Monday, August 3, 2015

49ers Face Pitiful Three-Win Season

Brace yourselves, Niner fans. This is going to be the season from hell, a miserable, circling-the-drain mess. You thought last-season's 8-8 was an abomination? After this one, you'll look back fondly on that as the good ol' days.

The ugly reality is that if the Niners win three games this season, they'll be lucky.

For starters, they have no decent head coach. Yes, they have Jim Tomsula, a 49er defensive line coach who was promoted. But his sole head-coaching experience was leading the Rhein Fire of NFL Europe in 2006. That resume really inspires confidence. He'll be learning on the job, surrounded by new coordinators, Geep Chryst (offense) and Eric Mangini (defense), who will be looking to him for leadership. Good luck with that. 

After owner Jed York and general manager Trent Baalke ran Jim Harbaugh, a great but hard-to-manage head coach, out of town following last season, they hired someone they could control. Tomsula is the anti-Harbaugh, a nice guy who listens to his players and creates a friendly atmosphere. Harbaugh is a crusty, nasty, headstrong SOB, who bullied and terrorized his team. Players hated him. But he got results, three straight appearances in the NFC title game and one Super Bowl berth. Man, can he coach. He draws up smart game plans and is spot-on in assessing strengths and weaknesses of players and opponents. He has a feel for the game rivaled only by that of Pete Carroll and Bill Belichick, the other super coaches in the NFL.

Jim Tomsula has to follow THAT. It's like replacing a lion with a kitten. Early word out of the 49ers camp is that players are comfortable with the new head coach. They find him pleasant and easy to work with. Do they respect his coaching talents? According to sources close to several Niners, the players think he's a marshmallow who has a fraction of Harbaugh's skills.

This fledgling head coach might have had a chance at a good season if he had inherited a first-rate team, but he didn't. He was left with dregs. Due to retirement, trades and defections, the Niners, once teeming with talent, have lousy personnel. The offensive line, a sieve at the end of last season, hasn't improved. Reliable RB Frank Gore is gone. Michael Crabtree went across the Bay to the Raiders. TE Vernon Davis, a one-time devastating deep threat, has to come back strong from an awful season. If Davis doesn't come through, they are really screwed.

The defense, once the team's strength, is in ruins. The line-backing corps, which used to be on a par with Seattle's, is in tatters. Excellent LB Navorro Bowman, back after missing last season, will be a step or two slow. The defensive line will be down a notch or two in quality. Opposing QBs are already licking their chops, dreaming about passing against the Niners' shaky secondary, which will no longer be protected by a top line and linebackers. And don't expect help from this year's draftees right away. None of them look to be starters this season on offense or defense..

The biggest problem is at QB. Colin Kaepernick, once an elite QB, took a giant step backward last season. Now he's among the NFL's also-ran QBs. Can he return to his former status? Not likely, considering he's flanked by average RBs, protected by a mediocre line and throwing to so-so wide receivers.

Add to these negatives one more. The Niners are plagued with a tough schedule, one of the toughest in the league. They'll be underdogs in just about every game.

Niiners fans will be crying and cursing throughout this rotten season. But back in Ann Arbor, where Harbaugh is coaching the Michigan Wolverines, he'll be doing a lot of smiling and celebrating, thrilled that he got out just in time.