When it comes to the question of keeping Blaine Gabbert or Josh Johnson as the backup quarterback behind Colin Kaepernick, coach Jim Harbaugh has a very simple solution: keep them both.
Harbaugh expressed his desire to go with three QBs heading into the season via CSN Bay Area:
“I’d really like to,” Harbaugh said. “We’ve done that most of the time.”
Johnson staked his claim to a roster spot Thursday night by torching the Houston Texans for 135 yards and 3 TDs on 14-of-17 passing, with one interception that was housed by the Texans Andre Hal. Gabbert wasn’t quite so impressive but he did lead San Francisco on a scoring drive late in the game.
The cynic may argue that Harbaugh’s inability to choose between Gabbert and Johnson indicates that neither one has really done enough to win the backup job. Based on last night, Johnson would seem to be in the lead, but there is an argument in favor of keeping Gabbert too.
Many were surprised when the 49ers traded a seventh round pick to the Jaguars to acquire Gabbert, a top-ten pick in 2011 who is regarded as a massive bust. Harbaugh may believe that Gabbert can still be developed and will end up being a valuable player down the road, either as a backup QB or as trade bait.
The problem with keeping three quarterbacks is that it hampers you roster-wise in other areas where injuries may become more of an issue as the season progresses. If Harbaugh has his way, that’s a risk the 49ers will take.