Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

Mike Silver identifies two roster decisions that helped push the 49ers into irrelevance

Nov 8, 2021 at 1:21 PM--

The San Francisco 49ers are 3-5. While they are still statistically alive, their playoff hopes are vanishing quickly. The team was steamrolled on Sunday by a squad missing their starting quarterback and top receiving threat. The 49ers defense made Colt McCoy look like an All-Pro.

"Realistically, they're teetering on the edge of irrelevance and running out of chances to make it right," wrote Michael Silver in a special for Bally Sports.

To say that of a team in the Super Bowl just 21 months ago is cause for concern. Everyone felt the 49ers, plagued with injuries last season, would come storming back in 2021, proving that 2020, not 2019, was the aberration. It turns out that maybe the opposite is true.

Kyle Shanahan has enjoyed just one winning season in his four as a head coach. The way 2021 is going, it looks like it will soon be one in five.

Silver identifies one post-Super Bowl decision that probably contributed to the 49ers' downfall — the decision to move on from DeForest Buckner. Instead of keeping the defensive star, who wanted desperately to remain with the team, the 49ers opted to sign Arik Armstead to a five-year, $85 million deal and trade Buckner to the Indianapolis Colts for a first-round pick.

San Francisco used that draft pick to select Javon Kinlaw, a defensive tackle who came with questionable knees. Kinlaw underwent reconstructive surgery to repair his ACL and is done for the year.

Meanwhile, Buckner continues to be a dominant force for the Colts defense and even helped his new squad defeat his old one in Week 7.

"Throw in the absence of edge rusher Dee Ford, who has been plagued by chronic back and neck issues since 2020 and was placed on injured reserve last Saturday, and the Niners' current defensive front is far from elite," wrote Silver. "Armstead, who had a sack and 10 tackles against the Cardinals, has played at a high level, but Buckner has proven to be more of a difference-maker."

Another "dubious decision" was putting a lot of hope in a cornerback with an extensive history of injuries — Jason Verrett. Unfortunately, Verrett was done by Week 1, suffering a torn ACL. Since then, the defense has struggled to find any consistency in the backfield after failing to adequately bolster the defensive back depth during the offseason.

"Verrett, plagued by knee and Achilles issues, played only six games from 2016 to 2019 but bounced back to have a strong 2020 season," wrote Silver.

The 49ers felt that was enough to make Verrett a featured piece of the defense this season without the need to consider a viable backup plan.

"I've kind of put (2019) behind me, and I think the team has as well," star linebacker Fred Warner said via Silver. "You obviously want to reflect on the times we were successful, and we did things the right way, to see, 'OK, how could we apply that to the situation we're in now?' But we're the 2021 Niners, and what's reality?"

A 3-5 record is the reality, and there are no signs that a turnaround is on the horizon.

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