Life as a player in the National Football League may appear glamorous and exciting to fans, but the reality for players is…well, grueling. San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick and former Australian rugby star turned NFL running back and punt returner Jarryd Hayne are experiencing the tough parts of being and professional football player. Does either deserve a break?
Kaepernick Benched In Favor Of Blaine Gabbert
To say the 49ers season has been a rough one is probably an understatement. First-year head coach Jim Tomsula and the Niners are 2-6 as they head into a division contest with NFC West leader Arizona. The offense is absolutely atrocious, and much of that falls on the shoulders of Kaepernick. As a result of his poor play, the fifth-year pro has been benched by Tomsula and replaced by Blaine Gabbert. The former Missouri quarterback has started just three games since 2013 and went 0-3 in those games. In fact, Gabbert’s teams were blown out by a combined 99-25. Still, Tomsula and the 49ers staff must feel like it can’t get any worse.
Kaepernick has led an offense that is dead last in the NFL in scoring – 13.6 points per game. In their last two games, losses to Seattle and St. Louis, San Francisco could muster just nine total points. Kaepernick is completing under 60 percent of his passes (59.3) and has just six touchdown passes. His total quarterback rating is 47.6 and his passer rating of 78.8 are both near the bottom when compared to other NFL starters. Kaepernick has been sacked a whopping 28 times. Only Seattle’s Russell Wilson has been sacked more (31).
Does the San Francisco signal-caller deserve a break? Should fans, players, and the coaching staff cut him some slack? In today’s world of “what have you done for me lately?” the short answer is no. Regardless of a change in the coaching staff, a change in the offensive philosophy, a change in offensive terminology, the bottom line is that Kaepernick is an experienced NFL quarterback who simply is not producing. The result, of course, is that he gets benched and will watch from the sidelines on Sunday as Gabbert tries to direct the 49ers offense.
The Trials And Tribulations Of Jarryd Hayne
Hayne starred in rugby in Australia and, because of his freakish athletic talent, was able to land a spot on the 49ers final 53-man roster prior to the beginning of this season. Hayne was forced into action as a result of injuries to running backs Reggie Bush, Carlos Hyde, and Mike Davis. The 6-2, 235-pound Hayne struggled with holding on to the football and with running in tight spaces. Hayne only carried the ball eight times in the six games that he was active, but the 49ers front office decided it was time to part ways with the 27-year-old Aussie.
Hayne was placed on waivers just last Saturday and none of the other 31 teams in the league claimed him. With Hyde having problems with stress fractures, Bush out for the year with a torn ACL, and Davis undergoing hand surgery, Hayne was re-signed back to the 49ers practice squad. Kendall Gaskins, a third-year pro out of Richmond, was promoted to the roster from the practice squad and Shaun Draughn, a 6-0, 205-pound running back, was signed last Monday to add some depth.
While it is possible, Hayne being added to the active roster for Sunday’s game with the Cardinals is unlikely. The 49ers added Pierre Thomas to the roster as well and both he and Draughn have put in extra duty this week to ensure they are prepared for Sunday. Gaskins had five carries for six yards in the loss to the Rams last week and he may not be the answer. The 49ers will at least have some depth at the position heading into Sunday.
So, does Hayne deserve some slack? Maybe more so than Kaepernick. Unlike the former University of Nevada quarterback, Hayne never played organized football until this year. Sure, he is a tremendous athlete, but growing up with soccer and rugby is much different than growing up playing Pop Warner, high school, and college football in America. There are so many nuances that Hayne just does not understand yet. Can he? Absolutely, but it will take time. Will the 49ers give Hayne the time to catch up and become more familiar with football and the NFL? Only time will tell, but for now, give him a break and allow him the time to improve.