NaVorro Bowman came, and then he went.
If that seems a cruel way to summarize his career in San Francisco, that’s because football is a cruel game in the best of times, and when your boss changes, all the good will you may have assembled for yourself matters as much as a broken printer.
It is simply the nature of a very vicious beast.
Bowman was released by the San Francisco 49ers seemingly hours after the team cursorily explored trade possibilities for the once-great linebacker.
And with all due respect to the sentimentalists among you, this move was inevitable; if it wasn’t today, it would have been on January 2, two days after the end of the season. Bowman shone brightest on Jim Harbaugh’s watch, three coaches ago, and neither Kyle Shanahan nor John Lynch is married in any way to any part of the 49ers’ past.
That’s why they were hired. That’s why they got six-year deals. They were mandated to change the franchise on the football level, and you don’t have to tell the leaders of a new regime twice that the icons of the old regime have no special pride of place.
Bowman is one of the truly unlucky great players here – an All-Pro-level player until his torn Achilles tendon in 2016. The only thing that happened to him was he lost the speed and lateral movement that made him great, and neutralized his in-game knowledge because his body sometimes wouldn’t always let him capitalize on it.
But in a violent and sentiment-free business, luck often plays an outsized role in a man’s career. Had he survived the Achilles injury, he might have continued on his path toward Canton, but that atop his torn anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments in 2013 rendered him expendable in a new world order.
And with that, he was expended Friday – swiftly and, from the outside at least, harshly. But nothing says the football business quite like swiftness and harshness. That, if anything, is NaVorro Bowman’s story in San Francisco – a great player robbed of the opportunity to be even more.