There are no moral victories in the NFL, but losing on a last-minute touchdown on the road is better than getting blasted by 40. Colin Kaepernick won’t be the overriding story this week, as he was after the two previous losses. The story now is how the 49ers are fitting in nicely with the league’s bottom-dwellers, and this won’t change anytime soon. The talent just isn’t there — on the field, on the sidelines, or in the booths upstairs.
The last time the 49ers started a season this poorly, they were 0-5 in 2010. That season started with two blowouts and three defeats by three points or fewer, including a 27-24 loss at Candlestick to the Eagles in Week 5. After that game, Jed York pulled out his phone and texted ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
“We’re going to win the division.”
The 49ers prevailed in their next game, a grotesque 17-9 victory over the Raiders, then alternated losses and wins for several weeks. When they dropped two straight (Weeks 15 and 16), York fired Singletary and promoted Jim Tomsula to interim head coach for the last game of the season. The team finished 6-10 and did not win the division.
At this point, the headline probably seems confusing. York probably won’t text Schefter any guarantees in the near future, and Tomsula won’t be fired before the season ends (or next season begins) unless he’s involved in some awful scandal or admits publicly that York never should’ve fired Jim Harbaugh.
Here are the parallels:
1. For the first time in five years, we have enough evidence before the bye week to know that this isn’t a playoff team.
2. People want to root for this head coach, but he’s clearly over his head and often looks bewildered during games.
3. The 49ers’ current staff isn’t sophisticated enough to pull more wins out of this group than they rightfully deserve. Tonight’s 30-27 loss to a Giants team with no defense is incredibly frustrating for everyone affiliated with the team, because New York spent the end of the second quarter and most of the third and fourth quarters handing this game to the 49ers.
HOWEVER, there’s one big difference between the 2010 squad and this year’s team …
The 2010 49ers were stacked with a lot of familiar names who went on to do good or even great things. This year’s roster has a significantly worse offensive line and the defensive talent doesn’t come close. Patrick Willis was a superstar in 2010 and Justin Smith was very good. Who stands out on this defense, which allowed Eli Manning to pass for 441 yards and complete the game-winning pass to Larry Donnell in the back of the end zone?
It isn’t NaVorro Bowman, who looked great throughout the preseason and in Week 1 but hasn’t looked like himself since. Bowman was torched on numerous occasions by Shane Vereen, and he was covering Donnell on that touchdown. With Michael Wilhoite looking very average, it’s no wonder that Trent Baalke (who should be getting the lion’s share of the criticism for how this season has gone, along with York) traded for Gerald Hodges last week. The starting middle linebackers may have combined for 24 solo tackles against the Giants, but the difference between what’s going on this year and what we saw when Willis and Bowman worked together in 2011-13 is pretty glaring.
It’s only going to get worse
The 49ers don’t have the league’s worst record (that would be the Lions at 0-5), but they have the worst point-differential at -65 and are tied for the fewest touchdowns with eight (same as the Bears and Dolphins, and the Dolphins had a bye this week).
When I went through the 49ers’ schedule back in April, I penciled in tonight’s game as a win, and I had them going 6-10. After tonight’s heartbreaking loss they go up against another 1-4 team in the Ravens (COME TO LEVI’S STADIUM ON SUNDAY AND FEEL THE DESPERATION), then they have five losses on deck: Seattle (2-3), at St. Louis (2-3), Atlanta (5-0), at Seattle, Arizona (4-1). If they lose to Harbaugh’s older brother, the “Slack off for Goff” bandwagon will get really crowded.
Some questions for the coaching staff
- With Odell Beckham limping around, how did Vereen get so open so often on that final drive?
- Why aren’t Arik Armstead and Jarryd Hayne getting more snaps?
- Speaking of Hayne, weren’t they going to involve running backs in the passing game? (It’s not like Bush was their only receiving threat out of the backfield.)
- After the officiating crew showed no fear when it came to calling pass interference in key situations, what the hell was the point of that final pass to Boldin?
- Why didn’t the 49ers at least attempt a Hail Mary to Torrey Smith? Yeah, the offensive line is trash, but they could’ve put Kaepernick in the shotgun and told him to go to his right and unleash a bomb.
- What’s it going to take for them to sit Marcus Martin until he’s strong enough to not get tossed around by defensive linemen? (Actually, that’s more of a Baalke question.)
- Why throw passes to Vance McDonald?
— On the other hand, Geep Chryst deserves a little credit since Kaepernick threw a few passes longer than 10 yards without becoming a pick-six machine. Kaepernick showed nice touch at times, particularly when targeting Anquan Boldin (whom the 49ers should trade to a contender if possible).
— Tony Dungy was going on and on afterward about how the Giants were going to win the NFC East because they have the best quarterback. That may be true, but that just shows how putrid that division became once Dez Bryant and Tony Romo got hurt.
— The Giants are not good. At all. They got help from Tramaine Brock trapping what would’ve been his second interception of the game on the turf, and the pass interference call on Kenneth Acker a few plays later was a team-crusher. But the Giants had some pass interference and holding calls of their own while allowing the 49ers to display a balanced offense for the first time all season.
— As much as people are hyping Aaron Lynch, the only true star on the roster is Carlos Hyde.
— Smith ended the game with 42 yards on just two targets. Baalke signing Smith was like a Pacific Heights billionaire buying an F-350.
— Prediction: Reggie Bush will continue to deal with injuries all season. Then, when the 49ers are battling for one of the top picks in the draft, he’ll go off for 150 yards and two scores in Week 17 and lead the 49ers to victory in a game everyone wants them to lose. It’ll be the Reggie Bush Bowl 2.0.