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49ers Overreactions: Fair to criticize personnel decisions?

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The 49ers are 4-5 and entering a road game against the New Orleans Saints, who are coming off the most complete game the NFL has seen from a team this season.

It is difficult to consider a scenario in which things could be going worse for the 49ers this season through nine games.

The 49ers opened the season expecting to, again, end up playing on the final Sunday of the season. But we’re more than halfway through their regular season, and they are leaking oil and sputtering along a severe uphill climb.

You have reactions. You may have some overreactions. This is the place for you ...

Overreaction? Yes.

Mistakes were made, sure.

But to suggest general manager John Lynch is on the hot seat is as far off the mark as that Chase McLaughlin overtime field-goal attempt last year against Seattle.

Lynch and coach Kyle Shanahan signed contract extensions in the offseason -- an offseason that immediately followed a Super Bowl appearance, by the way.

Remember, Lynch inherited a truly atrocious roster when he and Shanahan were hired after the 2016 season. In a short period of time, they turned it around to put together a team that breezed through the NFC playoffs and had control of the Super Bowl into the fourth quarter.

Solomon Thomas, Reuben Foster and Dante Pettis were bad misses in the draft. But George Kittle and Fred Warner provided the 49ers with first-round talents in the later rounds.

In free agency and trades, it has been a mixed bag, too. Kwon Alexander and Dee Ford did not pan out. Kyle Juszczyk and Richard Sherman have given the team a lot.

 

The bottom line is the 49ers still are -- despite all the injuries -- in a lot better shape for now and the future than when this regime took over.

Lynch has done a very good job of putting together a locker room with, mostly, the right kinds of individuals who are talented, team players and passionate about the game. He has a feel for being able to construct a roster.

Lynch has hit on enough players -- and people -- to make this team strong and resilient.

Overreaction? Yes … I suppose.

Again, should the 49ers have selected Patrick Mahomes or Deshaun Watson with the No. 3 overall pick? In retrospect – or in a re-draft – of course.

The only problem is in a redraft, Mahomes would go No. 1. Watson would go No. 2. And the 49ers probably would take Kittle at No. 3.

The Bears will certainly be the team most remembered for passing on Mahomes and Watson. After all, it was Chicago GM Ryan Pace and coach John Fox that went with Mitchell Trubisky over both of them. Not only that, they traded up with the 49ers to get him.

But, yes, the 49ers could have gone a lot of different ways with their two first-round picks that year. And it is difficult to come up with any scenario in which they would have gotten less from either of those selections, Thomas and Foster.

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In a lot of ways, the 49ers are back at the quarterback position where they were when Shanahan and Lynch took over. They have to figure out how they want to proceed with that position.

In their first 49ers offseason of 2017, the thinking for the organization was to build out the rest of the roster and get their quarterback (Kirk Cousins) as a free agent in 2018.

Now, the board is wide open.

Do they continue with Jimmy Garoppolo, a shrinking salary cap and his $25 million salary? Or do they look for an upgrade via a trade, free agency or the draft? That will be the organization-defining decision that awaits this offseason.

Overreactions? No.

It should be noted that you’ve reached out to one of DeForest Buckner’s greatest admirers.

All along, I figured it was imperative for the 49ers to find a way to keep Kittle and Buckner as the building blocks on either side of the ball. Those two were the team’s best players over the past couple of seasons. And each man represents everything you want in a football player.

And while I’m sure the 49ers were sick at the thought of trading Buckner, they also felt the contract his representation was seeking was just too much.

 

The problem is that they did not get a break with Arik Armstead’s contract. The 49ers are locked into Armstead’s contract, which pays him $17 million a year. For another $4 million annually, Buckner’s deal looks like a bargain.

Armstead led the 49ers in sacks last season on a defensive line that featured Buckner, Nick Bosa and 11 games with Ford. This season, Armstead’s name has rarely been heard. Against the Green Bay Packers on Thursday night, Armstead played 44 snaps and his name did not show up on the stat sheet.

While we realize, a defensive lineman cannot be measured solely by tackles, sacks, etc., the 49ers are paying Armstead a lot of money to produce and make a significant impact.

Overreaction? No.

And I plead “guilty.”

The top teams in the NFC West, for instance, are not as good as the top teams in the AFC East. The Buffalo Bills and Miami Dolphins, after all, are a combined 5-1 against the NFC West.

Instead of talking about the NFC West as being “loaded,” I’m going to change my language. From this point forward, I’ll recognize the division as being "balanced" and "competitive."

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I do not believe there is much that separates Seattle, Arizona, the L.A. Rams and the 49ers (when healthy).

Right now, the three top teams in the division are better than average. But that’s where I’ll stop until more of the ballots are counted.