The San Francisco 49ers season didn't officially end on Sunday with their 24-13 loss to the Oakland Raiders, but for all intents and purposes it's done. All you had to do was watch them go through the motions in the second half to see it. Everything that made them one of the most feared opponents in the NFL the last three seasons has disappeared, discipline, hard nosed offense, tough defense, heart, all gone.
With a loss next week in Seattle the 49ers will officially be out of the playoffs, and Jim Harbaugh and most of his staff will be out too.
Let's get to the answers for the 5 burning questions that I asked on Wednesday.
1) Can Colin Kaepernick bounce back? - No.
With the season on the line Kaepernick imploded. He threw an interception on the first play from scrimmage. Sure he bounced back with a touchdown throw a couple drives later, but for the most part he was awful for the second week in a row.
Over the last two weeks Kaepernick is 4-24 for 76 yards and 4 interceptions on throws 10 or more yards downfield for a rating of 0.694.
The silver lining is Kaepernick's performance will help save the 49ers $2 million in cap space for 2014.
2) Can the 49ers get the running game going? - Yes.
Frank Gore averaged 5.3 yards per carry and looked as though he was ready to carry the 49ers on his back. He carried the ball only 12 times and was in for only 57% of the offensive snaps. More on this in a minute.
3) Which wide receiver will step up? - None of them.
Michael Crabtree was targeted a team high 13 times and responded with 9 catches for 56 yards. For the most part Crabtree's contributions were limited to quick screens on the outside with a couple quick screens underneath.
Anquan Boldin wasn't much better. He was targeted 9 times and came away with only 4 catches for 54 yards.
Stevie Johnson and Quinton Patton were targeted a combined 3 times, and Bruce Ellington was in for a fake on a fly sweep, something they do about once per game when he is active but they never give him the ball so it's wasted motion.
4) Can the offensive line protect Kaepernick? -
The 49ers gave up 5 sacks, but most of those came in the second half when it was evident that they didn't have to worry about the run any longer and could just pin their ears back.
5) Can the 49ers defense force Derek Carr to beat them? - Yes.
And beat them he did. Carr was terrific throughout the game, especially in the second half when he completed 12 of 14 passes for 161 yards and 2 touchdowns. There should be no argument who the better quarterback was on Sunday.
* Back to Frank Gore getting only twelve carries on Sunday. Gore has been the heart and soul of the 49ers for most of his career in San Francisco, and he knows that his time is coming to an end. He wanted to go out on top and looked like a guy running for his life against the Raiders yet Roman and Harbaugh took him out of the game, and in turn the took the heart and soul out of their football team.
* Colin Kaepernick is easily the most unlikable 49ers quarterback of the last 35 years. There have definitely been worse quarterbacks who have started during that time, but none is the absolute dud that Kaepernick has become.
For all of his shortcomings, at least Alex Smith would stand up after the game and try to explain why he played poorly. Same goes for every other quarterback that I can think of. Kaepernick comes off as a petulant child who didn't get his way.
Kaepernick's facial expressions after making a poor play are starting to rival those of Eli Manning.
* Only three teams have scored fewer touchdowns than the 49ers this season: Oakland, Jacksonville, and the New York Jets
* I think the 49ers will not win another game this season and finish 7-9. Kaepernick has already proven he can't win in Seattle, and this team is abysmal at home.
Date: December 12, 2014 at 8:24 AM
Comment: JT O'Sullivan was pretty unlikable too. Of course, he didn't last that long so we weren't given that much time to dislike him. (:
Date: December 9, 2014 at 7:34 AM
Comment: Fire Harbaugh Darrell Bevell best young offensive coordinator in the game
Date: December 9, 2014 at 12:11 AM
Comment: Thanks for writing Jack. Always look forward to your stuff!
Just a thought. Since Harbaugh admitted he really looks up to his old college coach Bo Schembechler, and was going to use a tight end and a fullback on almost every play. I'll admit I had to groan. I remember way back when Michigan was a powerhouse in the Big Ten and would come West to the Rose Bowl to play the Pac 10 teams. Bo's teams where slow and plodding and couldn't or wouldn't pass. The Pac 10 teams would give them a beat down. He never adjusted. I remember seeing him fuming, and steaming on the sidelines. Veins popping out in his forehead, haha. In Harbaugh I see the same plodding "3 yards and a cloud of dust" offense. Maybe they need to go to a real WC offense with lighter, quicker, more athletic O linemen? Move a little faster on O with more efficiency. Alas, that'll take some years and different coaching.
Date: December 8, 2014 at 6:45 PM
Comment: "Kaepernick's facial expressions after making a poor play are starting to rival those of Eli Manning."
I have not noticed, if so that is not a good sign, lack of confidence is hard to regain.
Date: December 8, 2014 at 5:29 PM
Comment: Jack, great name by the way. I always enjoy your writings, but I really hope Jed York keeps Harbaugh. At some point we need to have some stability. Getting rid of Harbaugh will only throw us back into another loosing season, or seasons. Can we just understand with all the injuries, and off the field issues, we had a bad year? I hope Jed York will consider this and not make a regretful, or emotional decision. Jack you've been here a while, you know better than anyone, everyone has bad seasons. remember Bill Walsh didn't win every year. I feel Harbaugh and staff made some bad decisions this off season, which caused them to get away from what this team does best. And really hope and pray that don't allow Frank Gore get away. Next year, a healthy, experienced, return to basics, team can, and will still contend for a Super Bowl. Jack, am I wrong if I say history proves, staying with Harbaugh may put the 49ers on the dynasty road with Greenbay, Patriots? teams that stick with the coach through the bad and into the upcoming good?? Grateful to have the same name with a 49er fan.
Date: December 8, 2014 at 3:38 PM
Comment: Nicely written, but I can feel your anger towards Kap...
I will not make excuses for Kap - he has been below average and awful at times. As far as him being "unlikable", I don't really care for that. I don't care if he diss the media, as long as he wins. Bottom line is "winning". If he's not winning, his inability to communicate is magnified by 100x and people nitpicked everything he said or not say. Winners come in many forms. We'll see if Kap's the type that can bounce back from adversity and from his recent failures. At this trajectory for this season, not very good.
Date: December 8, 2014 at 12:46 PM
Comment: You wrote: "Kaepernick comes off as a petulant child who didn't get his way". I said the same thing to my wife yesterday after watching his post game press conference. I said he reminded me of a pouting 12 year old. Kap is done this season and should be benched even if Gabbert is his replacement. He needs to step back and see himself. Unfortunately for him and the team I doubt that will happen.
Date: December 8, 2014 at 12:04 PM
Comment: Kap is the most unlikable qb within the last 35 year? What nonsense. When has being liked by the media ever = wins or superb or trophies. Another "at least Alex smith" line. Smh! At least green bay selected Aaron rodgers
Date: December 8, 2014 at 12:01 PM
Comment: Jack, I can boil down the lost season to the following issues. (Your thoughts?)
1. Harbaugh is stubbornly sticking with Roman and their new joint system and it deviated too far from their power run principles. The offense has no rhythm and cannot generate momentum like in 2011-13. This exacerbates the ongoing tendency to be slow, plodding, and suffer from delay of game penalties, and inability to execute in the red zone.
2. Harbaugh is too abrasive, and York is too immature, for the "toxic" situation to get resolved. The backdoor media games on both sides helped ruin the season. The offseason arrests and drama contributed. The end result is York is going to cut/trade a very successful HC. The blame falls on both sides.
3. The OL has severely regressed from amazing in 2012, to workable in 2013, to just plain bad this year.
4. Kaepernick has shown equal parts development, and regression. The instability in the offense and the severe regression in the OL have hurt him. He bears some blame too and needs a offensive-minded HC to take over.
5. Defense is holding it together, but the absences of Willis and Bowman are glaring in pass coverage.
By: King Drew
Date: December 8, 2014 at 11:28 AM
Comment: I believe the Niners will win more game, I believe they will win the rest. We just need to go back to Niners Football. I think that lost in Oakland is what will wake us up... Niners Football...
Date: December 8, 2014 at 10:25 AM
Comment: Kapp has his first bad year and hes trash now??? A little much dont ya think this is clearly the first year that he has really pressed to be a pocket passer and hes had struggles but to say hes done I think is a bit much
Date: December 8, 2014 at 10:11 AM
Comment: Offensive productivity declines for the 4th straight year, red zone offense worst in the league for 4th straight year, many, many high school teams run a much more efficient 2 minute offense than the SF Forty Niners, Harbaugh/Roman promised to fix the predictable play calling this week; so they throw in a couple gadget plays from 2011/12 and Kap throws a pick on the first one, because it fooled nobody, and then he gets smoked for a 6 yard loss on the second play because it fooled nobody... Do you still want Harbaugh? He's got a QB that he don't know what to do with... Bring in a real offensive play caller (Pep Halmilton, Adam Gase) before our great defense becomes not so great!