The 49ers could be 4-0.
Heck, they could be 0-4 — but, more plausible, 1-3.
They are 2-2, and that seems about right.
Yet, there is palpable frustration. You can see it on coach Kyle Shanahan’s face and hear it in his words.
He should be frustrated. Everyone associated with the team should be frustrated.
After all, it seems to be the same thing all over again for the 2021 49ers. They entered the season with Super Bowl aspirations. Then, in Week 1 they lost two of their most important players — running back Raheem Mostert and cornerback Jason Verrett — for the season. And more bad things seem to happen on a weekly basis.
There are plenty of reasons for there to be elevated levels of stress in Santa Clara, as the 49ers prepare to face the unbeaten Arizona Cardinals on Sunday in Week 5.
Here is this week’s installment of 49ers Overreactions:
No, it’s not an overreaction at all. I think it’s a sentiment you share with a high percentage of the fan base.
I do not believe Shanahan is ready to make the switch from a healthy Jimmy Garoppolo to Trey Lance, yet.
But for this week, he might not have a choice, depending on how Garoppolo’s right calf is feeling when he shows up to work Wednesday for practice.
If Lance ends up playing against the Cardinals and plays well, then it’s a topic worth debating one week from now. Maybe it’s not a debate at all.
But, right now, Shanahan has indicated he thinks it’s in the best interest of the team and Lance to continue to practice and get a few game snaps to experience success, gain confidence and, ultimately, have a greater chance of success when the switch becomes permanent.
You can accuse Shanahan of being hard-headed with a lot of this stuff, and you would not be wrong. There is probably one thing that is inexcusable for him. If he draws up a concept against different coverages, he expects the ball to immediately go where it is designed to go. My guess is that Lance is nowhere near automatic with that aspect of the team's offense, and Shanahan would not even consider making a switch until Lance gets much closer to Garoppolo in just being able to execute the plan.
Shanahan’s fate is tied to Lance. It is not an overreaction that Shanahan’s time with the 49ers will be defined by Lance’s career. We all look at Lance and see the arm and the running ability. He has the ability to make things out of nothing. Shanahan should have a better idea of what Lance can and cannot do within his offense at this stage of his development.
But that certainly does not mean that we all can’t have an opinion.
The 49ers have an offensive coordinator: Mike McDaniel.
McDaniel, and the other offensive assistant coaches, do a lot of the legwork in the early portion of the week to devise a gameplan to face the upcoming opponent.
Shanahan is widely regarded as one of the top offensive minds and top play-callers in the NFL. Of course, that is subjective, and your opinion means as much as anyone else’s.
This idea of the head coach running the offense is not unique. There are 13 head coaches who serve as their team’s play-caller.
Andy Reid and Sean Payton are the longest-tenured and most-successful head coaches who do control their offenses. Sean McVay, Kliff Kingsbury, Jon Gruden, Matt LaFleur and Kevin Stefanski are doing just fine with a combined record of 16-4.
Running the offense is what Shanahan does best, and for as long as he remains a coach in the NFL, that is what he will do. And that is what he should do.
Do the results of the first four games of the season open the door for Shanahan to be criticized and second-guessed? Yes.
Is he on the hot seat? No.
Unless something dramatic happens within the walls of the 49ers headquarters in Santa Clara, Shanahan is not going anywhere any time soon.
Having stated that ... If this team remains on this same path through the season, I do believe CEO Jed York must take a hard look at the personnel department. How and why have some decisions been made?
Every team makes mistakes when it comes to player acquisitions. And, of course, the easiest thing in the world is to go back to a previous draft and come to some glorious conclusions on what a team should have done.
But there have been too many misses and too many miscalculations on decisions that seemed questionable at the time for the organization to not remain open-minded about making some changes.
I’m not a general manager, nor do I play one on TV. But if I were a GM, I would want to keep the team’s best players. And when the team’s best players are also the guys who give you everything else off the field, well, there’s no way I would let those players leave.
DeForest Buckner — just like Fred Warner and George Kittle — checked all the boxes.
I understand the 49ers resigned Arik Armstead at $4 million a year less than what Buckner got from the Indianapolis Colts. I understand the 49ers traded Buckner for the No. 13 overall pick in the draft and traded back one spot, which enabled them to draft Javon Kinlaw and Brandon Aiyuk. So, yes, it’s not a one-sided debate.
Armstead has been very good. But Kinlaw’s knee issue has prevented him from practicing hard and getting better. And Aiyuk has been a disappointment, as he's made little impact at the beginning of his second NFL season.
Overreaction? We choose to ignore.
I see what you’re doing here ... But Bill Walsh will always be off-limits.
After re-watching the 49ers’ loss to the Seattle Seahawks, I came away thinking that it was not nearly as bad as I originally thought.
Special teams killed the 49ers. The problem at kicker was responsible for four points.
Newly added Trenton Cannon was brought in for his special teams play, but he looked as if he did not even know the rules. He could not handle a kickoff. Then, he fumbled. Two plays later, the Seahawks scored a touchdown.
Before that, he carried Mitch Wishnowsky’s punt into the end zone. He could have pinned the Seahawks at the 2-yard line. Instead, Seattle took over at the 20, and ended up driving 80 yards for a touchdown.
He also decided not to field a kickoff at the goal line. This time, he averted another disaster. The 49ers began that drive at the 11-yard line.
The first four games have not gone smoothly — by any stretch — but this is not a full-fledged disaster, yet.
It is not an overreaction to say the 49ers are the most-injured team in football. After that, I have no answers.
Injuries happen in football. It’s a brutal sport. I believe there are three kinds of football players: Those who are currently injured; those who have been injured; and those who will be injured.
I have no answers when it comes to the 49ers. I can’t even begin to speculate what’s going on. In February of 2019, the 49ers restructured their athletic training and strength & conditioning staffs. Ben Peterson was hired as head of player health and performance. He came to the 49ers after two seasons as director of sports science with the Philadelphia Flyers of the NHL.
The moves made after an injury-plagued 2018 season have not helped. Things have seemingly only gotten worse.
All-Decade player Joe Staley, now an analyst on NBC Sports Bay Area, had this to say Sunday on 49ers Postgame Live:
“At first you say, ‘Yeah, this is just some bad luck.’ But it’s been ongoing for a long time. And I have friends in that building that are on the strength staff, in the training room staff, in the weight room, I’m not calling them out. But there is maybe something going on with the way that they’re training because it seems like always, consistently, there’s some kind of soft-tissue injury, something in the warmups, something going on that is really affecting this football team.”
It might be difficult to quantify, but let’s use Pro Football Focus as our guide. The 49ers rank fifth in the NFL in pass protection and sixth in the league in run-blocking. The 49ers do not have the worst offensive line in football. They are a lot closer to being at the top of the list in the league.
Mike McGlinchey's overall grade ranks him 15th among all offensive tackles (left or right). In pass protection, he has given up no sacks, one quarterback hit and six hurries through four games. He is playing at a very high level.
Center Alex Mack is not the same player he was in his prime, but he has provided an upgrade for the team from a year ago. In four games, he has given up one sack, one hit and one hurry.
The 49ers might have a lot of issues as a team, but the offensive line is far, far down on that list.
If the 49ers were to come out of Week 5 with a victory over the Cardinals, let's just say it promises to be a very different installment of 49ers Overreactions in seven days.