It wasn’t all that long ago. I understand that. But I hold the 2011 season vividly in my mind. I went through that whole season on pins and needles waiting for the collapse. From a fan’s perspective, I waited. I waited and waited some more. There was a level of certainty within me that knew the San Francisco 49ers that year we were eventually going to fail. The eight prior years left me no other expectation than that. The roster was essentially the same. The quarterback, Alex Smith, was most definitely the same. The failure I was anticipating never showed. The 49ers made it 16 games into the season without the letdown I was positive would come. At 13-3 the 49ers rolled into the playoffs with a first round bye. As they say, the rest is history. Aside from a few bad breaks in the NFC title game that year, the 49ers would have been playing for another Lombardi Trophy.
That’s neither here nor there right now. My point is this. The 49ers are 7-8. They’re experiencing failures at a rate that was common during that dark time period from 2002-2010. It won’t be hard to slip back into that phase. Nothing is guaranteed in this league. Good coaching is hard to come by. Winning franchises don’t build (or rebuild) themselves overnight. Well, unless you bring in Jim Harbaugh. After another colossal failure against the San Diego Chargers, let’s recap with some things I think I know.
It’s an old story. It’s also a recurring one. Is there anyone left on this roster to suit up for the final game? Sixteen players have currently landed themselves on IR. Another handful are questionable to play the Arizona Cardinals. There’s no doubt about this. It feels like a bad dream with no ending. After week 17 concludes, we all can hopefully wake up.
The secondary deserves their due.
They’ve quite possibly flown under the radar. The season’s projected number 1 corner, Tramaine Brock, has rarely seen the field due to injury. Go figure. So, it’s been a bit of a rag tag group. NFL retread, Perrish Cox, has solidified himself amongst some of the better corners in the league. He recorded another interception and a handful of pass break ups against the Chargers.
Chris Culliver has overcome a major knee injury and off the field issues to solidify himself as a good cornerback. His physicality and press coverage ability are above average, and he performed admirably again this past Saturday night.
Antoine Bethea is perhaps the most deserving member of the 49ers to make the Pro Bowl. He’s equal parts good against the pass and run. He’s been everything the Niners could have hoped for bringing him in from the Indianapolis Colts.
Eric Reid has regressed slightly since his rookie season, but he’s been productive nonetheless. Yet another head injury (3rd in 2 years) leaves Reid’s extremely young career on edge.
Combined rushing record
The 49ers set a franchise rushing record with 355 yards. Frank Gore looked like, well, Frank Gore in the first half of the Chargers game. The offensive line found a cohesion rarely seen. Having Anthony Davis back in the line up helped tremendously. It’s been a rare formula for the 49ers this year. I should say a rare “called” formula. Greg Roman has rarely pounded the running game this season. It worked well in the first half.
In the second half, the Chargers loaded the box to stop the running game. Gore was stifled and Colin Kaepernick picked up the slack. Kaepernick added to a franchise record with a his powerful, long stride while scrambling. Kap made the type of plays that 49ers fans have literally waited all season to see. Obviously, it was too little too late. But for one game at least, it was exciting.
Jim Harbaugh and the front office
He’s gone. There’s no doubt about the fact in my mind anymore. The talking heads have gotten this one right. Whether or not they had this one pegged from the get go or eventually, with losing, lucked into being that way, I’m not sure.
This divorce is an unfortunate situation. Jim Harbaugh has meant as much to this fan base as any coach in the history of our storied organization. Yes, I said it. Although there are no trophies to hoist, he’s been a modern day Bill Walsh for the 49ers. We, as fans, will always remember that.
Now the front office is a different story. There’s a story there that will never be fully understand. How can it? In an era of social media, blogs, and beat reporters on top of beat reporters there’s no such thing as full disclosure. Vague will be the word of the offseason as it pertains to Jed York, Trent Baalke, and Jim Harbaugh. We’ll never know how the dysfunction truly started…..or why for that matter. The start of this regime was full of courtship and admiration. The demise is filled with disdain and downfall. It sure was a quick rise and faster fall.
It appears to me, someone with no inside knowledge, that the flummox starts from the top. Amongst other things I’m sure, Jed York is choosing his GM over his head coach. The 49ers have been down that road before. It’s a familiar road. Ask George Seifert or Steve Mariucci about that. It’s not a sustaining, successful road either. Hopefully for the sake of us, the Faithful, the 49ers can rebound and rebound quickly. I’ll forever be Faithful, but that still leaves me with doubts. The unknown road is often the unsettling one.