49ers have mastered the art of not closing out games with another loss

49ers have mastered the art of not closing out games with another loss

Kyle Shanahan’s postgame mood ring is turning increasingly dark with every passing week, and every new defeat. The answers he provides are getting shorter, the effort to hide his exasperation is more evident, and the results remain . . . well, ick.
I mean, they keep going back to one topic – the inability of the San Francisco 49ers to craft, raise, nurse and ultimately send a lead in their weekly football games into the world to seek their fortunes.
Put another way, they don’t close worth a damn.
Monday’s failed attempt at glory, a 27-23 loss to the New York Football (More Or Less) Giants, was particularly irksome, as it allowed a skeptical and wearying punditocracy to remember that the 49ers start faster than their record says they should, and close worse than same. This time, the lead they purged was a 20-10 advantage midway through the third quarter, against a largely miserable Giants team with the same record and the same future prospects.
“It wasn’t one play, it was a number of plays,” Shanahan snipped. “I’m extremely disappointed. I think we put ourselves in position to win that game. Up 20-10 after that first drive in the third quarter, give up a big kick return right after that, followed by two explosives. Got them right back in it. We had our chances to step on their throat there and we didn’t, and we let them get back in it fast. We kept them around too long.”
But this is the business he has chosen, or at the very least the one his father helped him choose, and the fact that his team cannot yet make progress in the refined art of finishing makes some people think of coaching as a partial culprit, and Shanahan cannot offer a rebuttal without hurling the roster under the charter.
In short, he gets to be mildly exasperated, and that’s pretty much it. Then again, they all do.
“It’s not about finding lessons in this,” tackle Mike McGlinchey said. “We know what happened tonight. There’s no other excuse you can make. We had the game in our hands the whole second half and we just couldn’t finish. There’s no excuse for that. It doesn’t matter what lessons are learned.”
To be sure, much of why the 49ers don’t close well is because they are young and still well below the league-average talent line across the board. Monday’s game was not a hot mess per se, but it also not the neat, tidy closeout that good teams perform every week.
It’s basically an ouroboros – a snake eating itself, logically. The 49ers don’t close because they’re not good at closing, and they’re not good at closing because they don’t close.
See? Simple as explaining Planet X to a bunch of fifth graders.

[MAIOCCO: 49ers irked by Ahkello Witherspoon showing frustration after Giants TD]
Mostly, the 49ers don’t finish games well because they make just enough errors in critical moments to hose themselves. Monday, they took their 10-point lead after a smart and prolonged drive that ended with an 11-yard Nick Mullens-to-Matt-Breida touchdown pass.
And immediately afterward, they gave up a 51-yard kickoff return by Corey Coleman and a subsequent 30-yard completion from Eli Manning to Odell Beckham The Younger. Two plays later, the two hooked up again, and the 49ers’ command of the game ended in four plays and 93 seconds.
After a brief possession, they were forced to punt from their own 16, but they were not forced to employ a kick return interference call on Tarvarius Moore or endure a 27-yard jet sweep by Sterling Shepard on the first play of the series that led to a game-tying field goal by Aldrick Rojas. They just did those things on their own. 
And they kept doing them – responding to an unnecessary roughness call on New York linebacker Alex Ogletree with a hold by center Weston Richburg, or a Mullens pass to Marquise Goodwin that was (a) behind him but (b) still catchable that ended up in the hands of linebacker B.J. Goodson.
Then, after an interlude that included what seemed like the winning field goal from 49er Robbie Gould with 2:46 to play, they doubled down on the not closing a thing, giving back every bit of Giants largesse with an immediate error or penalty that prolonged seemingly stalled drives and ending ultimately in the game-winning 3-yard score from Manning to Shepard.
These mistakes happen in lopsided games too, mind you, but nobody really notices them amidst the general shambles. In games that can be won, over teams no better than yourselves, they are migraines with heartburn and a side of lumbago. And they can only be weeded out by doing them again and again until they end up better than before.
“It comes with practice,” cornerback Richard Sherman said, “by being in these situations, by being able to compete when you’re exhausted. It’s just a thing that comes in time.” 
Well, that was properly vague. But the process is vague. It happens until it stops happening, and not before. The ouroboros again.
At some point, perhaps they will figure it out and do it regularly – we don’t want to commit too hard to the inevitability of this notion, because it doesn’t happen all the time to all the teams to which it needs to happen.
But as it becomes increasingly evident that they have mastered the burped-up lead, Kyle Shanahan’s patience with this part of the process will wear thinner and thinner, mostly because we will keep asking when it will be fixed.
And the answer that is true but never satisfies is this:
When it does. You’ll know it when you see it.

Kyle Shanahan undecided how much 49ers will play Jimmy Garoppolo vs. Broncos

Kyle Shanahan undecided how much 49ers will play Jimmy Garoppolo vs. Broncos

DENVER – Jimmy Garoppolo has participated in every practice and taken twice the number of snaps of the other 49ers quarterbacks during training camp.

But 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan is uncertain how much Garoppolo will play Monday night when the 49ers face the Denver Broncos in a preseason matchup.

“I haven’t decided how much we’re going to play him on Monday night,” Shanahan said. “Want to play him. A lot has to do with when we watch his film from these two practices, how long we do play all our starters, what O-Linemen are available and things like that.”

Garoppolo saw a lot of action against the Broncos during joint practices on Friday and Saturday. Garoppolo did not suit up for the 49ers’ preseason opener last week against the Dallas Cowboys at Levi’s Stadium. 

Aside from the brace on his left knee, there have been few signs this summer that Garoppolo is returning from such a significant injury.

“I think what’s important, all the time, is you look at the totality of a camp and I think he’s had a really good camp, I really do,” 49ers general manager John Lynch said. “I think the best thing for all of us is that is, I get hesitant and reluctant to say it, but is his recovery from his knee has been flawless.”

[RELATED: Why 49ers' John Lynch is confident in Jimmy Garoppolo's successful return]

Clearly, Shanahan wants to get some playing time for Garoppolo ahead of the regular-season opener on Sept. 8 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. After all, Garoppolo has started just 10 regular-season games in five seasons in the NFL.

Garoppolo’s heaviest workload is expected to come Saturday in Week 3 of the preseason against the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium, where he sustained his season-ending torn ACL in his right knee on Sept. 23.

“I’d like him to get in there for a little bit -- not as much as Week 3,” Shanahan said. “It gets very monotonous in camp going against the same coverages every day, some different fronts, different looks, different techniques. We get more out of these two practices than we will in the game.”

Why Kyle Shanahan's father Mike calls coaching 49ers 'ideal situation'

Why Kyle Shanahan's father Mike calls coaching 49ers 'ideal situation'

ENGLEWOOD, Colo — Former head coach Mike Shanahan didn’t return to coaching because the elements weren't quite right but he believes all the pieces are in place for his son Kyle and the 49ers to be successful. 

It was a homecoming of sorts for both Mike and Kyle Shanahan to return to Broncos headquarters during training camp. Mike spent several years in Denver as a position coach before finally becoming the head coach in 1995, where he remained for over a decade. 

After his time with the Broncos, the Mike spent four seasons as head coach in Washington with Kyle as his offensive coordinator. After Mike was relieved of his duties at the end of 2013, he has not coached since. He did, however, reveal that there were options open to him at the time. 

“Close, I was close,” Shanahan said. “One thing that has to happen is we all have to be on the same page. One thing you have to make sure of when you are a head football coach is that the owner, the GM and the quarterback are all on the same page. 

“If it doesn’t happen, the chances of winning a Super Bowl aren’t very good. Anyway, if that situation happened, I was going to take it. If not… But anyway, I had a great conversation with John [Elway], as everybody knows, and it didn’t work out and sometimes it works out for the right reasons.”

On the other hand, Mike believes Kyle has an ideal scenario in Santa Clara. 

“I think he’s in a great situation,” Mike said. “You have a chance to get a guy like John Lynch to be the general manager, being around the support staff that I’ve had a chance to talk to, besides Mr. York."

“Then you get a chance to make decisions on who you want as your coaching staff, who you want as players, bring in the right improvement through free agency. All you want to have is the opportunity to have success and Kyle is given that opportunity and I think people would say this team will get better.” 

Mike has been spending time at 49ers practice since Kyle was named head coach. He also had a chance to break down film with quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo while the quarterback was rehabbing from his ACL injury. 

“A lot of people don’t understand when a quarterback gets hurt in the second or third game, and then you have surgery, and then you have your coach coaching and the quarterback’s getting ready for the game. 

“I had a chance to sit down with Jimmy and maybe just talk about defenses for a couple of weeks, talking about terminology of defenses, blitz schemes, zone schemes, and go through the daily installation, or he can just sit back and relax and we can just talk football being part of that terminology system. Obviously knowing the installation schedule, it got a chance for him to relax and have some fun and at the same time, we could study football together.”

Kyle described what it meant to have his father out at practice and reminisced about their time together in Denver. 

[RELATED: Richard Sherman, 49ers defense 'light years ahead' of last season]

“It’s pretty cool. I didn’t see him at all because I was pretty focused on practice. I heard he was doing a press conference in between it, that’s what these guys told me. No, I love having my dad out. 

“He comes out to San Francisco, too, so that’s not that unusual to see him out there. But, this is my first time back here since my dad left, which is college for me. It’s good to see a lot of old people and really enjoyed our time here.”