The 49ers are the Browns of the NFC


It’s a bad dream that keeps going. You wake up, drink some water, fall back asleep, and the same bad dream continues as if you never left. Your unconscious dream and conscious reality merge into one, a never-ending cycle of gloom and despair.

The Browns are the 49ers. The 49ers are the Browns.

This is the opposite of BREAKING NEWS. Niners Nation found this passage from Sports Illustrated after the 49ers hired Jim O’Neil to be their defensive coordinator after the Browns said buh-bye to him.

Rather than being assigned specific gaps, Cleveland’s defensive linemen play different techniques based on how their offensive counterparts are blocking them. The linebackers, then, are expected to guess what technique their teammates are using, scrape through the resulting mess and make the play. Opposing offenses have identified this flaw on film and are repeatedly, week-after-week, gashing the edge of Cleveland’s defense. It’s a completely chaotic approach to stopping the run, and players have said—off the record—they’re spending way too much time thinking, and not nearly enough time reacting.

Sound familiar? The 49ers are 32nd in rushing yards allowed. They are 32nd in yards allowed per carry. There are 32 teams in the NFL.

O’Neil must have been joking, right? Right? Let’s check the transcript.

How do you assess the gap integrity along the D-Line in particular?

“I don’t know what you mean by that.” 

How would you assess each individual defensive lineman and their ability to maintain their responsibility in their gap? If you ask, say, Buckner, to be responsible for the B-gap. Is he doing that?

“Yeah. Yeah.”

Then again, it probably doesn’t matter. O’Neil is on his way out, probably to be replaced by Bernie Kosar, Earnest Byner or Tim Couch. I’m joking, but like most jokes there’s some truth lurking. This weird 49ers/Browns “brothers in suck” relationship has lasted quite a while.

I wrote this back in January:


Since Carmen Policy and Dwight Clark ran the second iteration of the Browns when they reentered the league, there was no tangible connection between the 49ers and Cleveland for over a decade. But over the past few years, the two teams seem to get mentioned at the same time an awful lot.

  • The Browns traded Colt McCoy to the 49ers in 2013.
  • The 49ers hired former Browns head coach Eric Mangini as an assistant in 2013.
  • According to PFT, “the Cleveland Browns nearly pulled off a trade with the 49ers for the rights to coach Jim Harbaugh” in either late 2013 or early 2014.
  • 49ers tried and failed to hire former Browns head coach Rob Chudzinski as their offensive coordinator in 2015.
  • The 49ers traded Andy Lee to the Browns in 2015.
  • The 49ers interviewed former Browns OC John DeFilippo for their then-vacant head coaching position in 2016.
  • 49ers replace secondary coach Tim Lewis with Jeff Hafley, who held the same position in Cleveland.
  • 49ers hire O’Neil.

One reason for the recent flurry of former Browns acquisitions could be Kelly, according to the Akron Beacon Journal.

Kelly has made a habit of hiring former Browns coaches as coordinators.

Pat Shurmur, head coach of the Browns from 2011-12, was the offensive coordinator and Bill Davis, a former linebackers coach in Cleveland, was the defensive coordinator during Kelly’s tenure with the Philadelphia Eagles.

Kelly was close to a deal to become the Browns head coach in 2013, before eventually taking the same job with the Eagles. He was also on the Browns’ radar this year (allegedly), before they hired Hue Jackson … whom the 49ers also interviewed.


And the beat goes on.



What else is going on in 49erland?

— Colin Kaepernick is still the starter. For now. The 49ers could start Pondering another change if Kaepernick can’t complete over half of his passes against New Orleans. (Kaepernick has failed to complete 50% of his passes in three straight starts, going back to 11/1/15 against the Rams.)

— Oh, wait. He’s already on his way to Denver.

This egg man, like most egg men and women, has his finger on the pulse. Trevor Siemian and Paxton Lynch complete more than 60% of their passes, average 6.9 and 6.7 yards attempt respectively (Kaepernick: 5.2 y/a) and make less than a third what Kaepernick is pulling in this season, but ignore all that. This deal is as good as done!

— Trent Baalke added a safety to his practice squad. His name is Vinnie Sunseri. The Saints drafted him in the fifth round in 2014, he was on the Patriots’ practice squad until they released him on Oct. 24, and he tore his ACL in college. It’s nice that Baalke is thinking big picture about this season. If there’s one area where he hasn’t focused enough, it’s the safety position. And he’s really onto something with these players who come to Santa Clara with surgical scars on their knees. (Talk about a bad dream that never ends.)

— Every veteran practiced today, which indicates there will be no trades. No surprise there. As I’ve noted earlier, Baalke had no reason to make the team worse at the halfway point because a 1-15 record this season could damage his resume as he goes after front office jobs with different teams in the coming months/years.

Translation: “Trent. I’m begging you. Let me go. Pleeeeaaaaase.”

— Aaron Lynch and Rashard Robinson didn’t practice today. No biggie, New Orleans only has the NFL’s top-ranked passing offense.

— The Saints are only 3-4, but they have won three of their last four, including a 25-20 victory over Seattle on Sunday. They’re favored by three points on the road.

— The average score of the 49ers’ last six games: Opponents 37, 49ers 19.

— The average score of the 49ers’ games from Week 2 to Week 7 in 2015: Opponents 30, 49ers 14

Side note: I’ve been told that the banner planned for Sunday’s game against the Saints had to be pushed to the game on Nov. 20 against the Patriots because the group’s pilot was unavailable.

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