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Desperate 49ers have no choice but to consider Ponder their Plan C



ponder christian

A sizable chunk of NFL teams carry two quarterbacks on their 53-man roster into September. This allows them to stash an extra receiver, a linemen or a defensive back. It’s a perk when assembling an NFL roster.

The 49ers do not have that luxury at the quarterback position, and after seeing Christian Ponder shred Denver’s third-team defense, Chip Kelly and Trent Baalke should keep the 28-year-old around once final cuts commence.

The argument here isn’t that Ponder is ready to jump in and take Blaine Gabbert’s Week 1 starting spot on Monday Night Football — yet. The argument is that if Ponder masters Kelly’s system in practice, and both Gabbert and Colin Kaepernick sputter attempting to move the offense, why wouldn’t the 49ers roll the dice and at least give the former Minnesota Viking a shot to start later in the regular season? Kelly owes nothing to Gabbert and Kaepernick if they can’t perform on the field. Instead of toggling back and forth between two broken options, the head coach may have stumbled into a viable Plan C in Ponder.

What’s laughable about the 49ers’ quarterback situation is that someone walking in off the streets has shown us enough intrigue to create the itch to keep him around. Gabbert was better against the Broncos (6-of-9, 69 yards) than he was facing the Texans, but his hold on the starting job appears tenuous at best. Kaepernick’s arm fatigue (which the 49ers are partially at fault for) has not given him the proper chance chance knock off the inevitable rust in two preseason games. He won’t walk into the starting lineup without hiccups and missteps. This wasted time in August could wind up being detrimental for any chance No. 7 had at a revival in 2016.

It’s understood that the preseason means very little. Ponder is supposed to score two touchdowns and go 7-for-8 against fourth-stringers. It’s also understood that the 49ers have arguably the worst quarterback situation in the league. Had Baalke drafted Paxton Lynch or even Dak Prescott in the fourth-round instead of cornerback Rashard Robinson, the organization would be in a much better place under center. But that isn’t the case. Gabbert and Kaepernick are both capable of implosion, and while Jeff Driskel has shown some flashes, it would be totally reckless to play him as a rookie in the regular season. He’d get eaten alive.

Obviously, Ponder is not the quarterback of the future for this franchise. Like Gabbert and Kaepernick, he has flaws to his game. But even if he goes unclaimed on the waiver wire, it would be short-sighted to cut Ponder in September. Whether he recognizes it or not, Kelly needs a No. 3 quarterback in the building ready to go, much more than he needs a fifth inside linebacker, or a fourth running back.

We can’t even say for certain that Ponder would be worse than Gabbert or Kaepernick. After an entire year away from football, Ponder is feeling no pressure at all. When you create an opportunity for somebody who has absolutely nothing to lose, you could be onto something.

“I think it was the mind-set of like, ‘I don’t have anything to lose,’” Ponder told Eric Branch after the game in Denver. “I was already sitting on a couch doing nothing. I think the biggest thing that hindered me before was second-guessing myself and being hesitant in certain decisions.”

Like Ponder, Kelly shouldn’t second-guess his instincts on this one, either. It may be archaic to carry three veteran quarterbacks on your 53-man roster, but the insurance policy Ponder offers the team cannot be ignored.