Many wondered why Jim Harbaugh would want to coach the Oakland Raiders. After the Raiders got a good look at the San Francisco 49ers, one might wonder why they’d want Harbaugh.
The Harbaugh-49ers marriage will officially end relatively soon, but its true conclusion came at the Coliseum. The 49ers only scored 13 points in an 11-point defeat to a team with 11 losses. For the 49ers, this marked a death blow to their playoff hopes — they’re two games out with three tough games left to play. For the Raiders, this Bay Area battle was a joyous occasion. We saw Derek Carr carve up the 49ers with passes to Mychal Rivera, Marcel Reece and … Donald Penn.
Carr showed pinpoint accuracy all afternoon in Oakland, completing 22-of-28 for 254 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions. He made Oakland’s future look a lot brighter than it was seven days ago. Colin Kaepernick, who peaked in 2012, floated an interception into the arms of Brandian Ross on the 49ers’ first offensive play. Things didn’t get a whole lot better from there: 18-of-33, 174 yards, a touchdown pass to Bruce Miller and two awful interceptions. There’s a reason why I saw this trashy image (photoshopped, I’m pretty sure) at least 20 times on Twitter today.
The Raiders are undermanned, but twice in the last three weeks they’ve sent their fans home riding the euphoria that comes from an unexpected win over a hated rival. They don’t have much, but they have Carr, Rivera and Khalil Mack, who registered two of the Raiders’ five sacks. Even toss in Latavius Murray, who didn’t break a huge run but survived 23 carries and looks like a lead back with potential. And the Raiders’ offensive line wasn’t bad, either …
Upon further review, it’s amazing how good this supposedly terrible team looked on Sunday against San Francisco!
At this point, the 49ers have nothing they can count on past this year, save for two promising rookies on defense and the hope that their two All-Pro middle linebackers can get healthy by next September. Harbaugh could get axed at any moment. The 49ers can cut Kaepernick at any point before April 1 without paying him another cent, and at this point it’s hard to determine why they wouldn’t pull the plug.
Kaepernick is corny on social media with his #WhoDoYouLove, #IDontGetTired and #Se7enPounds hashtags. He acts like a sullen child when forced to answer questions from the local media. But his deficiencies in the areas of accuracy, pocket presence, urgency or improvement are far more troubling than his personality. It wasn’t a great sign when he bounced around New York in a suit with a turtleneck — during the week of a Super Bowl in which he wasn’t a participant — and did every interview imaginable, but I figured he’d take the next week off and work hard to make sure we never again saw a pass like that one Richard Sherman tipped to Malcolm Smith. Instead, we’ve seen several passes over the last two games that were worse, throws right at Sherman, Ross and Charles Woodson.
It turns out that the 49ers’ worst nightmare came true. The loss in Seattle didn’t just break NaVorro Bowman, it broke the entire franchise.
Who knows what the future brings. Maybe Jim Tomsula will be the team’s head coach next Sunday in Seattle, just to PREVENT a 52-0 bludgeoning in front of a bloodthirsty 67,000 at CenturyLink. Because the present tells us that these 49ers have quit. Pick your subject of blame.
- Kaepernick has looked pretty terrible at quarterbacking as of late, but he’s pretty elite when it comes to scowling, responding to talk trash from opponents who mock him, and shoving cameramen aside on his way to the locker room at halftime.
- Greg Roman’s offense couldn’t commit to the run on a day when Frank Gore looked ready to carry the load.
- Multiple delay of game penalties.
- Not enough healthy cornerbacks.
- No one covering Rivera or Reece.
- No pass rush to speak of, despite a perfectly healthy Aldon Smith and Aaron Lynch on the edges.
- That paralyzingly slow fourth quarter drive, in which 51 yards was gained over the course of 14 plays and 5:36, that ended with a missed 47-yard field goal with the 49ers down 11.
None of it matters. When Sherman and the Seahawks made the 49ers look like 4-12 team on Thanksgiving, it was pretty clear that all the talk about “winning out” and “getting it right” was delusional coachspeak from a man leading a beaten squad.
If the 49ers were in a normal spot, the way this season went wouldn’t be such a big deal. Is it really all that surprising that a team with a good number of their best players over the age of 30 would have a down year after ending three straight seasons with soul-exploding losses in the NFC Championship Game or Super Bowl? The 49ers benefitted from a lot of high draft picks, which led to a 2011 team that was a lot more talented than people realized. The NFL’s parity cycle was bound to bite the 49ers, either this year or next.
Most owners and front offices would’ve looked at this team — which seems likely to finish 7-9 considering their final three opponents are the Seahawks, Chargers and Cardinals — and said, “OK. Let’s bring back the guys who brought this franchise from the cellar to prominence and see if we can get back to the Super Bowl next year.”
However, the 49ers aren’t in a normal situation, and that’s been the case since the team talked with the Cleveland Browns about a potential Harbaugh trade. That’s when minor cracks in the foundation started forming, and they became fault lines as time went on.
- The offensive coaching staff became a “too many cooks” situation, as described by Matt Barrows.
- The GM’s strength is finding inside linebackers and defensive backs, but his attempts at adding speed to the offense have fallen flat.
- The GM kept wasting draft picks on “redshirt” players with next to nothing to show for those investments.
- Harbaugh was supposed to make Kaepernick a better, more polished quarterback. As the incompletions and sacks accumulated, a once-confident signal caller became more skittish by the week.
- The running team stopped running.
- The 49ers simply weren’t good enough to overcome the Harbaugh questions, the aging and injuries, the extra attention received after three impressive playoff runs, the lack of speed on the outside, the lack of continuity in the trenches, and all those losses to the Seahawks.
It’s over now, and the 49ers have lost everything. Even during this season, when their front office and coaching drama made everyone involved looked petty, and wins against teams like Washington and the New York Giants seemed comically difficult, they could take solace in one thing.
At least we aren’t the Raiders.
That still rang true on Sunday. The Raiders have a stadium that can get loud on occasion, a quarterback who can hit open receivers, and Bay Area bragging rights. Looks like it’s going to be a long week/offseason/next-few-years in Santa Clara.