Upon Further Review: Simple Math

Dec 27, 2014 at 8:44 PM

Some of you are likely stewing right now...be it for the 49ers stunning lack of offense in the 2014, your belief that Greg Roman is the sum of all things wrong with the game of football, or perhaps because Colin Kaepernick is never going to become the player you want him to be. To those of you stewing: there are reasons that the 49ers have struggled...and none of them can be pinned on one player, one coach or one opponent. That isn't an opinion, kids...it's a fact. The 2014 has been a "perfect storm" of sorts for the 49ers and their coach. Injuries, which had been uncommonly rare in 2011, 2012 and 2013, struck with a vengeance...making the 49ers the most injured team in the NFL. Scheme, which had once been lauded as the strength of the team, became bland...predictable, even. Suspensions and off-field distractions capped what might be the most disappointing season in 49er history. But is this "confluence of misfortune" a reason to shake things up?

What Happened to the Wins?
As it turns out, all of the aforementioned are interconnected. This season, the 49ers have lost Patrick Willis, Navorro Bowman, Aldon Smith, Glenn Dorsey, Ian Williams, and Tremaine Brock for much (if not all) of their games. Anthony Davis, Daniel Kilgore, and Chris Culliver have missed significant playing time as well. Care to guess how many teams missing 9 starters for the bulk of a 16 game schedule have ever challenged for a division title? A conference title? A Super Bowl ring?

With some of the 49ers most talented players cooling their heels on IR, injured or suspended, results were tragic...if not predictable. The loss of Daniel Kilgore left the 49ers with a starting C (Marcus Martin) incapable of calling protection schemes...a duty that fell to RG Alex Boone. The loss of Anthony Davis for 9 games meant that Jonathan Martin started the bulk of the season at RT...and that the 49ers simply COULD NOT run to the right (which effectively took the teeth out of their primary strength - the run). The loss of Bowman and Willis meant that the 49ers struggled to cover interior receivers consistently on 3rd and 4th downs. The loss of Dorsey, then Williams, to injury effectively eliminated the 49ers' ability to stop the run without committing 8 defenders to it. The persistent injuries in the secondary meant that on critical late season passing downs, the 49ers were trotting out unheralded players like Marcus Cromartie and Leon McFadden...because that is all that they had left. The net-net of this fabulous disaster was under performance...on both sides of the ball, week over week.

Trade Harbaugh? Fire Harbaugh?
To say that this season has failed to live up to preseason expectations for the 49er faithful would be a colossal understatement. The 49ers have underachieved by every measurable standard...and as one would expect in a "win now" league, the sharks have begun to circle. Some say Jim Harbaugh is destined to be traded (or fired) in the offseason. Some say Colin Kaepernick's (Harbaugh's hand picked QB) best football is two seasons behind him. Some say Trent Baalke and Jim Harbaugh don't talk. Others say that the team and its players are over Harbaugh's coaching style...and that an acrimonious end to the 49ers recent success is at hand.

The truth of things likely lies somewhere in between the most extreme unconfirmed reports (on both ends of the speculative spectrum)...and likely means there is at least a chance that the 49ers will be parting ways with Jim Harbaugh before the 2015 season. If that is indeed the case, the 49er brass is about to make their biggest mistake since dealing Charles Haley to the Dallas Cowboys (those of us familiar with the 90s remember that this was the final piece in the Cowboy's championship recipe). And like that deal, the rumored trade of Harbaugh reeks of personal prejudice instead of pragmatism.

Why? Because the first question that the York/Baalke brain trust must ask themselves is a simple one: Can they replace Harbaugh with a better coach? Is there a better coach available? Can they win with a lesser coach? The answer to those questions is a simple one...the answer is no. Football coaches aren't paid to be pleasant. They are not paid to be pliable. They are not paid to give soulful, thought provoking interviews. Football coaches are paid to win...and that's it.

Coaches that can win regularly are uncommon. Coaches that win at a historic clip are downright rare. The number of coaches to reach the Conference Championship in each of his first three seasons: just one...Jim Harbaugh. The number of NFL coaches with a winning percentage (over multiple seasons) in the same zip code as Harbaugh: five...in the last century. Replaceability is the principal issue in this tawdry little drama...at least as it pertains to fielding a competitive football team. And make no mistake...it is highly unlikely that there is a coach available right now that can replace Jim Harbaugh...at least as it pertains to winning football games.

The Endgame?
Jim Harbaugh is probably about to coach his last game as the Head Coach of the San Francisco 49ers. When he is let go, justification will likely center around poor team performance, internal strife, off field distractions, or some unforeseen excuse to cover up the fact that Jim Harbaugh is not an easy guy to work with for an extended period. That, in and of itself, is no reason to let him go. At the end of the day, football coaches are not supposed to be cuddly, cute, amiable or friendly. Football coaches are obstinate, brilliant, uncompromising, unpleasant, results driven individuals...especially the good ones. Individuals like that tend to be winners.

The 49er brain trust doesn't see it that way, however...because the 49er brain trust has lost sight of where they were when Harbaugh took over...or how far they've come in the last four seasons. The 49ers went from a laughingstock to Cinderella story in a single offseason. They went from a Cinderella story to a Super Bowl dark horse in a single offseason. They went from a Super Bowl dark horse to a trendy Championship favorite in yet another single offseason...and until the inaugural season at "not nearly loud enough (aka Levi's)" Stadium...that is exactly what was expected of them: Super Bowl or bust. Expectations like that don't come easily...but they can be lost easily. The 49er brain trust is looking for someone who will toe the company line. Someone who won't make waves. Someone who is easy to work with. That someone may or may not win...and that is something that many have failed to consider.

You see, the 49ers are broken. Not broken because of a quarterback that has failed to live up to unrealistic expectations. Not broken because of a coach that isn't particularly chatty with the media. Not broken because of injured players, pouty superstars, or criminal investigations. The 49ers are broken because they have an owner that tweets displeasure about his team's performance on the field. The 49ers are broken because the have allowed the first perennially victorious coach they have had in over a decade to be relentlessly skewered in the media. The 49ers are broken because their front office has leaked rumors of internal strife, which have made the team fodder for the NFL rumor mill. Effectively run organizations do not function that way. Chaos does not breed success.

So when the 49ers go to the well for their next coach, they'll do so as a broken organization. That will be evident to every candidate they interview. It will be apparent to every potential candidate they pursue. And whomever they end up with will be okay with that...which brings to mind a serious question: is there a winner out there who would be okay with that?

I've checked with my magic 8-ball on this...and it replied, "outlook not so good."
The opinions within this article are those of the writer and, while just as important, are not necessarily those of the site as a whole.


  • Lucky Phil
    Miss Sinn, If a "flaccid penis" is a money maker Jed York would be a multi-millionaire. Wait a minute... I got a big big problem in my hands.
    Jan 11, 2015 at 7:59 PM
  • rgonelove
    Relax This team is too talented to fall into the abyss, however, if they don't hire V.Fangio I don't know what they're thinking
    Jan 9, 2015 at 6:13 AM
  • Old Mac
    You make many good points. This breakup is a head scratcher in many ways. Success in the NFL, like with most ventures, requires excellence at all levels of the organization, from top to bottom. In the NFL, perennially successful teams are characterized by stability and unrelenting competence throughout the organization, starting at the top. The 49ers face their "Crucible" at this juncture, which will show the basic character of the team's leadership. Your comments did not, however, address one continuing failure of the Harbaugh coaching staff. Halftime is not really for rest. Good teams make adjustments for the second half. The fecklessness of the 49er offense in the second half of games this season underlines persistent coaching shortcomings. For that, Harbaugh must be held, dare I say it, accountable.
    Jan 1, 2015 at 9:04 AM
  • Lucky Phil
    Here's what Jed York wants for a "Head" Coach. He wants a steely eyed, lantern jawed take one for the team S.O.B. He wants a crossed eyed, black assed S.O.B. that is old school. He wants a flabby assed, deflated wind bag that is a team player. Rex Ryan you're on the "clock" make it happen. You poor bastard.
    Dec 30, 2014 at 8:00 PM
  • Lucky Phil
    "I work at the pleasure of the organization", was one of JH's last departing words. Jed said "That's a complete lie, things could have worked out better if Jim was serving on my staff". And there you have it, the real reason JH is no longer on Team York. Baalke is Jed's favorite. I always remember Jim saying he bows to no man, things went down hill quickly after that. Poor Bastard. I wonder if Singletary's pants down speech... Never mind.
    Dec 30, 2014 at 7:37 PM
  • ms.sinn
    Lucky Phil makes many valid points! You should copywrite the phrase, "Flaccid Penis in Shoes" Phil....I see a moneymaker....
    Dec 30, 2014 at 7:19 PM
  • Lucky Phil
    Capitalizing on his growing popularity, Jed York is selling a very exquisite and dainty pair of panties. Trying to jump on the Mad Bum boxer shorts phenom-om. Jed is selling his personal favorite undergarments with "Flaccid Penis In Shoes" on the front and "F@#$ This" on the back.
    Dec 30, 2014 at 6:01 PM
    Response: LOL. Thanks for the laugh, Phil. I needed it, amigo.
  • Big York
    Jed, sounds like the name you give to boy you know will be scooping turd in a barn with a heavy shovel. If Jed's penis wasn't so short, he would be the type of guy walking around with his pecker hanging out of his pants. Why? Well... because the correct use of the zipper is too labor intensive and time consuming.
    Dec 30, 2014 at 3:52 PM
  • Lucky Phil
    Jed "The Flaccid Penis In Shoes" York, he will always talk big and have grandiose goals but he will never stand up and get the job done. "Philosophical Differences", what a bunch of horse shit. If Baalke is so brilliant why didn't he figure out JH and he had "Philosophical Differences". These two shit heads just tore this franchise apart in less than a season. Why would "Plenty of good coaches" want to work with this organization. Total fucking idiots. These assholes made in personal, JH always took the high road and I respect him for it.
    Dec 30, 2014 at 9:19 AM
  • Terry B.
    "Harbaugh wanted to be the 49ers coach." Oh, please, AJ. How could you have followed everything that went on this year and still believe that? Oh, BTW, are you interested in purchasing some land in Florida? And can you help me get some money out of a Nigerian bank?
    Dec 30, 2014 at 7:48 AM
    Response: Are you stating that Harbaugh initiated his departure? I find that difficult to believe, given his own statements (I work at the pleasure of the organization) and the leaks from the front office stating that he'd be leaving.
  • mike v
    great summary. The firing of Harbaugh will probably have its own self-titled special on 30 for 30 10-15 years from now. What a joke
    Dec 29, 2014 at 10:52 PM
    Response: Agreed.
  • Wendell Nascimento
    And that my friends is how the 49ers in those 11 paragraphs have earned the name the 40 whiners
    Dec 29, 2014 at 5:29 PM
    Response: Technically, it's 12 paragraphs. Thanks for reading.
  • Paul
    Think how good the defense could be without all the injuries and almost no second half scoring by the offense. I hope these guy make the right decisions, but I'm concerned.
    Dec 29, 2014 at 3:18 PM
  • matt
    Good article. However it goes both ways. Harbaugh never accepted that in the NFL the owner has to be happy because he signs the checks! This isnt college football. If Jim wants to do it his way or the highway then Michigan is where he belongs. NFL coaches have to be able to deal with the politics of it.
    Dec 29, 2014 at 7:32 AM
  • Terry B.
    AJ, did you seriously believe up until Saturday that Harbaugh might be back? What rock have you been living under?
    Dec 29, 2014 at 7:13 AM
  • Kirk
    The decision to undermine and force Harbaugh out is easy to evaluate. If over the next four seasons the Niners win at least 50 games go to the NFC championship at least 3 times, and make the playoffs a 4th, go to the Super at least twice, and win at least once, then they upgraded and York/Baalke and will deserve all the credit. If, however, they fall short over the next four years they deserve all the blame. It's just math.
    Dec 29, 2014 at 6:31 AM
    Lets see hmmm, our Defense is 7th overall without Willis, Bowman, Brock, Williams, Dorsey ( Cully missed a few games and Aldon missed 9). Are you listening? We are 7th with over half the defensive backups, this means we have a deep and talented roster on defense. Now on offense, our sorry 30TH passing and 20th overall is the reason and only reason we are watching the playoffs. There is no excuse to have the 30th ranked passing game when our roster has: Crabby, Boldin, Johnson, Davis and future Hall Of Famer F. Gore! The problem here is poor QB play from Kap, he is our weakest link....NO DEBATE....Regardless who the coach is or will be, Kap is not the answer. Injuries are a part of the game but offensively we suck.
    Dec 29, 2014 at 5:32 AM
  • Terry B.
    AJ, did you honestly go into Sunday's game thinking there was a chance Harbaugh would return next year? Seriously, what rock have you been living under?
    Dec 29, 2014 at 5:20 AM
    Response: Actually Terry, I thought it was probable that Harbaugh was gone. But since nothing definitive had been announced at the time that this was written, I opted to avoid over-prognosticating.
  • mike
    Thank you Mr. Harbaugh...What a mess...Jed York should step down too. We need leadership, not a Tweeter.
    Dec 28, 2014 at 9:38 PM
  • oscar
    I don't see why everyone is down on this move it had to happen lay off Jed he did the right Eddie wouldn't have let him do if he thought it was wrong.
    Dec 28, 2014 at 9:18 PM
    Response: There is no justifiable reason for getting rid of a coach that wins 70% of his games. Especially when he took a 6-10 laughingstock and turned them into a championship contender in a single strike shortened offseason. Jed messed up.
  • John
    I just want to F-Bomb the 49ers brass.
    Dec 28, 2014 at 6:49 PM
  • John boyke
    It seems to me that the front office of York and Baalke need to think for a very long time about this and there decision on what they truly want for the NINERS Empire, because I truly believe they are about to make the worst decision in Football history by letting Harbaugh walk out and coach elsewhere! Like I had said earlier hello SB 50 it was nice knowing you!
    Dec 28, 2014 at 5:03 PM
  • Lisa
    i could not have said it better. I agree 100 percent. I have been a fan for 33 years and this is the worst mistake I've ever seen!! As a fan I feel bad for my team because I do not see a very bright future!
    Dec 28, 2014 at 4:28 PM
  • Dallas Niner Fan
    great article AJ I totally agree with you.
    Dec 28, 2014 at 3:02 PM
  • mike
    thank you... I could not agree more.. Thank you Jim Harbaugh for 3.5 great years of football.. it was a great ride.. As for the future.. I fear it is time to bundle up because it is going to be a very long and dark stretch...
    Dec 28, 2014 at 1:32 PM
  • Jerry
    Great article and spot on. I can't understand those few who blame Roman and ignore their lieing eyes when watching the game. The O line was decimated this year, and opponents loaded the box to prevent the run, knowing Kap is not a pocket passer. We had no depth on the O line like we did on the D line. Drafting priority has been with the defense. We just didn't have the horses on offense and many of the horses w did have were injured or held out. Coaches can motivate and scheme but they can't play the game. The team made a bet that Kap would be better this year and that if they added a couple of experienced receivers, they would be much improved. They lost the bet.
    Dec 28, 2014 at 12:26 PM
  • Phil C
    So I just posted a long comment that for some reason didn't make it through. Is it because this writer and these "fans" can't handle the truth? HARBAUGH IS OVERRATED. If not for Fangio's consistently elite level defense, the Niners wouldn't have even made the playoffs with the crappy offenses they've had the last four years. Other than Alex Smith being good enough not to lose games and Kaepernick surprising people in 2012, the offense has been abysmal. Harbaugh's only responsibilities has been offense (crap) and quarterback personnel (horrible; not only did he replace Smith with Kaepernick, he has failed to get Kaepernick even a capable NFL backup. Colt McCoy? Blaine Gabbert? Really?) But it's Jim Harbaugh's failure to do what his brother had the balls to do, and that's replace his OC, that ultimately led to his downfall.
    Dec 28, 2014 at 11:58 AM
    Response: Phil, there are exactly 5 coaches in the last century within sniffing distance of Harbaugh's winning percentage over multiple seasons. He took a 6-10 perennial loser and made them championship contenders in a single strike shortened offseason. Harbaugh is a great many things. Overrated is not one of them.
  • Phil C
    Sorry, it was hard to read this article due to the brown that was all over it from being pulled out of the writer's arse. You blamed injuries for the 49ers demise, yet how is it that the defense, which dealt with more serious injuries than the offense, not to mention a suspension to Aldon Smith that cost him more than half the season, still remained very good? "Underperformance, week-after-week?" Did you watch any of the game? The defense kept the Niners in most of those games; if the offense could've even gotten to 20 points in any of those games, we could have been in the playoffs. Harbaugh is responsible for Roman and the offense, and all the failures of that side of the ball, and the season, are on him. Don't give me this "Harbaugh is the victim" bullcrap. He could have done what his brother John had the balls to do and replace his inept OC with someone else, but instead he couldn't hurt his BFF Roman and stayed with him even though everyone and their mother knew Roman couldn't run an offense with Dan Marino at quarterback, Barry Sanders at running back, Jerry Rice and Calvin Johnson at wide receiver, Rob Gronkowski at tight end, and the early 1990s Dallas Cowboys O-line.
    Dec 28, 2014 at 11:53 AM
    Response: Phil, the most significant injury on the 49ers this season was to Anthony Davis. This is a run first team, and for 9 games, they could not run to the right at all. Over the last two games, The 49ers averaged over 8 yards per carry to the right...and that is just one example. To say that injuries did not significantly affect team that put 18 players on IR this season is downright silly.
  • Robb Malone
    I couldn't agree more... Jed York, are you mature enough to understand this? I fear not. If in fact you do fire Jim Harbaugh, you show the NFL world that you're just another spoiled little rich kid brat!
    Dec 28, 2014 at 11:00 AM
  • Anita
    This article is spot on, really missing Eddie De Bartalo right now
    Dec 28, 2014 at 10:00 AM

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