SANTA CLARA – The longest-tenured 49ers player has been down this road before.
The 49ers snapped a franchise-worst 13-game losing streak on Saturday and head into the final game of the regular season Sunday against the Seattle Seahawks in need of a victory to avoid matching the worst record in the organization’s 71-year history.
“You never want to have a situation where, at the end of the year, your record kind of says there have to be some kind of changes,” 49ers left tackle Joe Staley said. “Whatever that is, I have no real idea. It’s unfortunate. You work really hard to win football games, and when you don’t, there’s got to be someone – players or whatever it is. We know there’s going to be some kind of change.”
Whenever changes must be made, the first places most look are general manager, head coach and quarterback. And those spots are certain to be among the positions with uncertain futures.
Quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who is scheduled to make $16.9 million next season in salary and bonuses, is expected to opt out of his contract and become a free agent in March. If he does not opt out, the 49ers would likely release him. He said he refuses to look beyond the team’s final game of the season.
“For us, looking ahead is Sunday,” Kaepernick said. “So that’s where our focus is right now. That’s where all of our energy is going.”
Many inside and outside the organization expect CEO Jed York to part ways with general manager Trent Baalke at the conclusion of the season. York has not made a final decision, sources have told CSNBayArea.com.
The person calling the shots as 49ers general manager will likely determine the future of coach Chip Kelly. Staley said it’s “awesome” to have continuity on a coaching staff – a luxury he has generally not been afforded during his 10-year career. Staley has played for five different head coaches.
“I’d love to have Chip back,” Staley said. “Chip’s a great football coach. Look at the team. He’s done a great job of keeping us together. We got to hold up our end of the bargain as players, as far as executing better. You see the stuff we’re doing, and a lot of it is self-inflicted wounds. I think he’s been awesome for us this year, and I’d love to have him back.”
But, Staley added, “We’re in a results-based business, and I’d much rather have a team that’s fractured and apart and be 13-3, than be a team that’s together and be 2-14. At the end of the day, it’s all about coming out of it with a win, and we have to do a better job of winning, obviously.”