Here is a link to my Monday column. The full text runs below:
Jim Tomsula walked into the postgame interview room after his team got a rare victory — 17-16 over the Falcons. After new starting quarterback Blaine Gabbert took the 49ers to that victory. You would have expected Tomsula to be happy with his third win of this sad season.
You would have expected Tomsula to expect questions about Gabbert.
You would have expected Tomsula to have plenty to say about Gabbert.
Here is the give and take between the media and Tomsula — a lot of give by the media and hardly any take by Tomsula. One reporter immediately asked: “What did you like from quarterback Blaine Gabbert today and is he your quarterback after the bye?
“Right out of the gate,” Tomsula said in a huff. Huffily? “We’re going to enjoy today. Gabbert did a nice job as did the team.”
Desperate to change the subject from the Niners’ unexpected success story, Tomsula started praising everyone he could think of including his offensive line and Falcons head coach Dan Quinn who, honestly, didn’t deserve praise.
Reporters laid off Gabbert questions for a while, not wanting the coach to bust a gut. Me, I was wondering if Gabbert is the starter for the Niners next game in two weeks in Seattle. Tomsula hadn’t actually said so. I got ready to ask but I felt embarrassed. I mean it was so obvious. “Just to clarify,” I said tremblingly, “Gabbert will be your starter for your next game.”
Tomsula shot me a look, like maybe I had asked about his mutual funds (is Joan in payroll in charge of them?) or his sex life.
“Gabbert was our starter today and I don’t have a comment past that,” he said in a grumpy voice. Grumpily.
Hold the phone, coach. Everyone knows Gabbert was the starter on Sunday because, get this, he was the starter. So, you were no help on that one. I moved onto my next question.
“My second part is, what did you like about what (Gabbert) did today?”
“I thought he did what he does in practice. I thought he did what he’s been doing and improving on since he’s got here.”
Tomsula looked away, subject closed. Since reporters aren’t allowed in to watch practice, no one has any idea what Gabbert does in practice, what he works on and how he’s improved. Again, no help from the head coach.
Later, another reporter said, “Obviously, if you don’t say Gabbert is going to start against Seattle … ”
Tomsula cut him off. “I’m not going to get into all that today.”
The spurned reporter said: “It could invite two weeks or a week worth of discussion of, ‘Who’s their quarterback?’ Why won’t you say who?”
“Because, I’m going to go back and watch tape.”
The old I-have-to-watch-the-tape answer. Weird, the losing coach, who finally got a win, wouldn’t talk about the quarterback who got him the win — the quarterback he himself promoted. Tomsula’s tone was snippy. You might say he acted snippily.
Tomsula should have praised Gabbert. A lot. Should have analyzed what Gabbert did well. A lot. This was the wackiest performance from a coach who specializes in wacky performances. Maybe he didn’t have the authority to name Gabbert his starter. Needs permission from Jed York, Paraag Marathe and Trent Baalke.
Because the coach dummied up on the subject of Blaine Gabbert, I’ll say what he should have said but didn’t choose to say or didn’t know how to say. Gabbert should start against the Seahawks because he won on Sunday against the Falcons. Won the freaking game. Nothing — and I mean nothing — is as important as winning the game.
Gabbert should start against Seattle because the Seahawks murder Colin Kaepernick.
Gabbert should start against Seattle because he threw two touchdown passes in the first half. When was the last time Kaepernick the Glum threw two TD passes in the first half?
Gabbert should start against Seattle because, with a little more than two minutes left in the game, he ran around right end for the first down and he stayed inbounds and that kept the clock moving. Put the game away. In similar circumstances, Kaepernick, losing track of down and distance and the general situation, has run out of bounds stopping the clock and aiding the opponent.
Gabbert should start against Seattle because he’s way more poised than Kaepernick, calmer in the pocket. Kaepernick gets freaked under pressure and takes sacks. The Falcons got no sacks on Gabbert. Running the same offense as Kaepernick, he got the ball to his receivers fast, didn’t take that big windup a la Kaepernick. And he anticipated where receivers would be and led them. He played a bad second half. The Niners scored no points in the second half. But he made that run to end the game.
Gabbert came to the interview room after Tomsula left.
“I asked Tomsula if you’re the starter for the next game,” I said. “And he wouldn’t answer. I think that’s fair to say he didn’t commit. Do you expect to be the starter?”
“All I know is we got the victory today,” Gabbert said. “We’ve got a bye week coming up and we’re going to prepare for Seattle. That’s our next game up there, so whatever 11 guys will march out on the field, we’re going to go up there and expect a victory.”
“Is that what he (Tomsula) told you to say or did you come up with that on your own?” I asked. I mean, Gabbert was almost quoting Tomsula.
“Huh?” Gabbert said.
“Is that what he told you to say or did you come up with that on your own?”
“No, I consider myself a smart guy, so I can form my own words and sentences,” Gabbert said. Meaning he’s a diplomat. Meaning he didn’t get offended like the other guy usually does. He laughed. Everyone laughed. The news conference was lighthearted. For a change.
I shouldn’t have to tell you this, Jim Tomsula, but here goes. You bet Gabbert should start against Seattle. No one says he’s Joe Montana. Of course not. But, to his credit, he’s also not Colin Kaepernick.
For more on the world of sports in general and the Bay Area in particular, go to the Cohn Zohn at cohn.blogs.pressdemocrat.com. You can reach Staff Columnist Lowell Cohn at lowell.cohn.pressdemocrat.com.