Lowered Expectorations

As we prepare to absorb another season of 49er football, it’s good to keep in mind that big, red, rectangle area at the 50 yard line that became known last year as the “Red Hole.” Those are the very expensive corporate customer seats and they emptied out completely after about the second home game last year. After three straight shellackings made it abundantly clear that Jed York had taken the money they paid for a prime rib team and served up a plate of baloney instead.

Will Chip Kelly put some butts back in those seats this year? Will they show up for game one, giving him the benefit of the doubt? Or will they stay away until the team proves it is worth watching?

Will there be planes flying over the stadium again this year, with nasty banners directed at York?

Currently, the 49ers are listed as underdogs in every game they play this year. Will they be good enough to become the favorite against anybody before the year ends. Will they win even one game?

It’s doubtful expectations are this low anywhere else in the league. So there is that. Some slogans under consideration for the coming season are “Least of the Least” and “Standing Tall on the Bottom” or “We Got Plenty of Nothing.”

All jokes aside, nobody really knows what to expect from the Niners, or Kelly, this year. A better offense than last year’s dead last jalopy, but that’s about all. A big chunk of this season, and the future, depends on the team’s past two first round picks — Arik Armstead and Deforest Buckner. If these guys turn into studs, the defense has a foundation to build on. If they don’t, the 49ers’ residence in the NFC West cellar is going to be a long term occupancy.




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Coming Attractions

Two more weeks and this long, dreary offseason will end. Hallelujah! Or, as they say in the cartoon world, “Hot d-d-diggedy d-d-dog!”

Some of you might not be feeling elated about the coming season. Condolences. It’s true the 49ers are going nowhere this year, but they do exist as a constant embarrassment to Trent Baalke and Jed York. As we discovered last year, that can be quite entertaining — as long as you don’t get lost in the live and die “I ♥ 9ers” superfan mode.

The Browns game last December was particularly enjoyable. Getting stomped by the second worst team in the league and knowing the evil Yorks had trotted the whole family up to Cleveland expecting to see a team that had turned the corner and instead saw a team heading to the basement — very satisfying. All that massive humiliation huddled up there in one woeful suite.

The Yorks are entirely engaged in the tawdry business of accumulating wealth. Which they’ve done well. However, next month former Niner owner Eddie Debartolo will be enshrined in the Hall of Fame and his accomplishments will resound through the ages. The Yorks? Buried and forgotten. Cheesy bean counters that no one cares about.

Now that Forbes has valued the 49ers at $2.7 billion — a 69% jump in their value — perhaps the Yorks will see this as a good time to cash out and go home. We should be so lucky.

In the meantime, we have an expansion team full of plucky youngsters who will be trying to prove to us that Baalke is not an idiot. This gives us a win-win situation. If the team wins, great. Good job fellas. If they lose, great. Another nail in Baalke’s coffin.

However, if you’re only interested in the playoffs and a Super Bowl run, sorry, but that horse left town. If you’re a 51 year old Browns fan, you’ve waited a lifetime for your team to win a SB. As long as the Yorks own the 49ers, lifetime is definitely in play here too. It currently stands at 22 years without that trophy. Next year at this time, it will be 23.




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Camp Karaoke

Another week closer to the start of the 2016 season. And, for the first time since 2009, there will be a QB competition to provide some drama to the exhibition games.

Shaun Hill got the nod over Alex Smith in 2009, but was rudely dumped at midseason for Smith, then sent packing during the 2010 offseason. In 2010 Mike Singletary played musical chairs with the QB position, to little avail, before he was rudely dumped with one game left in the season.

My. Weren’t those fun years.

Like 2009, none of the contestants for QB this year have convinced anyone that they are starting caliber NFL material, but at least there will be a competition, which might even be interesting or at least entertaining. Beggars’ banquet.

Both of these QBs seem more likely to wind up having lucrative and stress free careers as journeyman backups than top of the line starters. In that regard, Blaine Gabbert seems better suited to accept this kind of humbling outcome. If Colin Kaepernick heads down this road, he seems more likely to throw in the towel and call it a career rather than acknowledge or accept that he just isn’t good enough. IOW, it’s much easier to envision Gabbert knocking around the league than Kaepernick.

One big difference between these two QBs is fan reaction. People feel passionate about Kaepernick, both pro and con. Gabbert doesn’t generate much either way. He exists mainly as a not-Kaepernick alternative.

Another roster competition worth half an ogle involves the wide receiver group. Currently, there are about 12 of them on the team. Only six or so will make the final cut. For those interested in who will represent the Niners this year, the final six will capture your attention. For those drawn more to the painful side of life, the discarded ones will provide your amusement. These boys will be deemed “not good enough.” Harsh. When you’re not good enough for the 2016 49ers, your NFL career enters improbable territory.

At any rate, at least football will soon be returning to our Sundays, giving us all the best excuse in the world to sit on our rears all day doing nothing but staring at the tube and consuming all sorts of legal and non-legal goods.




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Happy Talk Time

Less than four weeks until Training Camp opens. Last year at this time, the players were excited about playing for Jim Tomsula. He was a lot easier on them in practices and meetings than his predecessor Jim Harbaugh. We all saw how that worked out. Tomsula was fired after the last game of the season and has not been seen or heard from since.

This year, the players are excited about playing for Chip Kelly, who works them very hard in practices. We’ll see how that works out. All we know is Chip’s tenure will not be a one year knock-off like Tomsula’s.

Clearly, though, player attitudes are unreliable indicators in attempting to gauge the success or failure of an impending season. The beat writers aren’t much help, either. They tend to slip on the soft gloves this time of year while keeping their claws sharpened for after the fact analysis later on.

The odds makers and analytical sites don’t think much of the 49ers’ chances this year. Nor does anyone else, it seems. Apparently, having Kelly as our new coach isn’t particularly swaying opinion toward a more positive outlook.

This is what happens when you can’t beat anybody in your own division. A couple of years ago, the offseason was measured by whether it helped the team beat the Seahawks. Now it’s measured by whether the team can win even one game in the division. When you go 0-6 or 1-5 in your own division, even a .500 record in the other ten games still gives you only a five or six win season. Last year, the Niners went 1-5 in the division and 4-6 outside of it. This year could be even worse. The other three teams in the NFC West appear to have bettered themselves during the offseason, while the Niners just sat on their basement credentials like it was a pat hand.

In Memoriam
I don’t have any definitive proof, but a enough circumstantial evidence leads me to conclude that long time commenter NoFear49er passed away suddenly late last January. His final comment occurred after the Panthers vs Cardinals playoff game. It would not be like him to pass on the opportunity to weigh in on the Super Bowl, either before or afterward. At first, I assumed his attention had turned to political blogs during this tempestuous election year, but my recent emails to him have gone unanswered, which is also not like him. He has always responded promptly in the past.

NoFear was an intensely private guy, so I don’t know his real name and can’t contact any relatives to inquire about him. If anyone else knows his name, please let me know (skeebers@49ersoutsider.com).

At any rate, here’s to a fine fellow and one of the best, most intelligent commenters in the blogosphere over the past eight years. A bit prickly at times, but a man of integrity, honor, and conviction. R.I.P., NoFear. You are and will be missed.




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Up the Down Staircase

The 49ers currently have 39 players on the squad that were selected from the 2013 – 2016 drafts. NaVorro Bowman is the only guy left from the 2010 draft. Nobody left from 2008, 2009, and 2012. Only Colin Kaepernick, Daniel Kilgore, and Bruce Miller remain from 2011. And only Bowman from this bunch is a premium quality player.

With the exception of first rounder Eric Reid, this is the final year of the rookie contracts signed by the 2013 class. Only Quinton Dial has gotten an extension, an extra three years, signed last February. Tank Carradine, Vance McDonald, Corey Lemonier, and Quinton Patton all need to have somewhere in the neighborhood of outstanding seasons this year or they’ll all likely get the see-you-later treatment in January.

Should the above scenario play out as expected, only Dial and Reid will remain from the 2013 class next year. And neither of these two could be described as anything more than average players. In fact, the 49ers have spent high picks in the past three drafts on guys who would replace them.

Trent Baalke‘s “build through the draft” mantra is clearly not producing much of an edifice thus far. It has, however, allowed Baalke to work his way up from the bottom of the draft pecking order into the top ten losers’ bracket. Where even marginally skilled GMs like Baalke stand a very good chance of landing a premium player.

Is Deforest Buckner going to be a Pro Bowl caliber player? He might need to be in order for Baalke to keep his job. Unfortunately, Baalke keeping his job is kind of low on the wish list these days. But it might take a monumental pratfall like Buckner being a washout to finally force owner Jed York to cut loose his long time lapdog.




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Posted in FOS Speculation
2016 Schedule
Monday, Sept. 12 vs Los Angeles
Sunday, Sept. 18 @ Carolina
Sunday, Sept. 25 @ Seattle
Sunday, Oct. 2 vs Dallas
Thursday, Oct. 6 vs Arizona
Sunday, Oct. 16 @ Buffalo
Sunday, Oct. 23 vs Tampa Bay
Sunday, Oct. 30 BYE
Sunday, Nov. 6 vs New Orleans
Sunday, Nov. 13 @ Arizona
Sunday, Nov. 20 vs New England
Sunday, Nov. 27 @ Miami
Sunday, Dec. 4 @ Chicago
Sunday, Dec. 11 vs New York Jets
Sunday, Dec. 18 @ Atlanta
Saturday, Dec. 24 @ Los Angeles
Sunday, Jan. 1 vs Seattle
 
2016 Draft Class
1. Deforest Buckner, DL
1. Joshua Garnett, OG
3. Will Redmond, CB
4. Rashard Robinson, CB
5. Ronald Blair, DE
5. John Theus, OT
5. Fahn Cooper, OT
6. Jeff Driskell, QB
6. Kelvin Taylor, RB
6. Aaron Burbridge, WR
7. Prince Charles Iworah, CB
 
2015 Prognostications
NJ49er: 7-9
Bakkentom: 3-13
Grumpy: 5-11
Winder: 10-6
Bythorn: 5-10-1
Phil Fan: 6-10
Spitblood: 2-14
RTFirefly: 5-11
Bullit: 6-9-1
Skeebers: 6-10
Rob: 9-7
Chuck: 11-5

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