabbert expressed his displeasure with the demotion Tuesday.
"I don't like it," he said. "I don't like not playing. I'm very forward about that. But at the same time, I'm going to come into work the same way I've always come into work the three years that I've been here."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.