NFL

Gabbert or Kaepernick? Doesn’t matter, 49ers are terrible either way

lsm

If you are a 49ers fan with a significant other who doesn’t care about football, friends who don’t care about football, children who demand your time, household chores that need doing, or hobbies unrelated to football, I have good news! There are at least five Sundays where you are allowed, if not encouraged, to ignore the 49ers. Because anyone who watches this team when they play on the road, and expects anything other than trash football and embarrassing results, is delusional.

I can keep shoveling dirt onto this grave, but it’s starting to resemble a major league pitching mound in 1968. This team — which lost 45-16 to the freaking Ryan brothers today — should have but one goal from now through New Year’s: 1-15 or 2-14. Anything that prohibits them from “earning” a top-2 pick, which could either supply a franchise quarterback or a trade haul to help replenish Trent Baalke’s meager roster, is a failure.

The 49ers can’t run (their running backs averaged 3.4 yards per carry). The 49ers can’t pass (5.2 yards per passing play). The 49ers can’t stop the run (the Bills averaged 7.1 yards per carry). The 49ers can’t stop the pass (the two passing touchdowns they allowed were far too easy since the Bills doesn’t have much better receiving talent than San Francisco). The 49ers can’t punt (their fifth-rounder had a 34.6 yard net average, compared to 40.0 for Colton Schmidt, a guy the 49ers brought in a few years back as an undrafted free agent). The 49ers can’t even return kicks without losing the ball. Other than Phil Dawson being slightly more accurate than the average place kicker, what does this team do well?

We’ve gone over the lack of skill position talent for months, but this might be the worst tackling team in franchise history. The middle linebacking corps is a wasteland without NaVorro Bowman. Eli Harold might be worse than Corey Lemonier. The defensive line doesn’t accomplish much unless one of them is completely unblocked (shoutout to Arik Armstead in the first quarter). Their safeties are subpar, and the Bills’ lofty total of 312 rushing yards probably would’ve been even higher if they didn’t decide to throw too frequently in the early stages of the second half.

Buffalo’s third down conversion rate (8-for-13, or 61%) would seem surprising given that they came into this game with the lowest average passing yards per game in the NFL (169 … the 49ers were 31st at 170). But the 49ers cannot stop any running back, let alone the guy Chip Kelly tossed aside like an ordinary Kevan Barlow.

The 49ers are 1-10 in road games since the beginning of 2015. They’ve been outscored 380-185 during those games, including a fluke overtime win in Chicago when Robby Gould missed a chip shot. That’s an average score of 35-17. The average score on the road in 2016 is 43-20. Without Bowman, the defense looks like a junior college unit taking on Alabama or Ohio State.

We knew the hiring of Jim O’Neil as defensive coordinator was a bad sign. Check that — the bad sign was when Mike Vrabel turned Chip Kelly’s offer down to remain as the LINEBACKERS COACH in Houston. O’Neil didn’t produce anything of note in Cleveland, and his schemes don’t see to be adding anything to the defense upon which Baalke has focused most of his attention since becoming this team’s general manager.

I wrote a little less than a week ago that the time to fire Baalke is now. Or, *then* if we’re going to get technical. We can look at some of the injuries — Ian Williams is in this category — as a reason why the defense is softer than cotton candy during a summer day in Livermore. But that’s pretty much the main job of an NFL general manager, to prepare for injuries. Maybe use the team’s borderline-absurd pile of draft picks over the last few years to create a roster that’s deeper each year. Except the opposite has been the case for quite some time. Baalke’s roster is thinner than Ann Coulter.

Niners Notes

— Trent knows he’s toast.

— Kaepernick rushed 8 times for 66 yards and showed toughness throughout this game, especially when he broke free from a tackle that should’ve led to a safety and ran for a first down. But 16 of the 49ers’ 21 passing plays led to either an incompletion or a sack in the second half.

— Nothing happened today to alter my opinion — Blaine Gabbert is a decent backup, and Kaepernick could lead a team with a strong defense and running game to playoff victories. The 2016 49ers … well, we’ve already gone over their nonexistent strengths.

— Maybe Jim Tomsula wasn’t this team’s biggest problem in 2015. He’s probably on a tropical island somewhere, wearing a Hawaiian shirt unbuttoned to his belly button, sipping a Mai Tai and laughing …

— How can Gerald Hodges be worse than the abominable Nick Bellore, or even Michael Wilhoite for that matter?

— The good news was I was finally able to start a running back against the 49ers. What a glorious fantasy day. Yes, I’m aware nobody cares. I care.

— LOLOL:

— Let’s end this with some vines. One is depressing, but the other represents the team’s best play of the day.

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