I know there is tremendous debate going on about the plethora of problems we've been facing this year, and consequentially I see a lot of bickering, finger-pointing, and fighting all over the place about a variety of issues, but none more prevalent than the issue of QB play (is anyone surprised?). Nothing will change the fact that our former QB, Alex Smith is on another team. We have who we have, and Colin Kaepernick has struggled. There is no way around that fact. That's the simple truth. The not-so-simple truth achieved here though is this one question: WHY? Many individuals have thrown out every reason in the book for it, but unsurprisingly, it's something we've all heard before. Are these excuses? Or are they reasons? -- The answer lies somewhere in between, but I want to touch on what I feel is something important to consider before you make any firm decisions.
"EXCUSE": We are losing games because there is no one to throw to and the OL can't protect.
First, take a look at the 2011 49ers team, as far as the cast we had:
QB Alex Smith
RB Frank Gore / Kendall Hunter / Anthony Dixon / Moran Norris / Bruce Miller
WR Crabtree / Morgan* / Braylon Edwards* / K.Williams / B.Swain / T.Ginn* / Joe Hastings
TE Vernon / Delanie
OL Staley / Iupati / Goodwin / Snyder / A.Davis
Notes* Morgan went on IR after week 5, and Braylon was hurt early on, and cut after week 10. Ginn got hurt in the playoffs.
Then, look at what we have had for the 2013 49ers team:
QB Colin Kaepernick
RB Frank Gore / Kendall Hunter / Anthony Dixon / LaMichael James / Bruce Miller
WR Anquan Boldin / Mario Manningham* / Kyle Williams* / Jon Baldwin* / Quinton Patton* / Kassim Osgood / Crabtree*
TE Vernon / Vance McDonald
OL Staley / Iupati / Goodwin / Boone / A.Davis
Notes* Mario didn't play until mid-season, Williams was cut after week 10, Baldwin didn't play until week 4, Patton's been hurt since week 4. Crabtree's on PUP
Looking at the rosters, the receivers that started the most games in each year respectively were: Crabtree/Williams/Ginn in 2011, and Boldin/Williams in 2013. The other primary difference is Delanie in 2011, and Vance McDonald in 2013. The overall difference in collective talent between the two groups is minimal, but slightly in favor of 2011. However, the talent and performance of the offensive line in 2011 is slightly worse than the 2013 group. Frank Gore is still running well, and the defense has been outstanding this year statistically. Both of those were the case in 2011 as well so those variables are not under scrutiny. Here are the primary stats that I think we should look at:
2011 (16 games)
Sacks allowed: 44 (including a FRANCHISE RECORD NINE TIMES on Thanksgiving vs. Baltimore)
Snaps taken under center: 804
Snaps taken in shotgun: 314
4th quarter passer rating: 92.7
2013 (10 games)
Sacks allowed: 24 (on pace for about 38 sacks)
Snaps taken under center: 305
Snaps taken in shotgun: 291
4th quarter passer rating: 39.6
What is my point in all this? In 2011, we had atrocious weapons and our line couldn't block. But our defense played well. Despite the record, people still also complained about terrible calls by Greg Roman. This year we have all the same things occurring. We won 13 games in 2011 and were 4-1 against winning teams. This year, we're 6-4 and are 1-4 against winning teams. What's the big difference-maker in all this? Turnovers and timely plays on offense in the 4th quarter. We've barely passed mid-season and we've already passed the 2011 turnover mark, yet have no offensive jump statistically to compensate for that. 4th quarter passing has been abysmal and there has been little confidence in our ability to make a comeback for even a field goal when we trail late. This makes us even easier to attack.
1. We lack and/or do not utilize team speed on offense. Even a slight boost in weapons would help us; if we can at least get as good or a little better weapons than we had in 2011 we could do a lot more on offense
2. The biggest improvement needed is QB play. There are too many turnovers being committed -- better decisions need to be made. When a QB is not seeing things that are right in front of him or making the decision that seems to be the obvious choice, 99% of the time it's because of one of this: he's thinking, not looking. (Ever been so engrossed in thought that although your eyes are open, you're not really actually seeing what's in front of you? That is what I'm talking about).
What I believe happened: I think the league adjusted to the pistol/read-option scheme to the point where it cannot be the primary focus of our attack anymore. Essentially, we are starting over almost completely from scratch with Kaepernick, and he's practically becoming a rookie all over again as he is forced to learn to play NFL-style QB in this league. He's THINKING instead of using instincts because HE HAS NO INSTINCTS developed yet. He looks like a rookie because he has had to start from square one in a massive amount of areas. This is why he looks so lost and so horrendous out there a lot of times. THIS is why Roman was quoted saying that Colin "still [has] the element of 'I'm seeing this for the first time'.." hindering him.
What I think we should expect: I believe the 49ers are going to have a rough road ahead in terms of the passing offense, and it might not be until late next season before we see legitimate, consistent improvement there. Sure, it may be sooner, but based on what our situation seems to be right now, I would not be surprised if it took that long, or even longer. Our defense and running game will help carry us for the most part and will likely do the majority of the work for us in winning games, but personally, I'd say we should expect things to stay really, really rough passing-wise at the VERY LEAST until playoff time at the absolute earliest (which I know we all hope is when it starts to click).
[ Edited by OnTheClock on Nov 21, 2013 at 9:02 PM ]