Let’s do a quick recap of the year end awards so far:
MVP: George Kittle
DPOY: DeForest Buckner
Breakout Player: Matt Breida
Iron Man: Joe Staley
ROY: Mike McGlinchey
Moment of the Year: OT Victory over Seattle
Worst Moment of Year: Jimmy G injury
Disappointment(s) of the Year:
The team felt extremely jinxed this season. At the beginning of the year, I was hoping Jerick McKinnon’s season ending injury before ever playing a meaningful snap would be the worst thing that happened. Then Jimmy G was injured. Then Matt Breida couldn’t stay healthy. At times, our entire secondary seemed to be hurt, and let’s not even get started with our receiving corp’s struggles this year. Any of those would be bad enough, but add them up and you have a team that understandably is near the bottom of the league. Yet, none of those equal the level of disappointment I had in both CJ Beathard and Robert Saleh’s seasons. Beathard, who in limited action last year looked like a capable backup QB, regressed mightily this year, seemingly forgetting he was in the NFL at times. No matter how much punishment he took, he refused to get rid of the ball, taking sack after sack and turning the ball over far too many times. I was actually hopeful when he took over against the Chiefs in week three that he could lead us to a respectable season, at least beat the Cardinals a couple times, keep us in a couple games, and lead us to fight for a playoff spot late in the year. None of that came to fruition, and Beathard ended the season unable to win a single game.
Defensive Coordinator Robert Saleh was another guy who I was majorly upset with this season. After adding Richard Sherman to what appeared to be an up and coming secondary, the entire defense regressed this year, culminating in a historically bad season. We are about to set an NFL record for the least turnovers ever forced by a defense for an entire season, even including seasons that only had 14 games…there is no excuse for that. Yes, the team was decimated by injuries, and yes, we need someone who can provide us a pass rush. But God Damn, coaches have to be able to put together a game plan and help players get better as the year progresses. All you have to do is look to the offensive side of the ball, where Kyle Shanahan dealt with more injuries than Saleh, and had less talent to work with, yet made them respectable. Saleh proved to me this year he can have success with a roster full of superstars, but not so much with a standard defense.
Play of the Year:
This is a tough one, as there are plenty to choose from. Richie James’ kickoff return for a touchdown against the Seahawks was pivotal in helping us secure a victory in week 15. In week 1, Garoppolo connected with Dante Pettis on a beautiful 39 yard touchdown that invigorated the whole fan base. George Kittle was a human highlight reel this season, with 210 receiving yards in a half against Denver in week 14, including an 85 yard touchdown catch and run. While those are all great moments from this season, none can top Kittle’s one handed, 71 yard catch against Oakland in a primetime matchup in week 9.
Not only did Kittle’s grab validate Nick Mullens as a starter, but he did it between 4 Raider defenders, and it was a true one handed catch- he had to stretch allll the way out to snag the ball, and was at serious risk of getting laid the fuck out after hauling it in. Stone Cold Kittle knows that’s all part of the job and went ahead with the catch anyway, proceeding to outrun the entire Oakland team for a 71 yard gain. Even in San Diego, Kittle dominated the headlines and it’s all anyone was talking about for days after. That play will be the one when we look back at his career that we can point at and say it all started right there.
Week 17 is a time for introspection. This season, largely devoid of wins, was still a success in many ways. 2019 is truly going to be the year of the Niners, and I can’t wait until they prove it. Here’s to next season!