QB change, trade — putrid 49ers look bound for 2-14

After several rough performances, the 49ers have decided to bench Colin Kaepernick and start backup Blaine Gabbert. (AP Photo/Tom Gannam, File)

The 49ers have tried like heck to avoid the r-word this season because nobody likes to admit a mistake, but the odor inside Levi’s Stadium on Monday sure smelled like a rebuild in the works.

“I’m not into the labels,” said head coach Jim Tomsula, still in denial, as if the rest of us were a bunch of idiots. “I’m not into any of that.”

Call it a rebuild or reshuffle or just plain overhaul, but that’s where one of the NFL’s worst teams was headed after Vernon Davis was dealt to the Denver Broncos and Colin Kaepernick was demoted. A pair of sixth-round picks wasn’t much of a return for the 30-year-old Davis, a two-time Pro Bowler, but when you consider that he checked out emotionally months ago and was a divisive force in the locker room to hear some tell it, that was better than nothing.

Expect Kaepernick to follow him out the door before April 1, by which time the organization can cut ties at a substantial savings. Fans and media have clamored for career backup quarterback Blaine Gabbert to replace him, although Tomsula has danced around the question time and again.

“Yeah, we’re evaluating everything right now,” Tomsula said. “So we’re in the middle of it right now. I don’t have any comments on any position on our field right now. We are evaluating everybody.”

Pressed further, Tomsula said, “Yeah, we’re evaluating everyone.”

For weeks, Tomsula has said Kaepernick is his quarterback. But the real question is, is Kaepernick general manager Trent Baalke’s quarterback? Tomsula insists that he consults with Baalke on personnel matters after each game, and there should be no doubt which one calls the shots here.

“See, I know where we’re going with this questioning,” Tomsula said. “I’m not going down that road. I’ve got a lot of respect for Blaine Gabbert.”

Because Jim Tomsula has no other choice.

JUST ASKIN’: When the offensive line is a sieve and the wide receivers struggle to beat press coverage and the quarterback hears footsteps even when they’re not there, how can the coaches pass judgment on anything they see on film?

The Faithful might not have seen the last of Davis in Santa Clara this season. He may be the final piece to the Super Bowl puzzle for an unbeaten Broncos team that has the look of a potential AFC champion about it.

Davis hasn’t scored since the senior prom, it seems, but in Peyton Manning he has an accomplished quarterback who has a history with tight ends. Manning has completed only 57.5 percent of his passes this season, partly because of a shortage of options at the position. Broncos tight ends have caught 23 passes this season, which ranks 28th in the league.

If Broncos operations chief John Elway consulted with Manning before the trade, as one would think, the fact that the quarterback signed off on it indicated that Davis had something left.

“We’re excited to add Vernon to the roster,” Elway said. “He’s a guy that adds great experience, great speed, been a team leader for the Niners for a long time. He’ll be a great addition, a big weapon for us because of the speed that he has.”

GET IT STRAIGHT: Kaepernick was in such a hurry to get rid of the ball in the 27-6 stinker against the St. Louis Rams on Sunday, he averaged barely eight yards per completion and didn’t throw an interception.

“Colin didn’t play good enough,” Tomsula said. “Neither did the team. The San Francisco 49ers didn’t play good enough.”

Wrong, coach. The Santa Clara 49ers didn’t play good enough.

Three days after his release, Jarryd Hayne was re-signed to the practice squad, but Australians shouldn’t get their hopes up. Well-worn veteran Shaun Draughn was signed and another, Ben Tate, also invited to try out for a spot in the depleted backfield, where Reggie Bush (knee) is done for the season while Mike Davis (hand) and Carlos Hyde (foot) figure to be out a while.

Why Baalke would allow Frank Gore to walk out the free-agent door and not replace him with a experienced inside runner remains one of the unsolved mysteries of the season.

LOOK WHO’S SMILIN’ NOW: Meanwhile, the Raiders were the happy story in the Bay Area one day after their victory over the New York Jets, an indication of how much things had changed this season.

“We’re a 4-3 team,” coach Jack Del Rio said when asked if his team might become overconfident against the Steelers in Pittsburgh this weekend. “We’ve battled each and every week. We’re going to continue to battle each and every week. These kind of questions are kind of silly to me.”

Except that defense coordinator Ken Norton Jr. said much the same thing not long ago, then his team laid an egg against the Bears in Chicago. A victory over the Steelers would make even more believers.

ROYAL RELIEF: Congrats to ex-Athletics infielder Ben Zobrist and the rest of the Kansas City Royals, the new World Series champions. If the Giants had to vacate the throne, at least they did so to a worthy successor.

Better yet, the Royals beat the New York Mets in five games, which spared us more of Frank Thomas, the expert Fox analyst.

“The Mets have nothing to hold their head down for, except they didn’t play that well and gave away this World Series,” Thomas concluded.


YOUR TURN: “Ostensibly, Jed York is an imbecile. Shame he can’t fire himself. The two coaches that were being considered for the 49ers’ job were Todd Bowles and Dan Quinn, and he picked a line coach, not even a coordinator. The horror, the horror.” — Art Alcantar, San Francisco.

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