The similarities are abundant, right down to the shoulder injury that washed out Blaine Gabbert's second season. The newest 49ers quarterback today said he is seeking stability after a shaky start to his career, and he figures the best landing spot is where another high-profile 49ers passer who had been knocked around a bit finally found his footing.
"You always hear the comparisons," Gabbert said of Alex Smith. "Alex is a great quarterback, and he's done extremely well in Kansas City. And he's a guy that you look and you like to emulate yourself after - seeing the struggles he went through early on his career with all the changes that were going on around him and the way he's persevered through injuries, through all those changes to put himself in the position he's in now and take their team to the playoffs."
Smith, of course, was a former No. 1 overall pick who dealt with two season-ending shoulder injuries and a revolving door at offensive coordinator before Jim Harbaugh and his staff gave him some consistency in 2011. His passer rating - 67.3 to that point - jumped to 90.7 that season, and Smith led the 49ers to within overtime of going to the Super Bowl.
Like Smith, Gabbert was a high draft pick, having gone 10th overall to Jacksonville in 2011. He and Smith are the same height (6-4), they are mobile and they played in read-option offenses in college. They both wear No. 11 (although 49ers receiver Quinton Patton has it now), and they even trained together in San Diego last summer. Kansas City backup Chase Daniel preceded Gabbert at the University of Missouri and suggested he train alongside him, Smith and Saints quarterback Drew Brees.
Now Gabbert, who went 5-22 as a starter in Jacksonville, gets to learn under Smith's former mentor. Said Gabbert of Harbaugh: "The consistency he's brought to this organization and having success with Alex Smith and now Colin (Kaepernick) -- he's got a great track record with quarterbacks."
Gabbert said he's been training in Tampa but that he plans to move to the Bay Area as quickly as possible to begin acclimating himself to the team's facility and the playbook. He's already got a head start in one sense. He said ran the read-option at both Missouri and Jacksonville and even remembers studying Kaepernick and the "pistol" formation when Kaepernick was at Nevada.
"It adds another dimension to the offense," he said.
- Matt Barrows