What We Learned…
Week 5 vs. Miami Dolphins
What did we learn from whatever that was yesterday? The biggest thing I learned is that this is not the same team from a season ago. Some aspects of this team are out of our control, while others are. I’ll cover a few of those in this article, but one fact remains. This team is too good to perform the way that they’re performing. We are 0-3 at home, only averaging 19 points over those three games. This is not the team that made it to the Super Bowl.
On last night’s overreaction show, guest and 49er great Eric Davis said the fear factor with this 49ers team is gone. The 49ers are now a “get right” game on other teams schedules. If you don’t know, a get right game is a game teams use to break out of a slump, to get back into a rhythm and build momentum. That is what we’ve been reduced to. Instead of teams fearing us, teams are looking forward to playing us. That is a drastic change too quickly, but the players and coaches need to accept responsibility for why this is the new normal this season.
First, we’ll start with coaching. Kyle and Saleh should shoulder all the blame for that performance yesterday. I’ll start with decision making. First bad decision, starting Jimmy Garoppolo. He clearly wasn’t ready, but with a poor performance by Nick Mullens and lack of faith in CJ Bethard, it seems this decision was forced. But you can’t tell me that Jimmy looked good all week in practice, but when the live bullets start flying he all of a sudden can’t protect himself? He may have healed some, but is not 100%. Second bad decision, starting Brian Allen. I only know Brian Allen from doing mock drafts and playing a video game. But Brian Allen hadn’t played an NFL game since 2018. What makes this decision worse, they allowed him to play too long. By the time he was pulled, the team had already surrendered 21 points, where Allen was the primary target the Dolphins attacked. What makes this decision even more terrible is that Tim Harris, who Saleh and Kyle drafted, who was in this team last year and knows a little more about this defense, was in the practice squad. Why wasn’t he called up? Was Brian Allen that much better than him in practice that he got the nod instead of Harris? Why wasn’t Tarvarius Moore given a shot to play corner? A guy who contributed a lot last year, a guy who had an INT in the Super Bowl last year. There were so many other options that could have been the decision, but nope Brian Allen it was. This is no fault to Allen, the coaching staff needs to put players in the best position to succeed. Kyle and Saleh failed Brian Allen and failed this team.
In Kyle’s Monday presser, he was asked about the availability of Tim Harris. Harris, who is on the practice squad, was returning from an injury he sustained. In his return, he injured his calf and was unavailable for Sunday’s game.
This offensive line is terrible. I drank the kool-aid. Replacing Joe Staley with a younger, more athletic Trent Williams was supposed to be an upgrade. Mike McGlinchey was supposed to be improving. Laken Tomlinson, Ben Garland, Dan Brunskill all had significant playing time last year and are familiar with the scheme. This line looks like a patchwork group. There seems to be no cohesiveness with this unit. Blown assignments, miscommunication, and no level of nasty is leading to this unit getting blown off the ball. The pass protection has been horrendous. Going into the game against Miami, the Niners were tied for fourth in sacks allowed at thirteen. Add five more sacks and the Niners leaped to sole possession of third place in sacks allowed. There is no possible way Jimmy, Nick, or CJ can perform well. We can’t fully evaluate our franchise quarterback or our backups when the offensive line is failing them.
I had a conversation with my cousin who is also a Niner fan. And we spoke a lot about Kyle. We talked about his perceived cockiness and arrogance. At times, it seems the boy genius is sniffing himself a bit. This is not a “get rid of Kyle and find a new coach” rant. But this is a call for Kyle to take a step back and make adjustments earlier. It seems he’s so convinced in his game plan that instead of adjusting to what the defense is giving him or what the players are able to do, his mindset is if the players execute the plan will work. Yes, players need to execute, but as mentioned above coaching needs to put players in the best position to win. Especially when Kyle has such a stranglehold on the offense and there is no wiggle room outside of what he wants to do. Jimmy doesn’t have the freedom to change a play based on what he sees, only to “can” to the secondary play Kyle called. The ability for the offense to execute is placed solely on Kyle’s shoulders, but that’s what he wanted.
We also learned that there is a lack of leadership in this locker room. The team captain badge doesn’t make you a leader. Jimmy is not the leader at the QB position like Brady or Manning or Rodgers. He doesn’t demand perfection from himself or his teammates. He’s smooth and cool, but I see no fire, no dawg in him. Joe Staley is gone, huge loss to veteran leadership on the offensive side. While I love Kittle, he is an energizer not a leader. We traded Deforest Buckner, who led by example. Teammates raised their level of play and effort because of what they saw him do. Sherman is away with injury. Again, I love Fred and Kwon but those guys are energizers, not leaders. So where is the leadership? The reason for the success last year was a combination of leadership and energy. Leaders set the standards and will guys dig deep and give more even when they’re giving their all. Energizers are the shot of adrenaline. When you’re spent from giving all you’ve got, energizers provide sparks that rejuvenate you every down, every series, every drive, every quarter. They make you want to get involved and make plays. Leaders prepare you for the battle. Energizers ignite your fire and make you want to be in the front line. We’re learning that energizers aren’t enough. Energy doesn’t matter if you aren’t prepared for battle.
I don’t know if we’re playing down to our opponents, but it seems in these first five weeks that we haven’t come out the gate with any sense of urgency. This is the NFL, and despite our success last year we shouldn’t be overlooking any opponent. I pray that isn’t the case because it’s an uphill battle from here. We have a tough seven game stretch that includes three division games and three currently undefeated teams. I’m sure we won’t overlook anyone else this season, but if a sense of urgency isn’t present, this could be bad news in a 2020 that seems full of it.
There is light at the end of the tunnel though. If we can somehow manage to be .500 going into our bye week, we have a shot to rally at the end and fight for a playoff spot. Winning three of the next five games will get us to that mark and allow us to finish strong. I am personally calling out this organization. To see what they are made of in this moment. To see if they will use injuries and the Super Bowl hangover as excuses, or will they find ways to win. How will the coaches respond? Who will step up as leaders? How will this team hold itself and each other accountable? Let’s see what we’re made of!
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Despite our current situation, remember to…