Still Bad, Still Hateable: Breaking down the 49ers

Crystallization is usually a process that occurs on a geological time scale. Particles slowly adhere and accumulate into shiny rocks that people pay large sums of money for. However, there are times when conditions are just right so that the slightest perturbation can lead to instantaneous crystallization.

The Seahawks-49ers rivalry is one such example.

My sports-hate for a team had never crystalized as rapidly as it did with the 49ers, and I’m sure a number of fans in my post-AFC West generation would agree.

After a decade of mediocrity in Seattle and general terrible-ness in San Francisco, the 49ers had instant success under Jim Harbaugh and were the big brother to the nascent LOB from 2011-2012. The fanbases approached each other with mutual respect; with fangs bared and pitchforks in hand; with each predicting that the opposing franchise would be the first to crash and burn. Few things have given me greater satisfaction than watching Jed York fire Jim Harbaugh for defensive line coach and professional yes-man Jim Tomsula and then give Chip Kelly another shot at making his turbo offense work. Shockingly, this coaching instability led to a 7-25 record.

With his two-year temper tantrum out of the way, York decided to act like an adult and commit to a rebuild. The first step was hiring Hall of Fame safety and mock draft enthusiast John Lynch as general manager. Lynch was a great player and I enjoyed his broadcasts (Editor’s Note: That’s because you were listening to friend of the Pode, Kevin Burkhardt) but I was skeptical that somebody with no scouting or coaching experience would make a quality general manager.

York’s next move was hiring the offensive genius who had easily led an offense with Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, Devonta Freeman, Mohammad Sanu, and Tevin Coleman to a blowout victory of the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl: Kyle Shanahan. In totality, these moves have been a mixed bag, but I initially had some trepidation about seeing a competent OC take over for San Francisco.

Fortunately, the following two seasons have done much to allay my concern.

First off, there is the record. The Shanahan Niners are 8-19 through 27 games. Ignoring the victory over a Rams team resting its starters, the cumulative record of teams the Niners have beaten is 37-65. And unless the Rams rest their starters again, it looks like the Niners are headed towards a two-year record of 8-24 (which, I guess is technically improvement).  Also, the Niners have lost to the Arizona Cardinals a.k.a. Tiny Beaks twice this year. When Pete Carroll inherited the 4-12 Seahawks, he immediately turned them into a 14-18 team with a playoff victory over the defending Super Bowl champs. Oh and his quarterbacks were zombie Matt Hasselbeck and Tarvaris Jackson.

The 49ers have provided extensive glee through the draft as well, reloading their roster about as well as you’d expect a mock draft enthusiast would. First, they traded the 2nd overall pick for 1.3, 3.67, and 4.111. A lot of pundits lauded Lynch for hosing the Bears on this trade and it is a good trade. However, it’s such a good trade that literally anybody should be expected to make it. Being handed 100 dollars is not evidence of good business acumen (please give me 100 dollars).

Lynch turned these picks into Solomon Thomas, Alvin Kamara (oops), part of Reuben Foster, and one year later, Dante Pettis. And while Seahawks fans shouldn’t cast stones about drafting running backs, at least our grossly overdrafted running back wasn’t an ancient prospect who had already quit football once before. Joe Williams received zero touches before being injured and then waived the following year. Oh and that star pass rusher that Lynch thought was a better bet than Trubisky (who isn’t great, but seems to be a quarterback that an offensive guru can make useful) only has four sacks in nearly two seasons. Cassius Marsh is currently a half of a sack away this season from surpassing the career sack total of third overall pick Solomon Thomas.

The first quarterback that Shanahan went after was C.J. Beathard, whose name describes exactly what the Niners opponents have done to them basically every game. Under Shanahan’s tutelage, Beathard the Younger has more INTS than TDs, has a sub-5.0 career ANY/A, and has led his team to one (1) victory in ten starts. Weirdly, a white quarterback whose grandfather was an NFL GM was overdrafted.

Finally, the crème de la crème of idiotic Niners moves was the trade for professional thirst trap Jimmy Garopollo. Back before I sold out, I wrote a piece for Field Gulls (who have somehow continued doing great work despite my absence) on why the Jimmy G trade was dumb. So dumb.

The long form of this argument led to the greatest moment I’ve ever had online.

After Jimmy G bravely led San Francisco to a one-point victory over the Bears, a ten-point victory over a Houston team quarterbacked by the titanic twosome of T.J. Yates and Tom Savage, a two-point victory over a Mike Mularky (is this spelled right? Nobody knows or cares) coached Titans team, and a legitimately impressive 11-point win and general shellacking over a generational Jaguars defense, I got a message from a Niners’ fan who tracked down my Facebook and called me “nostra-dumbass”.

Oh and regarding that Jaguars game, Jimmy G managed will his team to victory by single-handedly snagging three Blake Bortles interceptions, including two inside the Jaguars’ 30-yard line.

So the Niners’ compounded this error by extending a quarterback with 272 career pass attempts to a contract worth 137 million dollars and almost 50 million dollars guaranteed (per OvertheCap.com). That puts Garopollo 4th in per year compensation. Now, Jimmy G ain’t terrible, but the track record of mid-round quarterbacks with relatively limited starting experience is not great (and by not great, I mean very bad, just like the extension).

This plan took another hit when Garappolo was lost for the season in Week 3 after two and a half largely mediocre games. Shanahan essentially bet his job that he could turn Garoppolo into a franchise quarterback and, if unable, he’d likely be out of a job. Along with a coaching search, San Francisco will have to garopple with that massive contract. The risk of a career-altering injury is part of why backing up the Brinks truck for an unproved player is unwise.

Its been nearly two seasons and San Francisco has maybe one game where they looked like a decent team. Lots of folks on twitter are aghast at the notion that Shanahan may be on the hot seat, but as pretty as his offensive scheme may be (19th in offensive DVOA in 2017 and currently 27th), positive results should be expected at some point. The lack of a quarterback would be considerably more of an excuse if Shanahan and Lynch didn’t A) draft a quarterback who has gone 1-9 and B) hamstring the team by trading a decent pick and then overpaying a career backup.

Some folks may feel like the lack of an actually good Niners team dilutes the rivalry with the Seahawks, especially when another California-based team has seized control of the NFC West. However, I know that we have room in our hearts for the sports-hatred of two, maybe even three teams (screw you, Green Bay).

Ergo, Fuck the Niners, Q.E.D.

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