The return…

This season is just three games long, and while the 49ers are 0-3, their 2017 campaign has already zigged, zagged, and zigged again.

We can’t blame Kyle Shanahan for the 49ers laying another boring egg in Week 1. The crowd was small and many of those who made the trip to Santa Clara spent the afternoon peeling their sweat-drenched thighs off of the cheap plastic seats they spent $4,000 or more to “own.” Plus, the boredom stench from 2015 and 2016 was bound to linger for at least a game.

Then there was the Seattle loss. Otherwise known as “Trent Baalke’s Revenge.” DeForest Buckner looked like peak Justin Smith. Jaquiski Tartt and Jimmie Ward looked like peak Dashon Goldson and Donte Whitner. Tank Carradine all over the place. Arik Armstead wasn’t just good, he stayed healthy. Aaron Lynch was productive after being a healthy scratch the week before.

But since the offensive toy box Baalke left for John Lynch and Shanahan was full of nothing but a couple of moths and a lock of Vance McDonald’s hair, the 49ers lost. The offense was dreadful in Seattle, in part because the Seahawks are still pretty good defensively. The Hawks are still a jumbled mess on offense, so the 49ers’ amazing defensive performance may have been overstated a bit.

Tonight we learned that the 49ers defense still suffers from some of the same problems they did a year ago: less than adequate depth and a mediocre pass rush that makes all of those mid/late-round corners look worse than they are. Oh, and poor middle-linebacker play. Which should change when Reuben Foster returns, even though NaVorro Bowman’s days as a starter could be numbered.

Foster holds so much promise because you just KNOW that if he’s on the field, he’s going to make crazy-ass plays that turn games. Baalke somehow avoided guys known as “playmakers” despite stockpiling 16 picks every year.


We also saw something that was fantastic, just because the bar set by the two previous 49ers teams wasn’t just low, it was underground. The 49ers returned (ah-ha, you probably thought I was referring to something else, didn’t you) to semi-relevance, because they are no longer boring, every … single … week.

They were a Robbie Gould (the Brian Hoyer of kickers) missed extra point away from sending the game into overtime. There appeared to be crowd noise. Hoyer passed for 332 yards and it seemed like he would’ve had close to 400 if it weren’t for a few drops. Carlos Hyde looked good, then he got checked out on the sideline, then he returned to the game. They recovered an onside kick to give 49ers fans hope!

And, fortunately for their long-term prospects, they lost 41-39.

There’s nothing worse this team can do than finish 7-9 or 8-8, and now we know that won’t happen. 6-10 is possible, but anywhere from 2-14 to 5-11 is most likely. The closer they can get to 2-14, the better.

Yeah, I know the first play Fox showed after the Niners lost in Seattle was Kirk Cousins’ game-winning touchdown pass to the front corner of the end zone. Cousins wouldn’t be a bad addition. Maybe Shanahan thinks he can be a top-4 quarterback, but why not tank while playing interesting games (Gould is a genius!) and take your pick from a pretty nice crop of incoming quarterbacks who’ll go in the top-10.

Remember when everyone made fun of the Rams while burying Jared Goff after one incomplete season? Yeah, now he’s throwing incredible over-the-shoulder bombs to Sammy Watkins. He was filthy. 22-for-28, 292 yards, three touchdowns, no interceptions.

The league is set up for young quarterbacks to flourish if they’re given enough weapons and time to throw. Go get one of the top young guys who’ll be on a rookie deal for a while, not a guy who’s a notch below the best quarterbacks in the league that you have to pay $30 million every year.

Niners Notes

— Shanahan is still raw as a head coach. Timeouts get frittered away, yellow flags fly. The turnovers aren’t his fault, necessarily, but if he gets the team to play a little cleaner, they’ll probably pull off a few wins they otherwise wouldn’t. So, maybe the jumpy timeout usage and frequent penalties aren’t such a bad thing (this year). Shanahan seems too smart for the sloppiness to linger, though.

— Hoyer isn’t the worst quarterback ever like he appeared to be on Sunday, sailing passes over the heads of wide open receivers. He’ll also be lucky to make it to Week 8 if he keeps getting hit this hard, this often, but that’s another matter. He’s going to feel HORRIBLE after getting pounded by Seattle’s and LA’s defensive lines in the span of five days. At least he’s better than Blaine Gabbert, whom he resembled a little too often in the first two games.

— Pierre Garçon is the new version of Anquan Boldin. May be even angrier.

— How about Elvis Dumervil losing career sack No. 100 due to a ticky-tack holding call on Dontae Johnson? The offensive interference call on Trent Taylor (a bright spot otherwise thus far) was pretty suspect, too.

— The blimp shots of the Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco skyline, and Bay Bridge are getting awkward. With so many excellent Togo’s locations, along with the gorgeous twisted metal sitting across the parking lot at Great America, these networks should have more than enough Santa Clara eye candy to get through a broadcast.

— Coit Tower or Drop Tower: Scream Zone? It’s a no-brainer. Scream Zone, every time.

— I guess I’ll delve briefly into the whole not writing (here) thing. Am I going to return to this full-time? I’m not sure about that; writing for very little money got old as the marketplace changed and companies stopped wanting to pay for banner ads. That’s why I’m writing for The Athletic. However, I’m only covering media stuff for them at the moment, and sports events happen just about every day. Maybe dipping my toe back into the BASG pond will lead to some actual sportswriting from me in the future. Not sure, yet. We’ll see.

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