Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports

Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports

The Seeds For 49ers Collapse Were Planted Long Ago

Nov 2, 2015 at 4:16 PM

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With reports circulating that the 49ers are trading Vernon Davis to the Denver Broncos for 3 late-round picks, it appears as though 49ers brass have called "time of death" on this season in Week 8 (though many fans had called it weeks ago). I'm not surprised that it took them this long to realize that this coaching change has been a failure.

Jed York and Trent Baalke can't possibly be thinking that this result is better than what they previously had and dismantled. Usually when a change is made in the workplace, it's done because the new person coming in to replace the departed employee is better. They can't possibly think that getting bombed week in and week out by teams that the 49ers regularly used to beat (or at least be competitive with) is better than what they got rid of in Jim Harbaugh. They couldn't possibly think that this was going to work.

I was among those who shared an early optimism that the 49ers just needed to turn the page and they had enough talent to compete...especially after the Week 1 win against Minnesota. However, this league has a way of exposing teams really quickly and that's precisely what happened to the 49ers in the past few weeks.

While Jim Tomsula continues to say "it starts and ends with me", this is far beyond him and his shortcomings. This is exactly what Jed York and Trent Baalke wanted. They wanted a guy who would hold himself accountable so they wouldn't have to. They wanted a guy who would take bullets for them. Tomsula indicated that it was his decision to cut Jarryd Hayne. While it's the head coaches decision on who to activate on game days, anyone who knows anything about how a football team operates knows that it's the general manager who is in charge of releasing players, not the head coach.

Isn't it great when a head coach takes accountability? Not when he's 2-6 and doesn't know what adjustments to make to turn things around. It's clear that Tomsula is way in over his head, and we're only halfway through the season. The enduring image of Jim Tomsuia for me is him staring blankly at the field as the play clock expired 2 weeks ago against Seattle. It struck me because this is something that the team had worked at all summer, yet there he was, a statue on the sidelines. How is this any better than what Jim Harbaugh was doing last year?

I won't get into how awful the game plans have been - if you can even call them game plans - as that's a conversation for another day. I will, however talk about the personnel.

It is beyond me why Jordan Devey and Erik Pears continue to start every week. They regularly give up pressure on seemingly every play, but you'd be surprised at how many times the 49ers try to run behind them. Pears was rated number 76 out of 78 right guards last year, yet the 49ers thought that he'd make a good starting right tackle. Devey was even worse, ranking last among all qualifying guards. He was so bad that Bill Belichick benched him after 4 games last year. A quarterback is only as good as his offensive line and it's no wonder that Kaepernick has struggled so much because (in addition to all of his other flaws) he rarely has time to throw.

Look, I can hear people saying "but there have been injuries and retirements, they couldn't have planned for that." Well, yes and no. NFL teams (specifically good teams) go through attrition every single year. The difference is that the best teams are able to find ample replacements for what they lose. We need to look no further than the NFC West. The Seahawks lose players every year to free agency, does it ever affect them? Absolutely not, because they have a good general manager in John Schnieder who brings in players that fit nicely into their system. It seems like every year he finds undrafted gems that contribute right away. Couple that with a strong coaching staff and you have a perennial contender. The 49ers have neither of these.

The 49ers knew what was going on. The 49ers knew that Patrick Willis and Chris Borland were retiring. Did they address it through the draft or free agency? Nope. Baalke was busy drafting a punter in the 5th round as well as adding more players to his All-ACL team and an 8th tight end to the roster. The 49ers knew that they weren't going to re-sign Mike Iupati, Michael Crabtree, Perrish Cox, Chris Culliver, Frank Gore and Dan Skuta. Did they address those losses? Not really. Torrey Smith was brought in to replace Crabtree, but then Baalke went and signed Jerome Simpson - yes, the same Jerome Simpson that was out of football last year and suspended for the first 6 games of this year. Baalke also "addressed" the cornerback position by signing Shareece Wright, the most penalized corner last year. Justin Smith's retirement was expected, and Baalke drafted defensive end Arik Armstead, but the coaching staff is only giving him 14 snaps per game at this point. With the season already halfway over, he needs to be getting more time.

This shouldn't come as a surprise though, seeing as how this is the same GM that rolled with Brett Swain and Joe Hastings as receivers in the 2011 Championship Game against the Giants. It's just interesting to me as to why Baalke would consider players that are graded the worst at their respective positions to be replacements for departed starters. This would have made the sting from Anthony Davis' unexpected retirement much less harsh. Good teams will have a 6th offensive lineman that can come in and start if needed, and the 49ers pretty much only have 2 serviceable offensive lineman in Joe Staley and Alex Boone.

For those of you who think this year is bad, wait until next year. Vernon Davis is already gone. Those that might follow him out of town are: Colin Kaepernick, Anquan Boldin, Ahmad Brooks, Joey Staley, Alex Boone, Phil Dawson, Antoine Bethea (who has a cap hit of $6.2M, Jaquiski Tartt was drafted for a reason), Garrett Celek and Ian Williams. The roster will surely be far less talented next year.

We're getting a good draft pick, you say? There's no guarantee that a top-5 pick will amount to anything with Baalke at the helm. Out of 29 draft picks in the last 3 years, Baalke has produced exactly 1 Pro Bowler (Eric Reid). The philosophy of throwing a ton of picks at a draft and hoping to come out with some good players has clearly failed and it's one of the main reasons why the 49ers are so devoid of talent right now.

With regard to Colin Kaepernick, we all know how bad he is right now. Part of it is his own fault because he is the one that makes (or doesn't make) the throws. The other part of it is what surrounds him. I'd want to see him in an offense that's not high-school level. I'd be willing to bet that any quarterback in this league not named Manning or Brady would struggle to put up decent numbers on this team and with Geep Chryst calling plays. Ultimately, it will be Kaepernick who will be the first one to take the fall for this debacle because he's the starting quarterback (for now). For those who think that Blaine Gabbert is the answer, they don't know what the question is. Gabbert has won a grand total of 5 games in his career and there's a reason why no one outside of Jim Harbaugh was willing to give him a shot as a starting quarterback in this league after he left Jacksonville.

Also regarding Kaepernick, I want to point out the when he signed his contract before last season, he was given that deal because he was supposed to be "the guy." He signed it with the intention that: A.) The team would have enough money to re-sign some of his teammates and B.) He would be the franchise quarterback for years to come. First off, did the 49ers make ANY attempt to re-sign the players mentioned above? They didn't. Secondly, why did the 49ers give him that big contract only to throw him under the bus the next year? If they want to get rid of Kaepernick because he's the last link to Harbaugh, why don't they do the same with Gabbert because he was brought in to learn under Harbaugh? It seems that the front office has no idea what's going on and no idea of how to fix it.

Jed York doesn't have a winning formula. Jim Harbaugh took that with him to Michigan. The seeds for this collapse were planted long ago and were watered by poor personnel decisions, the "leaks" that were created and speculation that surrounded the franchise for the past few years.

This season feels all too similar to 2004-2010, where the 49ers or their management couldn't seem to make the right decisions at the right times. What we're seeing now is the the last of the talent remaining from the contending run of 2011-2014. The 2015 49ers are historically bad, but the scary part is that there is still some talent on this roster and when that talent leaves, it's only going to get worse.


  • Who Should Be The First To Go?
  • Trent Baalke
  • Jim Tomsula
  • Geep Chryst
  • Colin Kaepernick
  • Eric Mangini
  • 3,402 votes
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.


  • Sean
    No Jed York option for the poll?
    Nov 15, 2015 at 9:52 AM
  • efren
    We can all complain as much as we want but bottom line is we need to hurt jeds bank account let's stop buying merchandise stop buying season tickets , if you have them already don't buy anything at the stadium or sell your tickets. We have too hurt him where it counts that's his wallet. He's running a business and selling us crap and worst were buying into it. Enough of this garbage that this organization is giving us I'm a die hard niner fan been for years I wear my niner gear all year long , year after year but I will not purchase anything anymore until they make serious changes. We all need to do this and when he sees his profits dropping is when he will finally do something. Niner fans we can do something about this but we have to do it together.
    Nov 6, 2015 at 11:55 AM
  • Mikesf
    A great article. Baalke and Tomsula must go! Enough said.
    Nov 4, 2015 at 8:41 PM
  • mike
    Thank you.. this is well written and thought out... here is my fear... I know people are tired of it but it is Jed York and Team York who are the PROBLEM... They meddle in something that they do not understand but they believe they do... I could complain and believe me I do... and I am not fully convinced that the York's are committed to winning.. the only thing that can save the shield from the tarnish of the York's is a VP of football operations who is independent of Jed's meddling.... My concern is that Jed does not have the imagination or the Chutzpah to do this...... then the concern is IF this happened and this person assembles this team and it works would Jed and team York would meddle with it to get the credit ?
    Nov 4, 2015 at 4:19 PM
  • Inevitable
    Baalke MUST GO! Yes York is the real problem but Baalke is responsible for the players drafted over the years and the inept free agent signings. His last three drafts were pitiful as he seems to make increasingly bad personnel decisions. Drafting a punter in the 5th round - what the @#$% come on man. Because of free agency and season ending type injuries, players should be drafted to start now - not as projects down the road. Look where this philosophy has brought us. The man is simply put - a terrible judge of NFL talent period. How long must 49 fans endure the same thing year after year. We can only hope that York reads the writing on the wall and relieves Baalke from his duties as GM. This eventuality is inevitable.
    Nov 4, 2015 at 9:51 AM
  • Ron W
    The real problem here is ownership. Unfortunately for 49ers fans, the York family give a $h1t about winning games. The sooner they sell the quicker these lingering problems can be addressed. Get some silicon valley billionaires who actually care to give the Yorks a deal they can't refuse. The Yorks are all about the bottom line with the Niners. They don't care about winning! If the team happens to win, hey, I'm sure they don't mind, but it is obviously not their priority.
    Nov 4, 2015 at 8:20 AM
  • Sharon B.
    Common sense doesn't grow in every garden (copied from FB). Harbaugh should sue for wrongful termination if the reason was the lack of winning the Super Bowl. Precedent setting for all future coaches and staff for reason for termination. My view is that Jed wants to eliminate all connections to Coach Harbaugh. Vendettas don't work Jed. Otherwise you'd be gone. Be a leader, Jed. Take a hit for our team and hold yourself accountable. Show some class. Step aside while we still have our Niner Pride!
    Nov 4, 2015 at 7:02 AM
  • Mari
    York isn't on the list.
    Nov 3, 2015 at 9:42 PM
  • Iris D
    Under the first to go question, you left off the one name that should have been at the top of the list JED YORK. And if you would have given everyone 2 choices, I'm sure YORK & BAALKE would be leading the pack.
    Nov 3, 2015 at 11:34 AM
  • David B
    Man, that was a good read. I seriously believe that York and Baalke just got lucky when they landed Harbaugh. They get credit for bringing him in, but really, it was just luck that they got him. He took a losing franchise and turned it around and made York and Baalke look better than they were. When Baalke's drafts finally caught up with him, 2014 happened. It is amazing that the coaching staff was able to get us to .500 with Baalke overseeing personnel. We got rid of the wrong guy.
    Nov 3, 2015 at 11:00 AM
  • ruben lefesma
    Great read...brings to mind that a wise man could always play the part of a fool, but a fool could never play the part of a wise man...York, Baalke, you both are fools! So stop pretending to be wise, the gig is up!
    Nov 3, 2015 at 9:53 AM
  • legomeiago
    I've been a Niner fan for thirty-five years. This is rock bottom and unfortunately the future is just as bleak. When Frank Gore was let go in free agency it really started to sink in that this team is headed for the bottom of the pile. It's incredibly sad because there isn't even the slightest ray of hope to cling to. I feel for Jim Tomsula. What a hand to be dealt as your shot at being a head coach in the NFL. Ownership and head office are a bunch of morally bankrupt, inept clowns. You watch, the Redskins will be the team to beat in two seasons from now. Why? Scot McCloughlan, that's why. Harbaugh. Michigan is one botched punt away from being 7-1. The man wins. You don't have to like him, but you better damn respect him. But head office didn't. Now their ego has planted us firmly at the bottom. But, at the end of the day, I'm still a Niners fan. There's just not a lot to be a fan of.
    Nov 3, 2015 at 9:53 AM
  • LouViv
    In 70 years of 49ers football, this is by far the franchise's best year ever...on the balance sheet! Losing is cheaper than winning and, frankly, now that they have their stadium sold out for years to come (thanks to the SBL program), making more money is priority #1 for the Yorks. This is not about them not knowing how to win - it's about them being willing to pay to win. When they needed it they did what it took. During 15 years of ownership, only once did the Yorks field three consecutive years with a winning record: the three years it took to get Levi's Stadium balloted, voted on, financed and sold. The long con is all about winning trust and support from the mark's human emotion over an extended period of time, then taking all their money for an illusory pipe dream.
    Nov 3, 2015 at 8:59 AM
  • Robert Luciano
    What is really sad is that the few talented young players, like Aaron Lynch, have to be wishing they were some place else. Losing takes a toll and can impact the entire trajectory of a career. Hoping Aaron leaves after year four...
    Nov 3, 2015 at 8:35 AM
  • Mark
    This is a scathing article on the 49er organization (excellent reporting I might add): http://www.forbes.com/sites/vincentfrank/2015/11/02/for-the-san-francisco-49ers-its-been-an-organization-wide-failure/ The problem has always been and continues at the top: OWNERSHIP! At this point our only hope is Denise D. York sees all this bad press and decides it's not worth the scrutiny any longer. We're talking now about "business news" reporting on the ineptitude of this family. Can it get any more embarrassing? What can we do, well start by posting this article on every forum (word of mouth), it might not seem like much, but it's a start in keeping the heat up and making everyone know and understand the York family IS and WILL ALWAYS BE the reason of why the 49ers are dysfunctional and incompetent franchise.
    Nov 3, 2015 at 8:14 AM
  • Nick
    The saddest day in Niner history was when Eddie had to step down. There is zero confidence in Baalke and everyone knows it. We will not get decent free agents or coaches coming our way until Baalke is finally shown the door. Not much we can do about Jed but it can start by getting rid of Baalke then hire a good GM with a football vision and then get a coach then draft a franchise QB. God we can only hope.
    Nov 3, 2015 at 8:11 AM
  • Lcd
    Would love to see the niners incorporate and owned by the fans by majority. Actually all nfl teams. Then the fans could have a say
    Nov 3, 2015 at 7:43 AM
  • Jimmy Montana
    Article is very straight forward and has a great deal of truth to it. Unfortunately, as fans we want the Glory Days back. We think football, reality is that this a business, a huge profit making business, Owners & GM sit by and make a fortune every year. If we stop coming they go to the league and ask to move the franchise. I really think that the present DeBartolo's have no love for SF anymore, they just want more money. I feel we are in fro years of bad teams coming.
    Nov 3, 2015 at 6:11 AM
  • JackMan
    A very good article. However, comments about forcing Jed York to sell the team are ridiculous. As another commentor said, Denise DeBartolo York owns the team -not Jed. Do you think she's going to make racist comments like Donald Sterling and Marge Schott did and be forced by the NBA and MLB to sell their teams? Dream on. The 49ers are a cash cow for the DeBartolo's AND Jed York's legacy. He loves being the guy in charge and does not have to be the guy on the podium taking flak. Baalke will be the GM for at least one more year. When the Niners go 2-14 in 2016 maybe Jed will clean house then (but don't get your hopes up)
    Nov 3, 2015 at 4:50 AM
  • Bearsky
    John and Denise Debartolo York have to be on this list! They are the root cause of this organization's demise. I resent what they did to the team I loved so much! The people on this list are just the annual scapegoats. This will only end when the fans force a new ownership and reclaim their team by boycotting the York's team.
    Nov 3, 2015 at 1:44 AM
  • Imzqtfrog
    York should be on the list, if only to show him how much we think he's f-ing up our team. I wish he WOULD sell. York, Baalke, Tomsula. They all need to go ... Yesterday.
    Nov 2, 2015 at 11:38 PM
  • Ernie
    Fans & sponsors STOP giving money to any 49ers related products or services. Let's ALL boycott to bring this once proud franchise to its knee to force the NFL to take over like what the NBA did with LA Clippers & force a sale. For the faithful fans, it's tough to be faithful when the entire team from the top are being unfaithful to fans & sponsors.
    Nov 2, 2015 at 11:31 PM
  • Bob
    After being a lifetime 49er fan, I have decided to abandon ship. I see no hope for this franchise until Jed York is out along with his band of incompetents. Before Jim Harbaugh, the 49ers were bottom dwellers. We are back there again and without major changes, we will be there for another 10 years while York lines his pockets with our money. So, I am going to wait for the off season. If there are not MAJOR changes at the top of this organization, I will walk away from my season tickets. Yes, I will lose my ability to buy 49er tickets in the future, but what future does the team have with these people running the show. I never thought I would feel this way one year after the new stadium opened. If we all did this and did not purchase 49er tickets and merchandise, you would have a half empty stadium which would be a major embarrassment to the York family. His only accomplishment, the new stadium, would be tarnished as his own fans will have turned their backs to this ownership group.
    Nov 2, 2015 at 11:07 PM
  • YorkARacist?
    We need to catch York via wire tap with racist or nonPC commentary to force him to sell ala Donald Sterling and the LA Clippers. Until that happens we sre doomed for a decade.
    Nov 2, 2015 at 10:22 PM
  • Milikafoster
    I never did like the new coach he didn't know what the hell his doing and the quarterback need to get retraining
    Nov 2, 2015 at 10:19 PM
  • 9erGal
    I've been through the good, bad and ugly. What is more upsetting is we, the fans, pay a whole lot more money per game (season ticket holders) for totally unprofessional, bad games, as we did for top games. We should get a rebate and discount for next year!
    Nov 2, 2015 at 10:05 PM
  • 4therush
    The only positive I could see is this team loses so much marketing value that Jed York sells the team to someone that loves the game more than money..
    Nov 2, 2015 at 10:04 PM
  • Dan Waterman
    Baalke is an incompetent GM I don't know how he keeps his job. He drafted A.J. Jenkins leaving Alshon Jeffery on the draft board like the writer says out of his 29 player drafted only Eric Read is worth mentioning. How can this moron sleep at night. He is such a loser.
    Nov 2, 2015 at 10:01 PM
  • eddieperez
    Nov 2, 2015 at 9:58 PM
  • jr
    Baalke is the worst gm in football and has an ego too big to function with a winning coach in harbaugh. He drafts the beat players available in the draft (according to him) instead of drafting need for the team. Nothing this team does makes sense. We will be a horrible team for uears to come.
    Nov 2, 2015 at 9:53 PM

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