Death Rattle of the 2017 Offseason

Less than two weeks, fellow disgruntlements! And a 99.9100% chance that as of 4:00pm ET Monday, Kirk Cousins will become became a 2018 Free Agent.

And in the meantime …

The Vegas odds makers and national media wonks all think the 49ers belong in the NFL basement section, along with the Browns, Jets, and Jaguars. Loser Central.

Not coincidentally, all four of these teams lack what you would call a QB with reputable skills or potential reputability. The Niners have Brian Hoyer, who is charitably called “a bridge” QB and not so charitably as a proven nobody with a victory ceiling of about seven or eight games, and a low bar of as low as you can limbo rock. The only person on the planet who thinks Hoyer can someday be a franchise QB is his mother — maybe.

Kyle Shanahan‘s offense in Atlanta was terrific last year, but the previous two years (one with the Browns), his lads roared out of the gate then splatted badly. The 2015 Falcons began the year 6-1, then lost six straight and finished the year 8-8, even getting shut out in one of the losses.

And that was with Matt Ryan and Julio Jones. Two excellent offensive players the likes of which the 49ers have zilch.

Maybe the defense can carry the team? There’s certainly some intriguing new guys and a likelihood of vast improvement over last year’s historically awful squad. But still. This is a team game and teams take time to locate the elusive “same page” that epitomizes great teams.

All in all, it will again be difficult for the Niners to escape the NFC West basement. But at least there will be some new young players to watch this year, who will begin to stir some excitement and hope back into this franchise.




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Plot Lines

Less than a three weeks until Training Camp opens and we begin to sort out this mess of newbies wearing the Red and Gold.

But I’m more enthused about the return of football in general than the Niners in particular. Our boys are more of a curiosity piece this year than anything else.

Arizona and Seattle are the stable entities of the NFC West. They’ll no doubt duke it out for supremacy this year. Again. The Rams and 49ers both have bright young new offensive minded head coaches for two teams that have had crappy offenses for quite some time. Nobody knows how these two teams will fare this year. The Rams will have Wade Phillips as their DC, which might be enough to give them the edge in the battle of the bottom feeders.

The NFC West is no longer the best division in the NFC, though. That distinction might go to the NFC South, or even the East. Here are some other NFC story lines for the coming year:

  • It will be fun watching how far Dallas falls off from last year’s great season/belly flop in the playoffs. It’s twenty-four years and counting since Jerry Jones fired Jimmy Johnson and became his own GM. And he hasn’t remotely sniffed a Super Bowl since.
  • Can Atlanta overcome a gigantic Super Bowl hangover and the loss of Kyle Shanahan, or fade back into the pack like Carolina did last year?
  • Will Tampa Bay actually win the NFC South?
  • Will Washington fall apart after the ugly ouster of GM Scot McCloughan?
  • Will Blaine Gabbert replace an injured Carson Palmer and lead the Cardinals to the playoffs?
  • Will the media continue to pimp for Colin Kaepernick while he relentless kicks dirt on America at every opportunity?
  • Can Green Bay ever get over the hump again?

And, for me at least, there’s another whole season of nasty emails from Chuck to look forward to. The gift that keeps on giving.




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Light It Up

Happy Independence Day, fellow citizens. In honor of this day, we will consume 150 million hot dogs, 71% of them covered with mustard. We will also spend $800 million on fireworks while decreasing the air quality by 42%.

This day also means that the deadest offseason in blogosphere history is at last staggering through its final month. Soon, we’ll get an answer to this year’s biggest question: Are fans just turned off by Jed York and the 49ers, or has the blogging era simply run out of gas?

Speaking of gas, which is a cousin of fireworks, it’s time for our annual tribute to the finer arts:



As always, caution must be exercised when playing with explosives.




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Coming Attractions

The 49ers have not had a franchise QB since Steve Young was knocked out of the NFL by Aeneas Williams at Arizona in 1999. They won’t have one this year, either. Making it 19 straight years with a deficiency at the top of the roster. Jeff Garcia bobbed and weaved up there for a few years, but he was never going to be the answer. Alex Smith gave it a shot. So did Colin Kaepernick. Nope and nope.

Nobody considers Brian Hoyer or Matt Barkley to be serious contenders for the Franchise label, so it appears the next one to take a crack at it will be third round draft pick C.J. Beathard. Nobody expects him to become elite, either. But Kyle Shanahan likes him, which is not a small thing. Joe Montana and Russell Wilson were third rounders, so there is precedent. It’s not like a third round pick is a throw-away value, like a camp arm or clipboard holder.

At any rate, Beathard is a guy to put the ogle-eye on during the preseason games. If nothing else,
it will give us a clue whether Shanahan has a good eye for QB talent, or not so much.

We can expect the top two picks to perform well, but RB Joe Williams and TE George Kittle are also guys to watch. They could both play significant roles this year. I can’t remember the last time I thought a Trent Baalke pick would be a difference maker in his first year — or even at all.

Maybe we’ll be saying that about GM John Lynch next year at this time, too. But I’m leaning towards doubting that, at the moment. In fact, if these low draft fellows turn out to be keepers, this draft might be one of the best Niner drafts of this century.




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Take a Number

The 49ers close out their offseason practices this week. If you gleaned any useful information from these sessions, congratulations. Your drug of choice has served you well.

Joe Montana‘s recent birthday was a painful reminder that we once had recognizable, even beloved, heroes playing for the 49ers. They’ve handed out so many new jersey numbers this offseason that we won’t even know who we’re rooting for until halfway through the year. NaVorro Bowman‘s 53 and Joe Staley‘s 74 are about all that’s left from a team we knew.

In fact, we know the guys who play for Arizona and Seattle better than we do our own team. And many of us, including this scribe, have gotten quite comfortable rooting against the Niners the past two years, as an enjoyable anti-York protest. The other team has gone 25-7 in that span, making Sunday football viewing eminently satisfying.

One thing that is crystal clear at this point: Kyle Shanahan is a lot better looking than his bug-eyed, maniac-stare father who obviously spent a lifetime using his teeth as a bottle opener. I remember wondering, when the elder was the OC here in the early 90’s, how somebody so strange looking could possibly command attention, short of hauling out a pistol and waving it around.

But enough with the heart-warming family portraits. There’s been a lot of speculation about whether the Niners will be improved this year and by how much. One thing that isn’t speculated is whether they will be a playoff contender. And that means, no matter how happy anybody is about the hiring of Shanahan and John Lynch, we’re still looking at enduring yet another dismal season. Hard to get excited about that.

Best bet is another year of rooting for the other team. Jed York will be uncomfortable, and that’s always good. And one more year with a high draft pick is probably a wise investment.




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2017 Schedule
Sept. 10: vs. Carolina, 1:25 p.m.
Sept. 17: at Seattle, 1:25 p.m.
Sept. 21: vs. L.A. Rams, 5:25 p.m.
Oct. 1: at Arizona, 1:05 p.m.
Oct. 8: at Indianapolis, 10 a.m.
Oct. 15: at Washington, 10 a.m.
Oct. 22: vs. Dallas, 1:05 p.m.
Oct. 29: at Philadelphia, 10 a.m.
Nov. 5: vs. Arizona, 1:05 p.m.
Nov. 12: vs. N.Y. Giants, 1:25 p.m.
Week 11 — Bye
Nov. 26: vs. Seattle, 1:05 p.m.
Dec. 3: at Chicago, 10 a.m.
Dec. 10: at Houston, 10 a.m.
Dec. 17: vs. Tennessee, 1:25 p.m.
Dec. 24: vs. Jacksonville, 1:05 p.m.
Dec. 31: at L.A. Rams, 1:25 p.m.
 
2017 Draft Class
1. DE Solomon Thomas
1. ILB Reuben Foster
3. CB Ahkello Witherspoon
3. QB C.J. Beathard
4. RB Joe Williams
5. TE George Kittle
5. WR Trent Taylor
6. DT D.J. Jones
6. LB Pita Taumoepenu
7. CB Adrian Colbert
 
2016 Prognostications
Closest To The Pin
  Grumpy: 3-13
  Spitblood: 3-13
  Winder: 3-13
Bakkentom: 0-16
Bullit: 5-11
Chuck: 8-8, 7-9, 9-7, 10-6
Mr Fletch: 4-12
NJ49er: 5-11
Phil Fan: 4-12
Rob: 9-7
RTFirefly: 7-9
Skeebers: 6-10

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