The 49ers’ 2013 season ended in the worst possible way on Sunday. A lot of questions face this team as the players clean out their lockers and the front office prepares for the upcoming draft rather than the Super Bowl. Will they lose Greg Roman, Vic Fangio or Jim Tomsula? Is the Frank Gore era coming to an end? Will Trent Baalke be able to maneuver the handful of costly extensions due for the young core of talent on this team?
It’s hard to see the forest for the trees, and the 49ers crashed into a damn ugly one on Sunday. The sting of this game will linger, and the local media has more than enough salt at the ready.
- The new kids on the block over at the flagship of the Raiders are brimming with HOT TAKES ON COLIN KAEPERNICK’S WARDROBE.
- The Cohn Zone pushed all of its chips into the table by boldly proclaiming that its wildest dream had come true, and now the 49ers are in bits and pieces all over the kitchen floor.
- Scott Ostler asks, “did anyone hear the 49ers’ window of opportunity slamming shut?” Harbaugh answered a question about that yesterday. “I don’t understand windows,” said the 49ers head coach. “It’s confusing in terms of football. So, back today competing.”
- Ann Killion believes “the seeds are being sown for a potentially disgruntled Harbaugh” and that Colin Kaepernick’s contract negotiations “could rankle him.”
The internet is filled with vitriol over the team everybody suddenly loves to hate, with comparisons to the ’90s Buffalo Bills and enough schadenfreude to crash memegenerator.com
But it’s ironic — just as radio stations and Bay Area sports websites benefited so much from the 49ers recent success, these same outlets are just as Pavlovian over this season’s disaster of an ending. Columnists and talking heads who’ve complained about being slighted by the 49ers for their standoffish media tactics in the past are smelling blood in the water now. They’re trying to tell us that the sky is falling, but don’t waste your time on that bomb shelter.
On a microscopic level, a third-straight trip to the threshold without crossing it makes a fourth seem like mission: impossible. The 49ers have been hot at the craps table for three years now, and every single time they’ve been a roll or two short of cashing out. Except the 49ers aren’t playing the game blind — they’ve got experts, and they’ve got the advantage needed to get back to the table again.
Sustainability in the NFL seems to be predicated on three crucial pieces: a smart general manager, a terrific coach and a franchise quarterback.
He has his faults — his A.J. Jenkins gamble failed, along with the rest of his 2012 draft — but for every Jenkins there’s an Aldon Smith, and most draft classes can’t be successfully evaluated for at least three years. We’ll see how Tank Carradine and Marcus Lattimore pay off, but for now this team has his fingerprints all over it. Several of the expiring contracts that could handcuff the 49ers have his draftees names on them. In free agency, he’s made calculated decisions (see: Justin Smith’s contract extension to bridge the gap to Tank Carradine and not competing for Dashon Goldson before a safety-heavy 2013 NFL Draft), he’s continued to stockpile draft picks and he’s maneuvered contract extensions to leave some salary cap breathing room.
He makes $5 million a year, which puts him third in the NFC West behind Pete Carroll and Jeff Fisher (who both make $7 million annually). Without his contributions, none of the sweeping expansions the 49ers are experiencing would have happened. The 2011 resurgence spurred the stadium construction, which in turn spurred several blockbuster partnerships and earned the Yorks a whole lot of money. Harbaugh is 50 years old (Pete Carroll is 62 and Bill Belichick is 61, for comparison), which means he’s got a lot of coaching left in him. Does anyone really believe this organization will let him slip through their fingertips? Please.
He’s 26 years old and just finishing his first full season as the 49ers’ starting quarterback. In that season, he passed for over 3,000 yards, threw 21 touchdowns to 8 interceptions and finished seventh in average yards per attempt (7.7). His damning final decisions in the Super Bowl and NFC Championship Game showed his youth, yet the 49ers wouldn’t have been in either game without him. Kaepernick is eligible for a contract extension starting this offseason, and when he gets it, it’s going to be substantial. A quarterback getting “rankled” sounds like a lovely narrative, and I’m sure the comments section in Killion’s post is rife, but a narrative is all that is. File that in the same folder as “press conference attire” and ignore it.
What happens with the rest of the team will be spelled out in the coming months:
— Donte Whitner, Anquan Boldin, Anthony Dixon and Tarell Brown are just a few players who could use their performances on the 49ers as a springboard to gigantic contracts with other teams. But the 49ers faced similar personnel problems last offseason — Goldson, Delanie Walker and Isaac Sopoaga all got paid — and this 2013 team is the best we’ve seen in the Harbaugh era.
— Then there’s the NaVorro Bowman injury, and that’s a big one. But reinforcements are coming, and the way the 49ers have recruited backup linebacker talent over the last few years (Larry Grant, Michael Wilhoite, Dan Skuta, Corey Lemonier … ) gives no reason to doubt they can find a suitable stopgap.
Certainly there is work to be done, but this team has steadily improved for three years now. Super Bowl trip or not, Gore wasn’t getting any younger. Super Bowl trip or not, impending free agents were going to test the market. Super Bowl trip or not, Harbaugh and Kaepernick both excelled enough to deserve raises. What happened on Sunday changed nothing about the state of the 49ers going into this offseason, no matter how much disgruntled Bay Area columnists want you to believe it did.
I will have to disagree, as faithful and passionate as I am for the incredible franchise. Three championship appearances including one Superbowl match is extremely rare, three times in a row is almost ridiculous. I really feel not nabbing one trophy with three chances in a row with virtually the same team set up is like god giving you lottery numbers but you somehow screwed it up again and again by not buying the tickets. I'm sorry but I think the golden window of opportunity that comes once in a life time like this has come and left like a warm summer breeze. I do believe Harbaugh's blazing era has somewhat ended with the 49ers. Games will still be exciting, we will still make the playoffs but I'm afraid we're just going to be like the New England Patriots and Green Bay Packers going forward until the next great era comes along.
Thank you for writing an article that doesn't pander to the chicken little mentality, even though that would certainly be the easy way out -- controversy and bombast usually get more attention than reason these days. See one Richard Sherman.
For all of Harbaugh's media antipathy, I think the writers that you referenced in the article justify his attitude. These people are in the business of getting attention -- and a track record is almost meaningless to them -- its what have you done for me lately, and what can I say that causes a reaction among people. Not three NFC championship games in the first 3 years. Not a 1.5 year experienced quarterback with a NFC championship, a Superbowl appearance, and record breaking statistics. Its all about the hole in the donut. Its the only card that certain media types have in order to remain relevant and employable. Lowell Cohn, Anne Killion, Scott Ostler -- I'm fairly certain none of them have played football at a truly competitive level. Now that doesn't mean their opinions can't be valid, but given what they are currently writing -- they've lost a ton of credibility with me.
As for this so-called "window" -- in the NFL, if you have a very good head coach, a very good general manager, and a talented quarterback -- your ability to compete remains extremely high. In terms of the 49ers? Check, check, check.
As for trolls Cohn and Killion, lunch with Sherman would perfectly suit them (and that they cannot deny). I respect newswriters as they have jobs to to do, to make news out of nothing, I am a writer who understands that - but I rather shift from that kind of journalism and support my team by writing reinforcement pieces.
Let's add a new word: Don't Sherman me!
ERIN: You have been Sherman'd!
Can anyone tell me what's up with Killion? Maybe I haven't been reading long enough. I started reading her at the end of her stint w/ The Mercury news. Has she always been so bitter and trying to draw negative narratives?
She was against Aldon Smith playing in the Indy game. After they lost, she tweeted "Karma's a bitch, 49ers".
The 7 and 9 days are behind us. With the plethora of draft picks and the ability to refresh players careers we will be back in this super bowl with this QB and coaching staff.
I'll repeat what I say everywhere else. The Cohn's and Ann Killion are nothing but bitter trolls. The sooner EVERYBODY stops reading their websites, stops giving them the clicks, they might, just might leave us all alone. Don't feed the trolls folks. These people should know better, yet many of you fall for their abysmal stories and baiting, week after week.
Killion is the most ungrateful piece of work I've had the misfortune to read or listen too. As for the Cohn's, good god people.
There's a reason why I come to sites like this over the sites they write for. I'm over 5000 miles away and I can see this!! Wake up folks!
Do I care what Kap wears No. He can do every presser in the buff if he wins us a Super Bowl.
Folks need to be patient with him as well. Look at the likes of Brees, Brady, Rodgers. All took their time, learning their craft. There's no reason he won;t be that good, given the time and the tools to work with.
In terms of us moving forward, Big, Big year for Baalke. I wouldn't be adverse to letting both TBrown AND Whitner go in FA and beefing up that secondary through the draft. If we can get a vet OC or let Kilgore/Looney step-up, that could upgrade the OL.
Brown and Whitner out, free's up money for Boldin to return for a couple of years. Add at least another burner in the draft along with some OL, DB depth. I'd also like to see us draft an all out KR/PR guy. Even if it means trading away LMJ for a pick in the future.
Finally, a voice of true reason. The rest of the Bay Area media is taking the easy way out and pandering to everyone's currently fragile emotional state. The 49ers are nowhere near re-building mode, its simply time to re-load. Three straight title game appearances and its all gloom and doom going forward? I suppose we'd be better off in the simpler days of the Nolan/Singletary era.
And let's not forget, the Seahawks aren't without their own concerns going forward either. They have plenty of underpaid guys they are going to be hard pressed to keep. The Patriots didn't sustain their success over the last decade by avoiding turnover, but they stayed consistent at qb and head coach.
Thank you! I'm to the point I won't read anymore columns. This team was so much fun to watch this year. I'm just as disappointed as anyone. The game on Sunday went down the final seconds! I mean that was awesome. Of course I wish they had won, but. I'm proud of them and I think they will be just fine.
to expand on this, this is not the same period where the Niners and Cowboys were making dynasties left and right, the league has changed, especially with salary caps and such it just makes me even more depressed how we missed this golden opportunity to capitalize.
@Sunset Boy Dont get all this talk about open window or closing window. things change fast in the nfl and you never know for sure. the last two teams that won the super bowl are the giants & ravens and both teams didnt even make the playoffs.
Here's the other thing, If Richard Sherman doesn't make an amazingly athletic play on that last pass, none of those articles are written. They're all celebrating Kaepernick, Harbaugh, et al. Couple of inches. And so it goes.
You really believe that? Which OLB will he supplant, Brooks or Smith. I like Lemonier too but dude's not starting next year barring injuries.
I'd like to add...a steaming pile of Sherman.
@BA Rich Wow, I didn't know that. That's amazingly petty. I'll avoid reading her articles from now on.
@MilpitasNinerGuy I agree that Lemons won't be starting, but I would like to see competition for Brooks' spot. Yes, I know he made the Pro Bowl and, statistically, had a good season, but Brooks seems to disappear in games for large stretches of time. And this is while never facing the double teams and chip blocks that Aldon faces. Aldon is an absolute freak of nature and causes disruption no matter how many blockers you put on him, but Brooks just seems to get lost in the mix too often.
Maybe give Skuta a few more snaps to see what he can do. I just want to see more consistent pressure from Brooks' side since Aldon is going to be regularly double-teamed and the guys who have single blockers need to win those battles in order to get consistent pressure on the QB.