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Midseason Review: How Can I Describe My Emotions at This Catastrophe?

Bret Rumbeck
Oct 31, 2017 at 5:51 AM

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Just in time for all Hallow's Eve, the San Francisco 49ers' locker room resembles a haunted Civil War hospital. Men with broken orbitals and forearms, stretched ligaments, bruised brains and strained necks are lurching around the facility seeking treatment for their wounds.

The real horror show isn't a mangled body or a hospital bed procession making its way down 4949 Centennial Boulevard; no sir, the real disgusting mess is the regression of the 49ers as a professional football team.

Week after week, this team becomes harder to watch. The press conference one-liners about "getting better" and "taking a step forward" or "watching the tape" have grown a thick, green mold.

Getting outscored 73-10 over the last two games is nowhere near getting better. I'm not a sap or some football rube, and I'm tired of the team treating me as such.

Last evening's huge trade for New England Patriots' quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo may finally land the team in the victory column, but the team is so far down the rabbit hole that a repair may end up being for naught.

How did the 49ers come to find themselves in such a loathsome state?

"I beheld the wretch – the miserable monster whom I had created." Shelley, Mary. Frankenstein; or The Modern Prometheus. Lackington, Hughes, Harding, Mavor & Jones. 1818.

The 49ers did and continue to make some minor accomplishments to look encouraging. Indeed, defensive lineman DeForest Buckner is having an exceptional season. Of course, the executive staff resembles a laboratory of mad geniuses for resigning defensive lineman Leger Douzable just in time for him to have a five tackle, two sack performance against the Philadelphia Eagles.

That strategy, however, isn't 'brick-by-brick.'

Until last night, the front office had been trying to build a team with minimal talent for the lowest dollar, heaps of witty marketing, a resurrection of Bill Walsh's ghost, and shocking the creation to life with a bolt of lightning. The 49ers' top brass wants the opposition to fear this mangled monster and the fans to praise its leadership; in reality, it's the executive office and inept coaching staff who are the real villains.

I'm withholding judgment on the Garoppolo trade, mostly because the same people who tried to sell us on veteran quarterbacks Brian Hoyer and Matt Barkley are now ready to sell us a player who's attempted 94 passes in his career.

We bought into the Hoyer experiment for a moment, but once the season started, we quickly saw through the lie.

We begged for rookie C.J. Beathard, but he's struggled through two-and-a-half games as a professional quarterback, notably his accuracy and throwing a football with almost no power behind it. But Shanahan is overly obsessed with the passing game and asked Beathard to throw the ball an average of 36 times per game while calling an average of 22 runs.

Now, we'll get to see Garoppolo call the signals in a few weeks, but he'll be behind the same porous offensive line that the same front office failed to address in free agency or the draft.

"It was on a dreary night of November that I beheld the accomplishment of my toils. With an anxiety that almost amounted to agony, I collected the instruments of life around me, that I might infuse a spark of being into the lifeless thing that lay at my feet." Frankenstein; or The Modern Prometheus.

Aside from last night's trade, Shanahan refuses to alter the offensive strategy or game plan. On the other hand, defensive coordinator Robert Saleh deserves our applause for trying to find the right pieces for his defense.

This past Sunday, he finally benched second-year cornerback Rashard Robinson for rookie Ahkello Witherspoon, who played a solid game despite giving up a touchdown pass.

Earlier in the week, Saleh announced that safety Eric Reid would be playing linebacker, which is a desperate move to find a few sparks of success. He's also started squeezing talent from rookie defensive lineman D.J. Jones and has safety Jaquiski Tartt playing his best football in the last three years.

Saleh and his defense are doing the best they can with each challenge they face. Sometimes success looks ugly and weird, especially when Saleh calls a defense that asks the defensive tackle to drop into coverage. However, Saleh crafts a good scheme that's capable of containing even the NFL's best offense.

Once the defense succeeds, failure takes over; the crowd groans in disgust when the 49ers' offense cannot capitalize on a short field or shift the game's momentum. When it's not the 49ers' receiving corps dropping a catchable football – they have 27 drops on the season – we'll see Shanahan call a toss play on 3rd and 11 that loses a yard. Not surprising, the 49ers' offense is 15-for-43 on third down attempts over the last three weeks.

"I was benevolent and good – misery made me a fiend. Make me happy, and I shall again be virtuous." Frankenstein; or The Modern Prometheus.

A long time ago in a dusty football parking lot that hugged the Bay, 49ers fans brought an '87 Duckhorn merlot, smoked tri-tip sandwiches, and Great-Grandma Wilma's famous potato salad for a section tailgate party. They shared Super Bowl and playoff memories, high-fiving one another as their kids re-enacted The Catch and The Drive in between the parked cars and trash cans.

Today, because of the 49ers' abject failure to build a relevant team, we've become bitter. We're nasty with one another, we're quick to rant and point a finger, and all to measure our Faithfulness through a plastic keyboard.

I've shared my thoughts on how to improve the offense and defense in months of previous work. Maybe the answer is and always has been Garoppolo, if not for this season then for 2018. For now, we need to give him the benefit of the doubt.

But, I'm not a coach. Like you, I watch the 49ers each Sunday on television and remember what it was like to be five years old and wear my Dwight Clark jersey on game day.

Right now, all I want from this organization is a return to relevant football. Find ways to win games. Go after real players with real talent that came make an impact on and off the field. If it takes the 1997-98 Turlock High flexbone offense and 50 shovel passes to score points, then so be it.

I just want my spirit to sleep in peace.
  • Bret Rumbeck
  • Written by:
    Bret Rumbeck has been writing about the 49ers since 2017 for 49ers Webzone and 49ers Hub. He is a Turlock, CA native, and has worked for two members of the US House of Representatives and one US Senator. When not breaking down game film, Bret spends his time seeking out various forms of heavy metal. Feel free to follow him or direct inquiries to @brumbeck.
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.


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    Nov 7, 2017 at 8:18 AM
  • Mike
    The 49ers made a business decision to dismantle a competitive team with the departure of Harbaugh a few years back. It may annoy fans but financially the move was a good one for the owners. I doubt the mom and dad York seriously care about Super Bowls as much as they pretend to care and Jed is just a figurehead for the time being. That said, it's clear they are aware that in a few years they will need a competitive team if the seat licences and corporate sponsorships are going to be renewed. Eventually it will impact their bottom line. Expect a another two years of shitbird 49ers (unless there is a mindmeld with Walsh and Montana) and maybe an 8-8 season in 2020. Fans got played for suckers but the Yorks will only get to play that card once. They have to put out a good product by 2022 or lose serious money. I wish it were different but this family is about money, not winning a football trophy. There was an article a few years back about Denese York bragging about purchasing a lamp that she said was worth $50 for only $25. To a billionaire 50 dollars is like about 1/2 of a cent to an ordinary wage earner. Expect more of the same cheapness for the time being.
    Nov 3, 2017 at 9:19 PM
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    Nov 3, 2017 at 6:31 PM
  • Frank
    This season's more about evaluating players (and coaches) than winning football games. They have to understand who the contenders and pretenders are. Lynch will have the most cap space to work with...fortunately, the FA pool is strong in interior OL, plus there are some impact WR's and CB's available. He can enter the draft having signed a top C and OG. With Garoppolo on board he knows what he needs to surround his new QB. Shanahan's playing as many youngsters as he can, some out of necessity due to injuries. All of these things will come together for a much more successful 2018 season.
    Nov 3, 2017 at 5:45 PM
  • Steve
    This season is nowhere near the dumpster fire of last season. For 5 of the first 6 games this season we were so close to winning, showing growth in the defence especially the pass rush which was showing real signs of life. The offence hasn't shown the same level of improvement as the defence, and I do wish they would utilise the run game more and be more creative with it. Kittle (despite the drops) has been a huge improvement over stone hands MacDonald, and while the o-line has been decimated it held up better than could be expected earlier in the season. There's a lot to disappointed about this franchise and the direction of the team, but right now I feel a damn sight more optimistic than I was at this point last season in 2004/2005 and 1999. I'm gutted we lost Bowman and that we have the worst injury curse ever, but I like that we are looking to the future giving some real playing time to promising youngsters. Baalke is gone, York is in the background, Lynch and Shanahan are on the same page and we have a new QB. Reasons to be cheerful!
    Nov 2, 2017 at 10:01 AM
    Response: Thanks for reading, Steve. I think folks are not getting the nuances in my editorial, and missing the section about my praise of the defense. That's okay. I thought using a classic science fiction book to compare it to this year's team was funny. Anyway, I'm not a fan interested in moral victories. Sure, there are things happening - which you and many others correctly point out - but winning 7 games over the last three years has me a little jaded.
  • Scott
    They totally purged everything including coaches and GM. What did you expect Bret ? These type articles crack me up and showed how shallow thinking the media can really be.
    Nov 2, 2017 at 8:19 AM
  • Tom
    Jesus Christ, get over yourself. Anyone with any sense knew this was going to be a bad year to be a 49er fan but there has been plenty to be hopeful about. Shanahan's offense is going to be a real upgrade over what the team has had over the past few years once they get a few more pieces in place. I think the defense will be better too. New Coach, new DC, new GM, new schemes, new players plus having to clean house of all the dead wood that we accumulated through the Baalke years. And perhaps biggest of all reinventing the culture of an organization that has lost its way is going to take a bit of time. All of this hand wringing has just got to stop. If by the end of next year the team is still struggling then, maybe, you can put your hair shirt back on but until then just chill out.
    Nov 1, 2017 at 12:56 PM
  • Monsterniner
    This comparisions to the ´79 team have to stop. That season the O was 6th in total yds and 3rd in passing yds with Steve DeBerg at QB which means that fans could see something growing since then and next year a guy named Joe Montana started to play. Now our O is terrible and I´m not sure if I´m seeing something growing and I´m pretty sure that Jimmy G isn´t the new Montana. Maybe Garoppolo can be very good (we all hope so) but I just don´t see the roots of a great O right now. All those dropped passes and dumb penalties are the result of a poorly coached O and that is Shanahan´s fault and those issues have nothing to do with lack of talent. I´m a longlife Niners fanand I want this team to succeed but I´m just not sold on Shanahan.
    Nov 1, 2017 at 2:32 AM
    Response: Thanks for reading. I'm in total agreement with you on comparing this team to 1979. Lately, when the chips are down for the franchise, they throw Bill Walsh's name in the talking points as some kind of assurance to the fanbase that things will be just fine. It's a beautiful history under Walsh, but I'd prefer not living in the past.
  • WildBill
    I get your frustration. We all knew that this team was starting from scratch like a franchise team. I believe that niner's are doing it the right way, build through the draft, FA is not the answer till you have most of the the pieces in place. Spending when you are one to three players away. To me going all in to soon just sets you up to be like the Browns and some others. As for play calling, you can only do what the team is capable, it is easy to wan the team to things, but I believe the niners are setting the fundamentals and foundations first. There will be growing pains, we all heard the stories, Matt Ryan needed a whole year to grasp the offense and that is with a talented team. As for Hoyer, we all knew that he was a place holder, pushing the situation for a qb that you are not enamored with is not good either and Mike has had that happened to him twice. If you have a method and system, you follow it and not worry about what others think, if they did, the nioners would really be in trouble.
    Nov 1, 2017 at 1:45 AM
    Response: Thanks for reading. All this may fall in next year or the year after. And the injury bug hung around the facility again this year. Nobody can control that. But they aren't competing, and continue to fail to do the little things right: drops, penalties, plays short of first downs, etc. Again, it's my view that a team needs to build up front first (OL/DL) and then have the skill positions fall into place. They did a fantastic job over the last few years building a DL. These guys are going to be a force once they figure out how to work in the system and complement one another. But they abandoned the OL entirely and then wonder why they can't throw well or run the ball. It's been three years of promises of rebuilding/reloading and I'm just a tad tired of waiting.
  • Brad
    Wow. I understand you are upset, and it sucks seeing the team lose, but this article seems negative to the point of ignorance. Nobody thought this team was in a win-this-year mode, including the coaching staff and gm. This was about finding some building blocks worth keeping and pitching the ones that aren't. That's why they didn't extend many people, and why they were ok with stopgap players like Hoyer and a good but aging #1 receiver in garcon. We added talent where we could in the draft (and though jury's still out, there are some good pieces there), drafted beathard as a development project (no one thought he was ready to start this year). We could not revamp the whole team in one season, and they didn't throw horrible money at every free agent out there because there weren't perfect pieces to be found. They overpaid for a couple that fit specific needs, though. The team defense is miles better than last year, though they've had serous injury problems and some obvious holes that aren't getting filled this year. The offense has been painful. Largely due to inconsistent blocking and qb play. We knew these were weaknesses going in. Be patient. Hmm. Out of room apparently
    Oct 31, 2017 at 7:38 PM
    Response: Looks like we're saying the same things, Brad. I applaud Saleh's work with the defense. He's done the best he can with what he's been given. I have an entire section about the defense and how Saleh's getting as much as possible from his players, along with high praise for his scheme. Also, great point about overpaying for needs that's a spot on observation. This team has 7 wins in three years. Do the last two years not count? In no way did I expect a winning season this year, but they've regressed over the last two weeks. 27 drops by receivers, a 31% 3rd down conversion rate... Sorry. I have a hard time praising moral victories, poor play and no wins.
  • Lucky Phil
    This team needs a lot of work and an infusion of talent. But if you get an opportunity to pick up a potential franchise QB for a 2nd rd pick you make the trade. Here's why I like the trade. He's been in the league for 3 years. Has looked great every time he's played (limited opportunities), but has polish, accuracy and poise (A Rogers like). We know he has a great work ethic/ quotes from Brady and Belichek. We can see the leadership qualities he has. And most importantly we get half a season to drive the car before we decide to give him a contract or franchise him. And we didn't gamble the first pick in the draft to do it. Great potential as a player with minimal risk make this another shrewd move by Lynch.
    Oct 31, 2017 at 4:57 PM
    Response: Thanks for reading, Phil. I'd like to wait and see how the trade plays out before passing judgment. Hard to tell what Garoppolo can at the moment. But, I agree with you. The need does need work and a big infusion of talent.
  • Scott
    Bret not Phil LOL
    Oct 31, 2017 at 4:54 PM
    Response: Actually, he did it for me. You live in Boise? I do as well. Drop by R-Bar on Sunday. I'll buy you an Anchor Steam.
  • Scott
    So Phil you throw out this response to prove your own point? You copied and pasted, but still measuring your Faithfulness through the Keyboard. :Response: Today, because of the 49ers' abject failure to build a relevant team, we've become bitter. We're nasty with one another, we're quick to rant and point a finger, and all to measure our Faithfulness through a plastic keyboard. I've shared my thoughts on how to improve the offense and defense in months of previous work. Maybe the answer is and always has been Garoppolo, if not for this season then for 2018. For now, we need to give him the benefit of the doubt.
    Oct 31, 2017 at 4:48 PM
  • BigAl
    I'm sorry bro but this is weak analysis. Watch some tape on Jimmy G before you criticize. Maybe you fell for the stopgap that was Hoyer, but I didnt. NE didn't scale their offense back at all when he started. Watch some tape on last year's Falcons team so you understand just how great Shanahan is. These weak articles are direct results of yall not even being familiar with other teams and players. I'm so sick of these weak 49er fans and writers. Why don't yall go cover Michigan than, or find Chip Kelly If you had a Clark jersey than you should understand that Shanahan represents the best linkage to our last SB team, and be excited we actually have a coach that WANTS to throw the ball, wants to pile up yardage. Unbelievable to criticize that
    Oct 31, 2017 at 3:56 PM
    Response: Today, because of the 49ers' abject failure to build a relevant team, we've become bitter. We're nasty with one another, we're quick to rant and point a finger, and all to measure our Faithfulness through a plastic keyboard.   I've shared my thoughts on how to improve the offense and defense in months of previous work. Maybe the answer is and always has been Garoppolo, if not for this season then for 2018. For now, we need to give him the benefit of the doubt.
  • Lucky Phil
    Clark Kent just walked in the building and he's got a big G on his chest. Thank You John Lynch! Its nice to see a GM whose just got some common sense & intelligence around here.
    Oct 31, 2017 at 2:28 PM
    Response: Hey Phil. Thanks for reading and I dig the Superman reference. I'd like to wait and see what Garoppolo can do. He hasn't taken a regular-season snap since September 18, 2016. He's also stuck behind the same porous OL as Hoyer and Beathard.
  • Michael Ray
    I don't know, I liked your article, though it was a bit morose, maybe in keeping with the Halloween theme? And the Frankenstein references were a nice touch. But to your critique: the O line is horrible, no QB could succeed behind that, and I hold out little hope for Jimmy G fairing any better. We seem to get the best results from going straight up the middle: when the receivers and running backs and QBs are not going sideways, but looking straight down the middle, then wham, a big gain. But it wouldn't take long for a good defense to catch on to that either, so that trick is only good for so long. What I'm wondering is why this so-called offensive genius didn't address the O line in the off-season? And if it's true they let perfectly good O linemen go in free agency, then shame on them. I thought it strange when I saw all the draft picks were on the D side of the ball, even a casual observer of the game knows that you have to take care of both sides. So your critique may be harsh and somewhat premature, but if Shanahan doesn't come up with at least a temporary fix for these issues, then I will reluctantly have to agree with you, all doom and gloom on this Halloween Day.
    Oct 31, 2017 at 11:28 AM
    Response: Hey Michael. Thanks for reading, getting today's theme and your analysis. I'm an old school fan with simple tastes on offense. I want a stout line, power runs, slant routes and flanker drive. I like a linebacker blitzing the B or C gap and a special teams unit with swagger. The 49ers' front office flushed a lot of bad talent from the roster in February - a great/overdue thing. They chose two outstanding rookies in the first round of the draft. They have a DL and LBs that will be a formidible unit once the injury bug leaves and these men can really gel. All that deserves our thanks and praise. They made no effort to build the offensive line. None. Zane Beadles is not a good guard. Jeremy Zuttah was mysteriously let go. Daniel Kilgore has not played well. They were forced to sign a sub-par guard in Tomlinson. Erik Magnuson literally watched a guy run right around him on Sunday. This is not how a team wins games. Next, they sold us Hoyer and Barkley as some kind of 'bridge' quarterback. Neither player has shown the aptitude to play in the NFL, and they ended up cutting Barkley and gave Hoyer $10 million to find out what the rest of the league already knew. It's not all doom and gloom, but I think we have a right to be frustrated with this so-called process. I disagree with the comparisons to the '79 team. That doesn't make me feel better about not winning a game this season and only won 7 games in the last two years. The "we have to get better" line is great, but if that's the case, why is Rashard Robinson still on the team? Above all this, what really makes me sad is what the last few years have done to the fan base. We're a bitter group now, quick with a nasty comment or insult if one either A) doesn't fully support the 'rebuilding' process B) questions the acquisition of a player who isn't very good (i.e. Laken Tomlinson) or isn't a proven success (i.e. Jimmy Garoppolo) C) isn't really thrilled with a losing record and/or D) doesn't get the warm and fuzzy feelings from moral victories and close games.
  • mbniner
    At the beginning of the season, the Niners were expected to be improved due to a very good front 7, a good running game, an improved receiving corps and coaching. They were expected to win 4-6 games. I believe that it was the injuries,especially to our front 7, which is at the core of our problems. We lost M. Smith before the season, Rueben Foster has only played parts of two games, Navarro Bowman hasn't recovered from his severe injuries and was eventually released as was Ahmed Brooks. Tank Carridine who was looking very good was injured as was A. Armstead, Blair, Lynch and now S. Thomas and D. J. Jones. We have no front 7 left! The dbs have to cover a long time and it's been bad. Add to this the OL injuries to Garnett, T. Brown, and now Staley, and the weakness of our interior OL and there goes our run game. Just to complete the situation, Hoyer choked after looking very good in the preseason. Look at how many rookies and 2nd or 3rd year players are starting or playing big roles on our team. I assume that next season, with most if not all of our injured OK we will be strong, especially with the Garapolo trade. I accept this situation as expected.
    Oct 31, 2017 at 10:42 AM
    Response: Thanks for reading. I'm absolutely on board with your observation of the injuries and how those impacted this year's team. Malcolm Smith and Foster could have been a two-man wrecking crew, helping win close games and taking the pressure off the secondary to perform at an unreachable level. My issue is the continued talk of 'rebuilding' and how they want to get better but actually regressed over three weeks. The team is not like 1979, and comparing the two teams is an insult to our intelligence. I'm a fan who believes an offense builds around a line first, and then adds the skill positions. That's not gospel, and everyone is entitled to their own theory. But the 49ers made zero effort in the OL area. None. That came back to hurt the team in a horrible way against Philadelphia. The addition of Garoppolo is unknown, but I'm not ready to jump on the bandwagon. Lynch and Shanahan sold us Hoyer, and that was a total disaster. Thanks for reading and your comment.
  • Deangelo
    Lol, Bret but you are a sap and a rube. we are only halfway through a total rebuild in the first season and you are already whining and complaining this is the problem with people nowadays they have no insight, patience or common sense. it took Bill Walsh three years before he had a winning season as a matter of fact his first year he was 2 and 14 the same with Jimmy Johnson and Bill Belichick in first coaching appearance with Cleveland Browns. you whine about the all line being terrible but they cannot address every position on this 49er team in one off-season, they had so many holes. it's obvious you don't have the foresight nor the insight to see their business strategy or rebuilding plan and that this offseason they were addressing the defense first. LOL in the future it looks like there is no need to click on your articles because it is Clearly evident that you have no clue.
    Oct 31, 2017 at 7:24 AM
    Response: It's really the best to go through an entire football season with no clue. I mean, how awesome is it to applaud not finding a replacement for Zane Beadles in the draft? Also, they've been rebuilding since Harbaugh left.... err, reloading. Wasn't that Jed's one-liner from a few years ago? I'm sorry we disagree Deangelo. Honestly, I am. And I'm sorry that I no longer want to eat the 'rebuilding' and 'Bill Walsh' nonsense. It's a marketing ploy to keep people interested in a team that can't compete.
  • Mukul
    Just dumb.
    Oct 31, 2017 at 6:39 AM
    Response: Thanks for reading. Sorry you aren't into Halloween.
  • Rick Reulecke
    Damn good read! Spot on - and thank you!!
    Oct 31, 2017 at 6:12 AM
    Response: Thanks for reading, Rick. I'm glad you enjoyed it. You're my first positive comment outside of my parents.

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