Ray Ratto

Very bad 49ers stay tumbling in truly lost 2016 season

Very bad 49ers stay tumbling in truly lost 2016 season

You can almost hear the sound whistling between the 49ers’ teeth at this point, beneath the droned platitudes and vague responses to what is a fully lost season:

“Look, what do you want from us? This is who we are.”

You can almost hear it, that is. They wouldn’t dare express such rampant defeatism – I mean, if they didn’t after Sunday’s 34-17 muzzling at the hands, arms, torsos and feet of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, it’s unlikely you would hear it at any point.

But they must surely know by now that this is a season already in the rear-view mirror. There are no secret plans, or stashed players, or untried ideas left to unearth, sign or try. The coming bye week will not clear their heads and give them new inspiration, save that of having a week off from the steady beatings. They are 1-6 on merit, and proved it again yesterday before another dispirited two-thirds-of-a-sellout crowd which is coming to realize that their hope is a mile wide and an inch deep.

[MAIOCCO: Kelly: No changes to 49ers defensive staff after loss]

Sunday, for example, Colin Kaepernick was their best running back, Shaun Draughn was their best receiver, the downed kickoff was their best special teams play, and their best strategic decision – well, they lost the coin flip so they didn’t even get a chance to defer the opening kickoff.

And their defense? It only allowed whatever Tampa Bay wanted, and only on demand. Jacquizz Rodgers became the sixth running back to gain 100 yards against them (and the first to do it in one half), which is noteworthy only because they allowed five all last year in a bad season, and nine in the four seasons before that, four of those by Marshawn Lynch.

And quarterback Jameis Winston threw the ball to wide-open receivers and into coverage with the same sense of well-placed bravado. Though his numbers didn’t exactly aurora the borealis (21-of-30, 269, 3/1, 117.2), he never emitted a sense that he couldn’t do whatever he wanted – save get the officials to give him a better spot when he snapped and cost his team a potential touchdown with an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for headless-chickening.

In other words, this was not materially different than the Buffalo game, or the Seattle game, or the Carolina game. The only game that has been different is the opener against Los Angeles, when everything worked and made sense and life was happy and Jed York hummed “I Am 16 Going On 17” all through the suite all night long.

That game was 50,000 years ago. These are who the 49ers are now, and who they are going to be for awhile to come.

They speak of consistency, and yet they are the very model of it – leading the league in punts, and ranking second in three-and-outs, 27th in first downs and 31st in plays per drive. They don’t stay on the field, in other words, and when on defense, they allow 118 more yards per game than their offense gets them.

And they swear with unanimity that they are together as a team, and work hard each week to achieve the acme of their talents and learning. So this, if that is so, must be at or near the top of their game – which, as head coach for now and the future Chip Kelly (stop thinking this is just a coaching problem, please) put it, “We’re not doing what it takes to be successful right now.”

That was in response to a question about whether the 49ers were going backwards. He ducked the issue by saying, “I don’t think forwards or backwards,” which is probably a lie, but we can help anyway.

They have gone dramatically backwards since Game 1, and essentially stagnated since Game 2. It’s how they have gotten to where they are right now, and how they have become who they are right now.

It may be that stranger things have happened in the NFL than a team starting 1-6 and rallying to win eight, nine or 10 in a row, but on this team, based all the available evidence, this team won’t be that strange. They have revealed themselves for what they actually are, which is not good enough to change what they actually are.

And if that is too tough a sentence for you to swallow, well, go out and write some of your own. You can tell any tale you want, but this is the tale of the 2016 San Francisco 49ers, a team awash in unpleasant self-realization and the knowledge that there is nothing to be done but to go out each week and do it again.

Except next week, of course. Bye may be a favorite, but Bye must be played, just like all the others.

49ers learn a lesson after letting big lead slip in win over Lions


49ers learn a lesson after letting big lead slip in win over Lions

The 49ers now are 1-1, but to keep you hooked for next week, we can report that nothing of substance was revealed Sunday.
At least nothing that would make you have firm beliefs about who and what they are, what they have and what they lack.
In escaping the Detroit Lions, 30-27, the 49ers largely showed that they have the capability to dominate an inferior team but are not assured enough to finish them. Or, to quote Richard Sherman, which always is a good place to go, they need to learn “not to take a sigh when you’re up, 30-13.” In other words, to allow 182 yards and two scores once you take said lead, which is more a matter of player attention than scheme flaws.
They learned that teams still believe in Sherman enough to avoid throwing his way, and that means they will throw at Ahkello Witherspoon on the other side of the field until he makes them do otherwise.
They learned that Jimmy Garoppolo still holds the ball longer than safety would permit, and either he needs to be more decisive or his wide receivers need to be more forceful in separation.
(Cue Josh Gordon hysteria in 3 ... 2 ... 1 ... )
They learned that Pierre Garcon will block all the way to the parking lot, as he did on Matt Breida’s 66-yard touchdown run, and that Garoppolo will make a tackle when the need is acute, as it was on Tracy Walker’s apparent game-winning interception -- “just a flashback to my linebacking days, I guess,” the QB said, minimizing the monumental error he helped commit to make that tackle momentarily necessary.
But mostly, they found out that they have miles to go before they can feel confident about their institutional knowledge about putting games away, because they did allow the Lions, who had been routed by the New York Jets a week ago, to scare them within an off-the-ball holding call that negated Walker’s interception and saved the 49ers' defense from having to make a desperate stand.
How desperate? A number of 49ers referred to it as a pick-six, which it wasn’t, no matter how it might have felt.
“A win’s a win,” coach Kyle Shanahan said with the precision of a Football Outsiders staffer, “but I’m extra frustrated that we couldn’t finish ‘em off. We have to learn to put those games away.”
The problem, of course, is that the 49ers are not yet at that stage of their development and are just seven games from being one of the most forlorn teams in the National Football League. Like everyone else, they would seem to be prone to recency bias – in this case, thinking the Lions were ready to Vontae Davis the rest of their season based on seven quarters of uninspiring football.
More to the point, it is hard to gauge them off a decisive loss to a superior team and a narrow win over an inferior one. As one of the many teams stuck in the amorphous middle of the league, the 49ers will be prone to the performance swings between weeks and within games.
Shanahan, for example, made a point of saying how much better he felt about his team’s red-zone performance in Week 1 at Minnesota than he did Sunday, even though they scored twice. Three sacks of Garoppolo and just 8 yards gained in 20 plays inspired that analysis.
Shanahan also answered the Gordon issue by saying how much loves the players he has but always is looking to improve the roster, a noncommittal answer to a question inspired only by the receiver’s reportedly stated interest in coming. The 49ers presumably would be more efficient and effervescent offensively when Marquise Goodwin returns from his thigh bruise, but that, like Gordon’s desirability, remains only speculative.
This is about the known, and the known is pretty minimal. The 49ers are exactly what we all expected them to be after two weeks -- a work in progress and in regress. Their next two games against dynamic offenses in Kansas City (oh God) and Los Angeles (the Chargers can score, but they remain goofy), and then they return to face the wholly inert Cardinals before drawing the Packers at Lambeau and the Rams in L.A.
In other words, this will get harder before it gets easier. But a win’s a win, and it’s better that they try to keep the short view for now. There are plenty of people available to take the long view for them.

Where Erik Karlsson trade ranks in greatest Bay Area sports acquisitions


Where Erik Karlsson trade ranks in greatest Bay Area sports acquisitions

The Erik Karlsson trade is very clearly the second-biggest deal in San Jose Sharks history, and that only because nothing is going to beat the Joe Thornton trade almost 13 years ago.
That turned out to be a massive swindle for the Sharks, fueled in part by Boston’s zeal to solve its Thornton problem (he didn’t win six Stanley Cups in his five seasons as a Bruin). The Karlsson deal seems to resemble that deal in that Ottawa wanted Karlsson gone as part of its ritual franchise-gutting, and Doug Wilson had already removed their issues with Mike Hoffman earlier in the season.
But for non-hockey fans, this still ranks among the biggest acquisitions in Bay Area history regardless of sport – if and only if he gives what the trades implies, a clear path to the Stanley Cup.
For the moment, Karlsson represents hope rather than deeds. He was an indisputably great player in Ottawa, still has plenty of tread on the tires, and changes the Cup equation for every contender.
But without the advantage of the advanced hindsight that actual Stanley Cup parades can provide, he must be placed behind the following:
-- Barry Bonds (no title, but he is unmatched for talent, impact, stadium construction or controversy).
-- Kevin Durant (took the Warriors from merely great to generational, and helps with social media).
-- Steve Young, Fred Dean or Deion Sanders (each helped the 49ers win a Super Bowl, though Young was clearly most impactful, and two of the three got network gigs afterward).
-- Ted Hendricks, Willie Brown and Jim Plunkett (helped the Raiders do the same).
-- The re-acquisition of Rick Barry (the Warriors’ title in 1975 was largely his doing, though the Warriors’ greater strength was its ensemble quality).
-- Andre Iguodala (the first free agent to actively choose Golden State and the 2015 NBA Finals MVP).
-- Dave Stewart and Dennis Eckersley (pillars of the A’s 1989 World Series, and icons since).
There are others if you want to delve deeper (and hey, you’re the only who knows your work schedule), but this gives you an idea of the bar that needs clearing for the momentary enthusiasm of getting Erik Karlsson to become an enduring achievement in the annals of Bay Area talent grabs.
At the moment, Karlsson is probably closer to Chris Webber going to Sacramento in 1998, taking a bad team and making it a factor in a league that has shunned it before and after. The Sharks haven’t been shunned as much as they have been pandered to as the team that can’t win the big prize and has only gotten to play for it once. In other words, they’re not the Kings.
But the Sharks are the new hot flavor in the NHL in the way that Golden State was in 2013 and 2014. A parade permit is the limit and the expectation, and when that happens, Karlsson’s name can go on the above list.