Five key issues at play when forecasting 49ers' future
12 straight losses...
This season stopped being about this season for the 49ers long ago. The 49ers have extended their franchise-worst losing streak to 12 games with the most mind-numbing and inexcusable loss of them all.
The 49ers tried to sit on a 14-point lead in the second half and, predictably, fell to pieces. The New York Jets rallied and scored the 23-17 victory in overtime at Levi’s Stadium on Sunday.
The organization has a lot of issues that must be addressed shortly after Jan. 1, when the 49ers wrap up what could be the worst season in franchise history.
Here are four key areas of concern – along with one reason for optimism.
5) One bright spot
Rookie defensive lineman DeForest Buckner got off to a slow start this season -- one of the reasons the 49ers’ run defense ranks worst in the league. But Buckner is getting better and better every week.
The No. 7 overall pick has carried a workload unlike any defensive lineman in the NFL. He plays almost every down, and he has shown dramatic improvement. Buckner is tied for the team-lead with five sacks, including two on Sunday. Chip Kelly said it was his best game of the season.
Buckner has shown the ability to learn from his mistakes and get better. He is gaining valuable experience, and looks as if he be a central figure in the 49ers’ defense for years to come.
4) Defensive direction
The 49ers have invested heavily on the defensive side of the ball, but you would never know it. The 49ers are 1-12, and changes are going to be made. That is a given.
The first place where changes are likely to come is on the defensive side. But that could be just the beginning. Defensive coordinator Jim O’Neil has not come up with answers for a unit that ranks last in the NFL in total yards allowed and points surrendered.
At this point it seems highly unlikely that, at the very least, there will not be major changes made to the 49ers’ defense.
3) QB quandary
There might have been some doubt a couple of weeks ago, but now it seems obvious: The best thing for both sides is for Colin Kaepernick and the 49ers to go their separate ways at the end of the season.
It’s just not working for either side. The 49ers must have a plan to build at this position. Kelly must have a list of preferences for the 2017 season among the veteran quarterbacks who could be available, whether it’s a trade for Jimmy Garoppolo or the signing of a free agent.
When Jim Harbaugh promoted Kaepernick to the starting role over Alex Smith, his supporting cast was strong. Now, Kaepernick gets little help. In 55 career regular-season starts, the 49ers have a record of 27-28.
2) Baalke’s tenuous future
One of the major problems with the 49ers’ roster is that GM Trent Baalke did not address the team’s weaknesses of a year ago. The 49ers decided to not make a significant move at quarterback, bringing back Kaepernick and Blaine Gabbert when it was apparent the 49ers needed an upgrade.
The 49ers have been searching for talent at wide receiver for years, but the only time they addressed the position in the draft was the 2012 selection of A.J. Jenkins.
The 49ers had one of the worst pass-rushes in team history last year, but did nothing to strengthen that position in the offseason.
Whomever is calling the shots for the 49ers must address these key positions this offseason in order to expect the team to make a marked improvement in 2017.
1) Kelly must have plan
Chip Kelly is concluding the first year of a four-year contract. In order for him to return for a second year, he must provide 49ers ownership with a convincing plan to turn things around.
Sure, the 49ers are not running offensive plays at the speed that his teams have snapping the ball in the past, but that’s simply not good enough. Kelly has to present a way to allow his offense to help his defense. Changes must be made on defense, but Kelly must also show enlightenment about how his offense can sustain success in the NFL.
The 49ers need a complete makeover at quarterback, and they cannot rely on getting that player in the draft. Kelly must sell his vision for the future or he might spend next season without a team to coach.