Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports



There's a stench in Santa Clara, and it's got players leaving in droves.

It would be unfair to pin this trend of rapidly-retiring players on Jim Tomsula, who's got to be just as dismayed as any of the 49ers suddenly-tortured fans by this exodus of talent. It would also be an oversimplification to say that if Jim Harbaugh had been retained after last season that none of this would have happened.

The fact of the matter is that players are thinking more and more about their own well-being and how that's compromised by playing the collision-intensive sport of football. Early retirements will likely be more prevalent in the league as the data pours in regarding the damage done to players and how they suffer later in life. Players young and old know now the risk they take every time the buckle their chinstraps and take the field, so commitment to the game is more necessary than ever to play at an elite level.

That being said, the sudden retirements of Patrick Willis, Chris Borland, and now Anthony Davis speak to the level of apathy in Santa Clara and that's a derivative of how team management has handled team affairs for the last 18 months or so.

Management sent a clear message by undermining their coach after 3 seasons of consistent success, essentially putting out an ultimatum of "win the Super Bowl or we're firing you" to Harbaugh in year number 4. That message was that winning wasn't the primary objective, at least not the sole primary objective. You can win, but you better damn well tow the company line too, or you're out.

We've been living in this nightmare for quite some time, but other fans around the country still can't figure out how the 49ers bungled the Harbaugh situation and now appear to be in some kind of free-fall without him. Of course we know the story is more nuanced than that, but in some ways it's not.

If the players that have decided to retire thought this was a team on the brink of greatness and their contributions were crucial to that effort, then it seems unlikely that all these dominoes would have fallen as they did. The 49ers probably aren't as bad off as everybody is making them out to be, but for any player to face the thought of starting over with a new head coach and all the work ahead of them just to get back to where they were less than 2 seasons ago, they have to decide if it's worth it to them when the likelihood of getting the ultimate payoff in a championship seems pretty remote.

So, we have guys choosing to walk away rather than suit it up one more time for this team. It's a product of the modern game, the challenge of changing coaches, and the 49ers poor handling of all their recent success.

Jed York asked to be held accountable, do you think we'll get any explanations of what's going on with his team? Fat chance. The 49ers will just carry on like nothing's wrong and everything is going according to plan. Just ignore the smell.