The spread was 13 — or 13.5 depending on where you looked — for a reason. The 49ers came into this game after getting outscored 147-58 in their first four road games of the season. But the team from Santa Clara flew up to Seattle with hopes of winning. Wait, no, they flew up there with dreams of keeping the score semi-respectable. Because that’s what this coaching staff is worried about — staying competitive … and employed.
Today’s game, a 29-13 loss to the Seahawks after falling behind 20-0 in the first half, won’t lead to anyone getting fired this week. So, despite all we’ve learned about sports since we were old enough to know what a touchdown was, this was a successful day for the 49ers coaching staff, Jim Tomsula in particular. Because they realize the environment they agreed to join, and they know it’s possible to get promoted even when everything else is going to hell. That’s the lesson “Jimmy Tom” taught everyone who draws a paycheck from Denise DeBartolo York.
Geep Chryst (Nov. 5): “And at the same time, as a coach, you know that the hand that you’re dealt.”
@timkawakami The game announcers said “A coach told us Kap left over 20 TDs on the field” and “The line is relieved Kap is gone.” Amazing.
— Neama Dadkhahnikoo (@NeamaD) November 22, 2015
I asked my Twitter followers if this indeed was said (I watched this game with the sound off at a sports bar in Hanalei, Kauai), and these quotes were confirmed by several people who watched the game while listening to Chris Myers and Ronde Barber. From Niners Nation:
Early on, Chris Myers made mention that some of the players were happy Gabbert was starting. I suppose it is not surprising, but this strikes me more as a front office or coaching staff comment than what some of the players would say to the announcers during the week. Then, he had another comment about Kaepernick’s performance during the season. He said that in speaking with someone from the 49ers organization that watches a lot of game film, he was told Kaepernick left more than 20 touchdowns on the field by missing open receivers. He did preface that comment by saying, “not to pile on” Kaepernick. So, there’s that.
Fooch’s update: Folks are saying they also heard Myers and Barber say they were told the 49ers offensive line was happy for the change as well.
Some team. Employees ripping former starting quarterbacks, sources worried about whether the team’s terrible offensive line is happy. Great. Erik Pears is happy. He looked really happy today when he let Cliff Avril speed-rush past him for a sack when the game was still in the balance.
Did you notice that Thomas Rawls rushed for over 200 yards today? The 49ers did, but NaVorro Bowman — who in Chryst-like fashion noted earlier this season that Tomsula was “dealt this hand of players” — made it sound like the 49ers weren’t prepared.
Bowman on Lynch: We prepared for 24, and 24 didn’t play. I don’t know what effect that had on us. But they did a great job taking advantage — Cam Inman (@CamInman) November 23, 2015
This is an indictment of coaching, no?
That’s where this team is. Forget Blaine Gabbert throwing a few decent passes after the Seahawks took a three-TD lead and went into let’s-not-get-hurt mode on both sides of the ball. Coming out of their bye week, here’s how the first 24 minutes went: the 49ers’ first four possessions ended in punts and they allowed three touchdowns. They weren’t prepared for Rawls or the Seahawks.
Alex Boone: “It was a shitty performance by everyone. That’s what happens when you play like shit.”
— Chris Biderman (@ChrisBiderman) November 23, 2015
Those are the words of a man who knows he won’t sign a contract extension with the 49ers. But the coaches who want to be here next year are coaching as if their double-digit deficits are actually leads.
This is something I touched on after their first loss to the Seahawks. This coaching staff has been calling plays to avoid embarrassing pick-sixes and losses by 20+ points since Week 3. We saw several dump-off throws to Shaun Draughn on third-and-long. Down 13 late in the third quarter, we didn’t see a single pass thrown into the end zone after the 49ers found themselves in a first-and-goal situation at Seattle’s 7-yard line.
Tomsula gets a lot of grief for looking like he’s over his head and doesn’t understand what’s going on, but he somehow kept his job while maneuvering his way through three different bosses (Mike Nolan, Mike Singletary, Jim Harbaugh). He knows which way the wind blows, and if you’re fooling yourself if you don’t think he heard this report from Jason Cole (courtesy of Niners Nation):
Coach Jim Tomsula is by and large safe at this point in time to come back as the head coach for next season. But it is conditional at this point in time. And basically, if this team continues to be competitive, as it has been over the past four games, it’s won two of its past four to kind of right the ship, then everything is going to be OK for Tomsula, and he should remain as the coach next season. However, if the team nosedives, and this is a team that has lost five out of six games by two touchdowns or more. If that trend starts again, and this team gets blown out in game after game in the second half of the season, starting with Seattle this weekend, and continuing with Arizona in the following me, then Tomsula could be in very serious trouble. Basically what the source said is you will know, one way or another, based on the results, whether Tomsula is gonna be the coach next year or not, based on what happens in the second half.
It’s hard to blame the coaches, players or announcers for putting lipstick on a pig whenever possible. The Yorks and Paraag Marathe have fostered this environment through leaks and whisper campaigns. That’s why Quinton Patton celebrated the way he did after spearing Tyler Lockett when his team was down 20 — hopping around and staring at the crowd on a play that netted the 49ers a rather unfair 15-yard penalty. Why care about the score? It’s every man for himself at this point.
— How quickly things change for this rookie class. Jaquiski Tartt was heralded as the next great 49ers safety, and he was awful today. Missed tackles (or tackles where he was carried for multiple yards by a Seattle ballcarrier) were the norm.
— Arik Armstead, who’s delighted the Pro Football Focus crowd with a pass rushing efficiency mark higher than J.J. Watt, was pressed into extra duty when Glenn Dorsey suffered a knee injury, and it became clear that he’s not a fan of run defense or sticking his nose in the pile. Armstead is looking for sack numbers, which shows he’s smart in a certain way — sacrificing your body to open up tackling opportunities for middle linebackers doesn’t always pay the bills.
— Meanwhile, Bradley Pinion booted a couple inside the 20, but only averaged 43.7 yards on his seven punts. His longest punt was 52 yards. When you get that many chances and you were drafted in the fifth round, you should probably be able to come up with a higher average (and we’re not even talking net) with that many chances in pretty good weather conditions.
— Russell Wilson completed 24-of-29 throws for 260 yards and three touchdowns and it looked like he could’ve ended up with much better numbers. That’s how soft the 49ers defense looked in this game.
— Shaun Draughn is a decent player, considering his learning curve after signing with the 49ers a few weeks ago, and his new team milked him as much as they could. He rushed 12 times and received a team-high 11 targets and eight receptions. He only ended up with 77 total yards, but he’s a fighter and easily the best (OK, only) choice to be Carlos Hyde’s backup if Hyde returns next week or the week after.
— Gabbert stayed alive in the pocket longer than Colin Kaepernick would’ve against this Seattle front seven and avoided trouble with his legs more than a few times. He completed some passes to Vance McDonald and Garrett Celek that we never saw from Kaepernick. In short, he was almost certainly better than Kaepernick would’ve been today, and could be a decent placeholder or an excellent backup next season (if the 49ers select a quarterback with their first round pick).
— HOWEVER, this was another blowout loss on the road until Pete Carroll took his foot off the gas, and most NFL quarterbacks can put up decent stats when the other team realizes injury-prevention is the main goal. Remember the numbers Kaepernick put up in the second half in Pittsburgh, back in Week 2? When the 49ers’ spokespeople try to gloss over the uninspired play, the missed tackles, the Rawls dominance, and the offensive conservatism for no reason, with “Gabbert is our future” talk, don’t fall for it.