Yes, things can get worse for the 49ers.
They just did.
When the 49ers fell behind by 23 points early in the fourth quarter to the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday in their eventual 37-27 loss, that was not even the worst part of their day.
That came a short time later when quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo and tight end George Kittle exited the team’s bench within minutes of each other to head to the locker room for further observation of their injuries.
Garoppolo and Kittle will be the next 49ers players to take a trip to the injured reserve list. And they could be there a while – perhaps for the remainder of the season.
Garoppolo will miss a minimum of six weeks and Kittle will be sidelined for eight weeks with a fractured bone in his foot, reports Adam Schefter of ESPN.
The 49ers are 4-4 heading into the second half of their season. A return trip to the postseason does not appear realistic at this stage with so many of the 49ers’ top players unavailable to help them get there.
Kittle will be back. If not this season, Kittle will return in 2021. And he will reassert himself as the best all-around tight end in the league.
But Garoppolo is a different story. His future with the 49ers is murky, at best.
Garoppolo is scheduled to make more than $25 million in salary and bonuses in both of the next two seasons, but his production simply has not justified that level of compensation.
General manager John Lynch and coach Kyle Shanahan will have to make a difficult decision after this season.
But is it really a difficult decision?
Garoppolo proved to the 49ers’ decision-makers he was worthy of his contract as the team’s franchise quarterback following his impressive five-game stint at the end of the 2017 season.
However, Garoppolo never took his game to a higher level. And that is the biggest disappointment of all.
He was good during the 49ers’ run to the Super Bowl last season. But he was never automatic, which is Shanahan’s expectation of any starting quarterback who has been in his system for multiple years.
Garoppolo, at his best, was accurate in the short-passing game. But too often he did not throw decisively or with anticipation. He never made the expected big leap in production.
He never seemed to get much better after he experienced success immediately following his arrival in Santa Clara from New England in the middle of the 2017 season.
The 49ers considered pursuing Tom Brady as a free agent in the offseason. They understandably stuck with Garoppolo. Today, Garoppolo turned 29. Brady is 43.
The 49ers had every reason to assume Garoppolo was still ascending. But it has not looked that way.
He got off to a rough start in the 49ers’ Week 1 loss to the Arizona Cardinals. Then, he sustained the injury to his left ankle in Week 2 against the New York Jets.
Garoppolo was never healthy again. His health certainly impacted his work when he returned to the lineup.
And now this.
Lynch and Shanahan must decide whether Garoppolo has already played his final game with the 49ers.