The San Francisco 49ers advanced to at least the NFC Championship three straight years before going 8-8 and missing the playoffs last season. While it’s tempting to dismiss 2014 as a blip on the radar, Brandon Tierney doesn’t see a return to glory for San Francisco.
Neither do a lot of NFL analysts.
Jim Harbaugh is gone, offensive coordinator Greg Roman is gone, Justin Smith and Patrick Willis retired, Michael Crabtree is now a Raider, Frank Gore is now a Colt and Mike Upati is now a Cardinal.
That’s a lot of upheaval.
Throw in a first-year head coach in Jim Tomsula, and Tierney believes the 49ers are positioned to be absolute doormats in the NFC West, which is arguably the toughest division in football.
Are we grossly underestimating what the Niners can do this season?
“I don’t think so,” Sports Illustrated and MMQB NFL writer Peter King said on CBS Sports Radio’s Tiki and Tierney. “Not only are you changing your head coach, but you’re relying on a quarterback who – no one really knows who Colin Kaepernick is right now. Can he be that efficient guy who’s not going to turn it over, who’s going to consistently lead long dives? Or is he going to be the guy who runs for 120 one week and throws a key interception at the end to (lose the game)? I just think the jury is very, very much still out on Kaepernick.”
Kaepernick has thrown for 6,566 yards, 40 touchdowns and 18 interceptions over the last two seasons. Those numbers aren’t awful, but Kaepernick has struggled with consistency – not to mention holding on to the ball.
It doesn’t help that Gore, who has accounted for 1,200+ total yards in nine straight seasons, is gone.
“The thing that would have really helped Tomsula this year is if he had a running game and a passing game that were very low-risk and didn’t turn it over and he knew exactly what he had,” King said. “But obviously Frank Gore sort of aged-out at the running back position. I think the emphasis now in training camp is we have to take care of the ball. That’s sort of the mantra that you’re hearing. We have to take care of the ball and we have to make absolutely sure that the one thing that we’re cognizant of is don’t worry about the gigantic, explosive plays. They’re always going to be there with Colin Kaepernick. But the thing you have to worry about is let’s not give the other team more chances than they should normally get.
“And so to me, I kind of look at this whole thing as far as what the 49ers are doing,” King continued, “and I say, ‘Look, you have to give them a chance. You have to give Tomsula a chance. He’s got players on that team who really vouch for him, who like him.’ But I just worry about what they’re going to be as an offensive team.”