As everyone knows by now, the 49ers had a worst case scenario game on Sunday against the Chiefs. Not only did the team look sloppy, accounting for 14 penalties for 147 yards, countless missed tackles, and a number of drops, but the fan anointed savior for the franchise, Jimmy Garoppolo, is officially out for the year with a torn ACL. While that is a big blow and it hurts every fan of the team, this is not a lost season. In the long run, what happened on Sunday could be a building block that helps take this team where they want to go in the future.
Let’s be clear: the 49ers are not going to have a winning season in a basic football sense. CJ Beathard, while a very serviceable quarterback, is not the guy to rally behind and lead us to the playoffs this year with the team we have. As a matter of fact, although a trade for someone like Tyrod Taylor, or signing a guy like Colin Kaepernick, would show that Lynch, Shanahan and company still believe in this team, there is not a single available quarterback who could lead us to a successful season with the only measure being wins and losses. Instead, this year gives the 49ers a chance to take one extra season to rebuild, evaluate, and go again. Clearly, no fan wants to continue to go through the rebuild cycle, and 49er faithful have had to endure many painful seasons since 2003, with only 3 playoff appearances in those 15 years. However, this team looked like they were going to be stuck in the middle this year, not being quite good enough to make playoff noise (especially with the Rams looking every bit as good as advertised), but not being bad enough to have a chance to evaluate the young talent we have, or to have a high draft pick next year. Our defense has looked like a bottom tier defense, albeit with some phenomenal talent and play-makers. Studs like Reuben Foster and DeForest Buckner have already proven to be great building blocks for a defense, but the secondary has struggled mightily in this young season, and in the pass happy league the NFL continues to be, that is a recipe for disaster. Robert Saleh must prove himself a worthy defensive coordinator this year, and so far he has not, with head scratching penalties, missed tackles, and blown pass coverage becoming the norm through the first 3 weeks of the season. On the offensive side of the ball, the run game has been strong, but the pass game has been stagnant at times, with receivers who have not been capable of beating man coverage, and miscommunications all over the place.
Basically, this team still needs loads of work, and all Garoppolo did was put a band-aid on it. As much as it hurts to say after a very exciting off-season with loads of hype, they did not look like a team ready to compete with the top teams through the first 3 weeks of the season. With this one “free” year, Shanahan and CO need not worry about wins and losses, but rather about development, and continuing to teach the scheme they need to be successful. There will be players, some of whom never would have been given a real opportunity, who step up, prove themselves worthy, and help us get to where we want to go in the future. The 49ers now will go all in for next year, and patience will be key for the fans. Sit tight Faithful, Our time is coming.