As The Doors once sang, “When the music’s over, turn out the lights.”
With the 17-7 loss against the Seattle Seahawks (10-4), the San Francisco 49ers (7-7) have been eliminated from playoff contention and will not make the playoffs for the first time in the Jim Harbaugh era. The Niners played a good first half, taking a 7-3 lead into half time, however, the second half was a different story, and the 49ers watched their season slip into the abyss.
With two games remaining, San Francisco needs to run the table against San Diego (8-6) and Arizona (11-3) to keep their record above .500.
The season has been a major disappointment. How could a team with so much talent perform so poorly? 2014, for the Niners, has been an enigma wrapped in a mystery stuffed in a conundrum. It just doesn’t make sense.
Perhaps we should’ve seen the warning signs. Reports as early as last year indicated there was a rift between general manager Trent Baalke and head coach Jim Harbaugh. That toxic relationship loomed like a dark cloud over the team and spread to the locker room. That much background noise is enough to rattle a team as easily as a rabid crowd at CenturyLink. Now Harbaugh may be on his way out. More on that later.
Then came the troubles with Aldon Smith, who ended up serving a nine-game suspension for conduct detrimental to the league. Already down NaVorro Bowman, losing Patrick Willis to injury meant the 49ers never had all four of their starters this year. Somehow, Vic Fangio has been able to do a great job without three of his key weapons, but the struggles on the opposite side of the ball are the real thorn in San Francisco’s side.
The offense has been laughable. Mired by poor offensive line play, unimaginative play calling, the most delay of game penalties in football and a massive regression from quarterback Colin Kaepernick, the 49ers offense has sputtered this season, particularly in the last five weeks, where they’ve failed to score more than 17 points and have averaged only 11.2 points per game. Throw in Michael Crabtree’s insecurities and the disappearance of Vernon Davis, and a loaded offense, talent-wise, has turned into a joke. The question of who deserves the onus of the blame is up for debate, but no one can deny a change needs to be made. It wouldn’t shock me if Greg Roman, once considered by many to be a head coaching candidate, finds himself without a job once the regular season ends.
Speaking of coaches without a job, I’ve already mentioned that Jim Harbaugh may be gone soon. That may shock many given the run San Francisco has had under Harbaugh. His success, minus this year, is unquestioned. He’s led the 49ers to three NFC Championship games and one Super Bowl appearance. However, his abrasive personality seems to have rubbed management the wrong way, and it appears he’s worn out his welcome. Will he return to Michigan? Will he join the Silver and Black? The offseason will tell, but while I don’t want to see it, I just can’t envision Harbaugh returning to San Francisco.
While I’m disappointed that the Niners won’t be in the playoffs, the offseason should yield some interesting story lines and a higher draft pick will help build towards the future. This year wasn’t the best, but they don’t call 49er fans the Faithful for nothing. The Quest for Six is just on hold, but 2015 is a whole new season.
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