Bruce Ellington

Total Tomsulery: 49ers aren’t just bad, they’re overly cautious

The 49ers need to go 7-2 if they hope to finish 9-7. This is impossible, and not because they still have to go to Seattle, host the Cardinals, play the physical Rams twice, and face the Falcons (5-1) and Bengals (6-0). This team is simply a mediocre outfit at best, and there isn’t a lot of spunk and fight when things get tough, either — as was evident last night.

Most of us knew this would be a tough year, because we’ve seen this movie before: when the Yorks grew disenchanted with Steve Mariucci and ended up with Dennis Erickson. Winning isn’t guaranteed in the parity-driven NFL, but there are levels of losing.

1. Complete rebuild mode, in which everyone knows the team is tanking for the first overall pick

2. Just good enough to be sort of relevant, but no realistic playoff hopes (7-9 purgatory)

3. Improving steadily, poised for a huge leap in a year due to excellent coaching and promising young talent

4. No hope, no future, and focused on avoiding embarrassment above all else

Take a wild guess at where Jim Tomsula’s 49ers currently stand. If you picked four, guess what? You’ve won the opportunity to purchase one of 1,283 Stadium Builders Licenses (3,304 actual seats) available on the SBL Marketplace, where season ticket holders sell their seat licenses at a loss and the 49ers still take a huge chunk of the proceeds from each sale! Isn’t life as a “49ers Faithful” grand?

It is for the Yorks, who probably ate cavier and foie gras omelettes for breakfast this morning. For fans, the whole thing stinks. The 49ers are not just a bad team that routinely gets blown out by decent teams, they’re incredibly boring because the coaching staff is petrified of making an unfortunate situation look worse.

Take yesterday, for instance.

Inactive: Jarryd Hayne

I saw a few Australian guys in downtown San Francisco on Wednesday, all wearing black No. 38 Hayne t-shirts. The 49ers shouldn’t make their decisions based on airfare purchases made by people in Melbourne or Sydney, but it’s just another sad reminder that this team is absolutely clueless. Hayne is one of the few dynamic players on this moribund roster, but the 49ers don’t trust him. Yes, he’s fumbled a couple of punts and isn’t a pure running back. But the 49ers have shown no creativity either. When Pete Carroll was asked by a 49ers beat writer about the Seahawks’ interest in Hayne earlier this week, he was damn near drooling into the phone. Seattle’s offense is nothing special, but it’s almost guaranteed that they’d be using Hayne in all kinds of situations that the 49ers coaching staff couldn’t even fathom.

Bruce Ellington: two snaps

He has a very hard time staying on the field, which is clearly a problem. But why not use Ellington — who looks like he belongs on an NFL field every time he touches the ball — if he’s healthy enough to be active? He returned three kickoffs and only played a couple of snaps on offense without a single target. Even Vance “shouldn’t be in the league anymore but Baalke picked him in the second round and he’s gotta save face” McDonald got one target (and a reception … for one yard).

Down and distance: a conservative disaster

Descriptions courtesy of (but I’ll highlight the key word/phrase for each play):

3rd-and-7 (SF 23, 13:51 1Q) (Shotgun) 7-C.Kaepernick pass incomplete short left to 23-R.Bush [56-C.Avril].

3rd-and-8 (SF 34, 6:06 1Q) (Shotgun) 7-C.Kaepernick pass incomplete short right to 81-A.Boldin.

3rd-and-18 (SF 30, 13:42 2Q) (Shotgun) 7-C.Kaepernick pass short right to 23-R.Bush to SF 34 for 4 yards (26-C.Williams). Caught at SF 24. 10-yds YAC

3rd-and-15 (SEA 41, 6:34 2Q) (Shotgun) 7-C.Kaepernick pass short middle to 23-R.Bush to SEA 40 for 1 yard (56-C.Avril). Caught at SEA 43. 3-yds YAC

3rd-and-18 (SF 13, 1:54 2Q) (Shotgun) 7-C.Kaepernick pass short left to 81-A.Boldin to SF 19 for 6 yards (25-R.Sherman). Penalty on SF-82-T.Smith, Offensive Pass Interference, declined. Caught at SF 13. 6-yds YAC

3rd-and-3 (SF 33, 9:50 3Q) 28-C.Hyde right tackle to SF 32 for -1 yards (56-C.Avril). FUMBLES (56-C.Avril), recovered by SF-71-E.Pears at SF 31. 71-E.Pears to SF 31 for no gain (50-K.Wright). C.Hyde charged with loss of 2.

3rd-and-10 (SF 7, 5:16 3Q) 7-C.Kaepernick pass short middle to 85-V.Davis to SF 20 for 13 yards (54-B.Wagner).

3rd-and-2 (SEA 17, 1:31 3Q, 17-0 SEA) 7-C.Kaepernick pass incomplete short right to 81-A.Boldin.

4th-and-2 (SEA 17, 1:26 3Q, 17-0 SEA) 9-P.Dawson 35 yard field goal is GOOD, Center-86-K.Nelson, Holder-5-B.Pinion.

3rd-and-26 (SF 7, 7:52 4Q, 20-3 SEA) (Shotgun) 23-R.Bush up the middle to SF 13 for 6 yards (31-K.Chancellor).

3rd-and-4 (SF 16, 4:22 4Q, 20-3 SEA) (Shotgun) 7-C.Kaepernick pass incomplete deep left to 11-Q.Patton. Penalty on SF-75-A.Boone, Offensive Holding, declined.

4th-and-4 (SF 16, 4:16 4Q, 20-3 SEA) 5-B.Pinion punts 43 yards to SEA 41, Center-86-K.Nelson. 16-T.Lockett to SEA 43 for 2 yards (31-L.McCray).

3rd-and-3 (SF 27, 3:16 4Q, 20-3 SEA) (Shotgun) 7-C.Kaepernick pass incomplete short left to 81-A.Boldin (54-B.Wagner).

4th-and-3 (SF 27, 3:13 4Q, 20-3 SEA) 5-B.Pinion punts 48 yards to SEA 25, Center-86-K.Nelson, out of bounds.

The punts on 4th-and-manageable as the game wound down, with the 49ers behind by 17 points, will get most of the attention. The head coach was asked about this Tomsulery after the game.


You punted twice late down by 17 points. It didn’t seem like those were long yardage plays, what was the logic there?

“I was trying to get the field position changed.”


You drove your car off a cliff, totaling your vehicle and forcing the Coast Guard to have to come rescue you, what was the logic there?

I was trying not to stay on the highway.

There was a sign that said “these berries are poisonous,” yet you ate them anyway and became violently ill, what was the logic there?

I was trying to chew and swallow the berries after putting them in my mouth.


Just look at all of those short passes and runs on third-and-long.

  • On 3rd-and-18, Colin Kaepernick threw a pass to Bush, who caught it six yards BEHIND the line of scrimmage.
  • On 3rd-and-15, Kaepernick threw a one-yard strike to Bush.
  • On 3rd-and-10, Kaepernick converted his only third down of the day on a pass to the technically-still-breathing Vernon Davis.
  • On 3rd-and-18, Kaepernick delivered a six-yard laser to Anquan Boldin (and Torrey Smith was called for interference on the play).
  • Hey, it’s 3rd-and-26 and we’re down 17 … let’s just give it to Bush up the middle!

This is insanity. Apparently Reggie Bush (who is done, by the way) is on the team to catch short passes and run up the middle on 3rd-and-long.

It’s like Tomsula said this to Geep Chryst after the Cardinals loss: “I don’t care what we do. We are not throwing multiple pick-sixes and losing by 40 again. If we’re going to suck, we’ll do it losing by less than 20.”

Let’s see what Hayne can do as a receiver. Let’s trade Bush to the Patriots for a cheeseburger. Let’s throw deep on every 3rd-and-long. Why not? If Kaepernick throws a long interception, it’ll probably lead to better field position than a Bradley Pinion punt anyway.

There are bad teams in the NFL every season, and this year (and in future years, in all probability), it’s the 49ers’ turn. The season is already over. Take some chances! Playing cautious while down by three scores isn’t just dull, it sends the message to your players that you have no faith in them, and they might as well stop trying.

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