While most of country is recovering from Super Bowl euphoria, the 49er Faithful are attempting to survive the roller coaster ride of who will be a part of the new coaching regime since Jim Harbaugh's departure, and it isn't over yet. Breaking up is hard to do, especially when the good times were so good. It's only appropriate to explore the 5 Steps of Grief, as the Faithful are currently knee deep in it.
1. Denial: No one honestly believed that Harbaugh would really leave. From the early season whisperings of Harbaugh losing the locker room until deep into the season, few people really believed Harbaugh's tenure with the 49ers was coming to an end. After all, he had turned the team into a contender after being irrelevant for a decade. Three straight NFCC games and a Super Bowl appearance is nothing to turn your nose up at. With two weeks left in the regular season, no one in the media was talking about if he would stay, only about where he was going to go. Fans, however, up until his UM press conference were thinking/hoping/praying that there could be a some sort of miraculous 'burying of the hatchet' between Harbaugh and the front office. We all know how that played out. Denial is a temporary response that carries us through the first wave of pain.
2. Anger: There is a lot of it, towards the Front Office, towards owner Jed York and GM Trent Baalke for sending Harbaugh packing. Some of the 49er faithful are still lingering in this phase, not ready to let go of the past and look towards the future. During the frustrating 2014 season anger was directed mostly towards former OC Greg Roman who interestingly just said he could have made the 49ers the top rushing team in the league if he had wanted to, but with winning being the priority, a balance was needed. If that isn't salt in the wound, I'm not sure what is.
How could the organization let Harbaugh go? A coach who was named AP Coach of the Year in his debut season, a coach whose regular season record was 44-19-1 and post season record was 5-3. This is the stage of resentment. Anger towards who has caused this pain is natural and not being able to alter the circumstances only increases these feelings of frustration. You can see the manifestation of this stage on twitter and other various forms of social media. (search: Jed York)
3. Bargaining: Now that former 49ers QB coach Geep Chryst has been named OC, there is less bargaining to be done. "If they get a great OC, I won't be so angry," was the common theme among fans. Several notable coaches interviewed for the job, but it seemed like the front office was turned down more than a few times, most notably by the Philadelphia Eagles WRs coach Bob Bicknell who'd rather stay in his current position than take a higher level position with the 49ers. Chryst is known for calling the "Vernon Post" play that clinched the 2011 divisional playoff vs. the Saints, but the decline in QB Colin Kaepernick's production in 2014 doesn't create a bevy of confidence in this choice. It must be noted that there were seven different OL combinations used this past season and that greatly impacted the protection that Kaepernick had to work with. Missing OT Anthony Davis for nine games was a tremendous challenge to attempt to overcome.
4. Depression: Sadness, hopelessness, dejection. Please note: depression is not a sign of mental illness. This is a natural feeling after a great loss. Now that the coaching staff has been set and skepticism is the predominant emotion, a football season without Harbaugh, olive jar references and Dalai Lama quotes just seems pointless. Grief is a process and depression is a very necessary step towards healing. The worst part about football is the long offseason where these feelings can linger and manifest.
5. Acceptance: This may not happen for some until the 49ers win, for others the seed has already started to germinate, because after all, you can't change the past. Harbaugh is now the HC of the Michigan football team, and when he comes back to the NFL (which he will) he will be on the opposite side of the field upon his return at Levi's Stadium. It will be a much shorter timeframe for a Vic Fangio sighting on the opposing sideline as the 49ers will head to Chicago in 2015.
There will be good times and bad, good games and bad. What has been lost can never be replaced. Adjusting and learning to live with the new regime will take time. The addition/rehire of Tom Gamble as Senior Personnel Executive has already helped accelerate the acceptance process. A good draft class and a successful free agency wouldn't hurt either. Resisting acceptance will only prolong the natural process of healing and in due time, the Faithful will heal and move forward.
It’s been no secret that Michael Crabtree has been less than pleased with his involvement in the game plan this season but he’s kept it under wraps for the most part. Apparently, he felt no need to hold back after the final game concluded Sunday night. He was quite salty towards the media and although there are reports that he wouldn’t be against a return to the 49ers, it appears that he is looking to move on from the organization.
The most disturbing quotes are those involving Colin Kaepernick. Maybe he was exasperated with the media, maybe he was simply frustrated and wanted to contribute more to the team, but his tone bled into his answers regarding Kap and their lack of production. Crabtree has not had a 100 yard receiving game since 2013 in the playoff game vs. the Packers and only had double digit receptions once in 2014 (in week 3 vs. the Cardinals). Kap has continually said that he would take a one on one match up with Crabtree any time, but that time has seemingly come to an end.
The following is a transcript of the interview:
What is your reaction to the 49ers and Harbaugh going to part ways?
I don’t have a reaction, you know, I just play receiver. I don’t have too much to say about it. Like I said, Jed, that’s my dude, coach, that’s my coach.
He won a lot of games with you guys.
Is it interesting that they are going forward without him?
I don’t even know where I’m going, you know what I’m saying? I can’t talk about coaching, I can’t talk about nobody. I know you want me to, but I can’t.
What did he mean to you?
He meant a lot, I told you the last time I talked to you. He’s one of my favorite coaches, I don’t know how many times you are going to ask me that, but it’s cool.
Are you going to watch the Super Bowl?
Watch the Super Bowl? I watch the Super Bowl every year. It’s football. I’m a football player, that’s all I do, watch football.
Do you have any favorites out there with the 49ers not in it?
Nah, man, it’s going to be a struggle. But I can’t wait to see what happens.
What can you say about Frank today?
Do you feel that Kap can still be a dominant QB of the future?
I don’t know about the future. Hopefully he can, you know.
What do you have to say about the fans out there?
I love the fans. 49er fans are probably the best thing that happened to me, through the good times, and the bad times, you know. Like I said, die hard 49er fans, I love y’all.
What’s been your most memorable moment here?
Probably the Super Bowl. It’s a lot of excitement. Trying to bring the 49ers back, that was our journey.
Was it strange to you to see how this season kind of come off the rails like it did after all of the success you’ve had?
I guess they say, every good thing comes to an end. I guess we’re living that.
You and Kaepernick seemed to have such a good connection when you first came on, what happened this year?
What do you mean?
I didn’t seem like your numbers were quite the same, didn’t look like he was going to you quite as often.
That’s what happened.
Is there a reason for that?
I don’t know man, like I said, I just play receiver, man. Whatever.
What was Jim Harbaugh like, post game, talking to you guys?
Passionate. It’s Jim Harbaugh. Same Jim Harbaugh.
Was that “Who’s got it better than us?”
Yeah, the last “Who’s got it better than us” and I said it as loud as I could.
It was a roller coaster of events at Levi's Stadium for the final 49ers regular season game vs. the Cardinals.
Several major milestones were reached:
Anquan Boldin had his second consecutive 1,000 yard season with the 49ers.
Frank Gore had his fourth consecutive 1,000 rushing yard season raising his total to eight total seasons hitting that mark and 11,000 total career yards.
After 49 wins in four years, Jim Harbaugh has coached his final game as head coach for the 49ers. The announcement process happened in an odd way. Harbaugh went through his usual press conference, wanting to talk about his time with the 49ers and not his future, assuring everyone that a statement would be forthright. As the media was leaving the conference room, the front office released its statement.
The mood in the locker room and in statements by the players and Harbaugh alike was one of respect, mutual admiration and appreciation. Chris Culliver: "I [will] definitely miss him. He's a great coach. He's my coach."Frank Gore: "It meant a lot. (today's win) Especially that this could be my last year and it's his last year. I respect him a whole lot and I wanted to finish it right for him." Bruce Miller: "So appreciative of everything he has done for me, my teammates, the organization. He's top-notch, class act. We appreciate everything he has done and we love him to death." Michael Wilhoite: "I am very thankful for him. He gave me the opportunity to play at the highest level." Joe Staley: "49 wins in four years. This year we dealt with a lot of stuff and it was a down year but three straight NFC Championship games. That is what he should be remembered for. Dan Skuta: "I really respect everything that [he] did here. Being able to come into a situation like that was awesome for me and I really benefited."Colin Kaepernick: "I think he's not only a great coach but a great person and that is what he preaches to the team."With all of this glowing respect and success, it seems absurd to let Harbaugh go with one year still remaining on his contract. Liken it to children being confused when their parents tell them that they are getting a divorce. There is a sense of the tension but no understanding of the what and why. The same exists here: Only GM Trent Baalke, CEO/owner Jed York and Jim Harbaugh will ever really know.
Joe Staley summed it up the best saying, "It has been a frustrating season." The second half woes continued for the 49ers who had a 21 point lead twice in the game vs. the Chargers. Several things went wrong in the game, the final mistake being Quinton Patton's fumble in OT.
Colin Kaepernick identified the touchdown by Vernon Davis being called back and his subsequent sack-fumble-touchdown as a larger factor, saying "It was a 14 point swing." Frank Gore was called for a chop block and the TD was reversed. Gore, who didn't see Alex Boone go high on that same play which caused the penalty explained; "I should have just stayed up. I didn't see him. I was just attacking my gap. I knew on that certain defensive look the coaches tell me to loop around. I guess Boone's man went to the right and he came back in and tried to help. I should have just stayed up."
Antoine Bethea touched on the same theme, "Being up like that in the first half, the ground game the way it was going, it's a tough one to swallow. All losses are tough to swallow but this is tough."
No one can explain the inability of this squad being able to finish, but everyone knows it's there like the elephant in the room. It's been discussed in the halftime speeches and on the sidelines. All of the players and coaches gave due respect to the Chargers for playing a hell of a second half, but yet still remained frustrated as to why they failed to pull off the win.
Week 15 not only took the 49ers out of playoff contention but also left the team with a very depleted roster to face the Chargers in week 16. The Niners returned from Seattle without stand out rookie LB Chris Borland, who definitely changed the way the Seahawks approached the run before he left the game with an ankle injury. Marshawn Lynch really didn't get going in the running game until that point. Borland has been placed on season ending IR and Chase Thomas has been activated from the practice squad.
The 49ers also lost Frank Gore to a concussion and Carlos Hyde to an ankle and back injury that everyone thought would and should have been a knee ligament tear. Gore is questionable to play vs. the Chargers, Hyde has been ruled out. The list of injuries from Sunday includes WR Stevie Johnson, LB Ahmad Brooks, CB Perrish Cox, LB Ahmad Brooks, and TE Garrett Celek who was placed on season ending IR. This is in addition to the myriad of players who were already injured: CB Tramaine Brock, S Bubba Ventrone, T Anthony Davis, C Jonathan Martin, or placed on season ending IR: LB Patrick Willis, LB Navorro Bowman, TE Garrett Celek, CB Chris Cook, NT Glenn Dorsey, RB Kendall Hunter, C Daniel Kilgore, TE Vance McDonald, DB Jimmie Ward and NT Ian Williams.
There will be a few new faces on the field, filling in the empty shoes. RB Alfonso Smith will most likely see some playing time. He is a 4th year player out of Kentucky that has spent most of his time with the Cardinals. Nick Moody will start at linebacker as well as either Aaron Lynch or Dan Skuta for the injured Brooks.
The Chargers are playing for their playoff lives but the Niners have nothing to lose. Most of the media coverage regarding home team has been about the impending departure of HC Jim Harbaugh and it's effect on the team, especially Colin Kaepernick, likening it to him being a child of divorce. The release of Ray McDonald due to rape allegations, has also shared the headlines.
Philip Rivers isn't 100% and he is without WR Keenan Allen and RB Ryan Matthews, making the 49ers a one point home favorite. Maybe, just maybe, they will play spoiler and give the fans a happy ending to a tumultuous week.
What should teams fear the most? An opposing team that has nothing to lose. For the 49ers, that team would be the Raiders. This was their Super Bowl, if nothing else they have the joy in playing spoiler for the 49ers post season chances and owning the Bay for a year. The first play of the game was a Kaepernick interception picked off by Brandian Ross. That seemed to set the tone for the remainder of the game.
It was a subdued Coach Harbaugh that danced around quite a few questions in his post game presser. He continues to claim that the off the field noise about his position has nothing to do with the performance of the team. Difficult to agree with him after watching the team seem like they had no fire and no sense of urgency on the Coliseum field. There was palpable tension in the room when he was asked about moving away from Frank Gore and the run game. His explanation? "Why we didn't get the ball to Frank Gore more? Yeah."
There was a moment before all of the lights and cameras were on Vernon Davis where he sighed and said, "Yeah, it's frustrating. I don't know." He didn't call the opening interception a game breaker, "We all make mistakes. If a mistake happens we bounce back and move on. That's what we did."
It doesn't get any easier for the Niners who head to the Pacific Northwest next week for a tough match up with division rival, Seattle Seahawks.
Tony Avelar AP
There wasn't a lot for the 49ers to be thankful for on Thanksgiving night. As Colin Kaepernick said is his post game comments, "We just didn't play well."
Oddly, there were a few statistics where the two teams were matched, and others that were completely uneven. Both teams had 16 first downs. Both quarterbacks were sacked four times. Both teams had 10 drives. Glaring differences: Seattle moved the ball 379 yards, San Francisco 164. Seattle committed no turnovers where San francisco gave the the ball up three times. The Seahawks were penalized 14 times for 105 yards and the 49ers were only penalized three times for 20 yards, but that wasn't enough.
There were a few positives. The Niner defense played well, holding the Seahawks to field goals four different times. For how Seattle dominated the game, the score wasn't nearly the blowout that the it could have been. LB Chris Borland continued his stand out play with 15 tackles, all of which were solo. He has the second most tackles by a 49er rookie in franchise history, second only to Patrick Willis who recorded 136 solo tackles in his rookie year. Borland did miss a few tackles, but as a rookie, his performance will only get better as he gains experience.
There were quite a few negatives. The 49ers didn't move past the 50 yard line until deep into the third quarter. That was their only productive drive which lasted 12 plays and ended in a Phil Dawson field goal. The following drive lasted eight plays and ended with Kaepernick's second pick of the night both of which went to Richard Sherman.
The drama was only beginning. CEO Jed York sent out an apology tweet following the game:
Almost simultaneously, GM Trent Baalke's daughter tweeted her displeasure with OC Greg Roman.
As if that weren't enough, Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News played spy and reported the unusual behavior of management on his twitter account following the game.
Doubtful there will be sweeping changes this week after the success of the past three seasons but only time will tell. The Niners travel across town to face the 1-10 Raiders before a tough rematch with the Seahawks in Seattle.
Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images
It was another lack luster showing for the 49er offense and remarkable performance by the 49er defense. This season has proven that It doesn't matter how you get the W, as long as you get it.
The defense kept pressure on RGIII the entire game recording 5 sacks, Justin Smith, Ray McDonald, Aaron Lynch, each with one and Aldon Smith with two. There were 8 hits on the QB and the Redskins were held to 77 yards passing. Alfred Morris was the main contributor to the Washington offense rushing for 125 yards and a TD.
Kaepernick didn't have a terrible day but the offense uncharacteristically turned the ball over three times. Frank Gore committed his second fumble in as many games, his only two of the season. Kaepernick and Carlos Hyde each turned it over once. It was Hyde's first fumble of the season.
After the game Harbaugh summed up the team's performance by saying that the team made a lot of "valiant efforts" today. He continued stating "We turned the ball over. Some teams hang their heads after that happens. That's not what this team is about, this team is about each other, about the team, the team, the team. They are into lifting each other up. Guys just kept playing and fighting, that's what good teams do."
One of the biggest plays of the game was a 29 yard, 3rd down catch made by Anquan Boldin in the 4th quarter over the middle to keep the drive alive. He was hit by hard by FS Ryan Clark who was flagged for unnecessary roughness. Clark actually took the brunt of the hit himself and had to sit out a few plays. Boldin who is frequently recognized for his toughness talked about it after the game. "If [that hit] changes how I play, then I shouldn't be playing anymore. I'm an all out guy. It's not a big deal."
It's a short week for the Niners who will be hosting division rival Seattle Seahawks on Thanksgiving night. The coaching staff stayed after the game to start preparing.
From the team name controversy to DeSean Jackson's Monday morning finger pointing tweets, the Washington Redskins would love a win today at Levi's Stadium. Winning cures all and the 49ers know that all too well.
The 49ers are treating every game as a one game playoff or one game season. Ultimately, they control their own destiny and even though the Redskins seem like a traveling circus at this point, explained by Peter King in his MMQB article, this has been an NFL season where the phrase "Any Given Sunday" has been more applicable than ever. One of the most interesting match ups will be Aldon Smith facing rookie Morgan Moses in his FIRST career start due to Trent Williams being ruled inactive. Smith was slowly worked into last Sunday's game and the pressure he can put on opposing QBs was immediately evident.
Bill Kostroun - AP
You'd think that Eli Manning throwing five picks in one game would make the score a blow out, right? Wrong. The Niners escaped with a 16-10 victory in what shouldn't have been a competitive game at all. Four trips to the red zone in the first half only resulted in 9 points. Frank Gore, who had a tremendous game with 19 carries for 95 yards committed his first fumble of the season at the end of the first drive and three other drives resulted in Phil Dawson field goals.
Things started to look better for the Niners in their first drive of the second half; three plays concluding with Michael Crabtree's 48 yard touchdown. That was the last time the 49ers would reach the end zone at MetLife. Their second drive of the half lasted for five minutes but ended with a botched snap negating a field goal attempt by Dawson.
All is not doom and gloom though, there were several highlights and Chris Borland being named NFC Defensive Player of the Week is one of them. Borland finished with 13 tackles, 9 of which were solo, and two interceptions. Borland has been on a roll, having a great performance last week against the Saints with 17 tackles, 11 of which were solo. He was beat out for Week 10 NFC DPOW by the Cardinal's Patrick Peterson who recorded 2 INTs vs the Rams. With Patrick Willis going on IR and Navorro Bowman's return in question, it's good to know that the next man up is Chris Borland.