When Things Go Bad In Gold Country

A year ago the San Francisco 49ers came one play short of winning Super Bowl 47 against the Baltimore Ravens.

This year the 49ers again came one play short of returning to the Super Bowl when they lost the NFC Championship Game to the Seattle Seahawks.

Lets be honest, this hasn’t been the best off-season for the 49ers in recent years. Once the off-season began the 49ers added projects for Jim Harbaugh when they traded for quarterback Blaine Gabbert and offensive lineman Jonathan Martin. That had people scratching their heads.

The Jonathan Martin story was big news in itself for the 49ers and the NFL. Good or bad the 49ers acquiring Jonathan Martin will come with opinions from NFL fans and analysts everywhere and his every move will most certainly be documented throughout this entire year. I actually felt that bringing Jonathan Martin to the 49ers would be a good thing and would show the strength of the 49ers organization. We will see how that plays out now.

How can we forget the almost laughable story about a possible trade between the Cleveland Browns and the San Francisco 49ers for head coach Jim Harbaugh?

I can also recall much debate over Colin Kaepernick suggesting he’s worth $20M per year.

Jim Harbaugh and the front office have worked hard to get the San Francisco 49ers from where they used to be, to where they are now. In light of everything that has transpired over the past few weeks with the 49ers organization I may not speak for you, but it almost feels as if our beloved 49ers are taking steps in the wrong direction.

Don’t get me wrong, it isn’t time to throw in the towel. The 49ers are a legit contender even with their off-field issues, but should any of the off-field issues result in players missing games during the season that will place the 49ers in a completely new situation. If that is to be the case, only the players are to blame for that.

The latest situation with Aldon Smith can be added to the growing list of legal issues for the 49ers. Aldon is at a greater risk to miss games because of his previous charges of DUI and a separate incident resulting in a felony charge of possession of an assault weapon.The latest incident at LAX is not a laughing matter. (Section 148.1 California penal code)

Before the Aldon Smith incident, quarterback Colin Kaepernick and wide receiver Quinton Patton found themselves in a precarious situation down in Miami, Florida while visiting former teammate and now Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Ricardo Lockette. While the details of this investigation are still not clear and no charges have been filed, the fact that “something” happened and Kaepernick’s name is attached to it in the headlines does not display the 49ers image in a favorable manner.

Add that to the incident with 49ers cornerback Chris Culliver who was arrested for a hit-and-run incident in which he also allegedly threatened a witness.
Culliver is out on bail and today (4/14/14) he pleaded “not guilty” to the charges:
1)felony – possession of illegal weapon (brass knuckles)
2)misdemeanor – hit-and-run causing personal injury
3)misdemeanor – hit-and-run damage to property

And finally last but not least, (or should I say first but not last?) 49ers offensive lineman Daniel Kilgore was arrested back on January 26 for public intoxication in Tennessee. I too was arrested for this and sometimes the charge is quite laughable. Usually, public intoxication results in time served equivocating to a fine paid. With Daniel Kilgore recently signing a three-year contract extension, I’m sure the 49ers are not concerned about his arrest.

This all leads to a bigger picture for the 49ers, a picture that was much clearer a month ago has now become a question mark at certain positions. Take linebacker for example: All-Pro NaVorro Bowman will likely be out for the next 6-8 months or more rehabbing a complete tear of his MCL and ACL. Whether or not he returns to full strength is yet to be determined. Add to that Aldon Smith’s legal troubles and it is a possibility the 49ers may be without two of their top defensive players at the linebacker position for a portion of the season.

If we add in Chris Culliver’s legal issues, that now compounds an issue that already existed at the cornerback position. Adding Chris Cook and his off-the-field history did not give fans any confidence and losing Carlos Rogers and Tarell Brown now seems like a big deal. Factor in Donte Whitner leaving and Antoine Betha coming in, defensive backs coach Ed Donatell and the 49er secondary will have a lot of work to do to ensure the chemistry does not lack on the field.

As the 49ers prepare for the upcoming NFL draft on May 8, their focus for those 11 picks has most likely changed. While it may be too early to tell what may come from the legal issues, I am almost certain the 49ers are now looking at this draft to help fill key positions, mainly linebacker, cornerback and wide receiver.

Colin Kaepernick’s unfortunate situation may also put his contract extension on hold for now. And should anything happen to quarterback Colin Kaepernick, I’m sure all 49er fans would feel a little uneasy about the season. It has been well-documented that Jim Harbaugh is a fan of Eastern Illinois quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo and it is highly likely that the 49ers will draft a quarterback this year. Could that create a competition at the quarterback position?

In the ever-changing NFL, an organizations consistency to put themselves in favorable positions tends to lead to success. We all know how the NFL landscape can change from week to week, but the truth is the 49ers are digging themselves into a hole before the season even starts. I have never seen a team in professional sports have off-field issues and have it translate into on-field success.

They call them distractions for reason.

Not saying the 49ers can’t overcome these distractions, but those distractions only add to the challenges ahead. It’s really too early to say how this will affect the 49ers season, but this is certainly not the way you want to spend the off-season.

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