After advancing to the NFC Championship in three straight seasons, the San Francisco 49ers struggled to an 8-8 finish last year, going 4-4 at home and 4-4 on the road. Now in the midst of one the most tumultuous offseasons in recent memory – for any franchise – one must wonder if things are as bad as they seem in the Bay Area.
“Well, I would list all the departures, but we’d be out of time,” KNRB 49ers pre- and post-game host Larry Krueger said on CBS Sports Radio’s Tiki and Tierney. “It’s been that kind of offseason, guys. But I do think the demise of the 49ers may be a little bit overrated at this point because it’s gotten so much coverage. But the one thing that’s undeniable is an awful lot of talent has walked out of that building this offseason, and there’s just no denying that.”
Then again, some talent walked back into the building this offseason. NaVorro Bowman, who hasn’t played since the 2013 NFC Championship, is back after sitting out all of last year rehabbing a torn ACL and MCL in his left knee.
“He looks awesome, but how’s that knee going to hold up?” Krueger asked. “He’s not even wearing a sleeve. He doesn’t wear anything. Forget the big brace. He’s not even wearing a protective sleeve. He’s out there just like it was good as new – and he looked great in three plays, but that’s three plays. Who knows when you fatigue a little bit, how the strength of that knee and the structure of that knee holds up. Only time’s going to tell in that. They’ve given it 19 months. They didn’t rush him back. He feels really good about where he’s at. He’s done a ton of mental reps. He already had great instincts, but now at the snap of the football he’s just really flowing to the ball. So we’ll find out. I think he’s going to be diminished. How diminished? How we’re going to find out in the next month or so.”
We’re also going to find out if the 49ers can return to prominence under Jim Tomsula, or if last year was just the beginning of a downward cycle for San Francisco. If the former happens, general manager Trent Baalke can rest easy; if the latter happens, well, he might be out of a job, especially after forcing Harbaugh out of the equation.
“(Baalke is) not the warm guy that everybody just gravitates toward in a room,” Krueger said. “He’s just not that guy. He’s a dark-room, roll-that-film-back-and-forth (kind of guy). He’s an NFL scout who’s elevated himself to general manager, and there’s absolutely a ton of pressure on him. There’s a lot of people that felt like he won the power struggle from within and it’s time for him to produce. Harbaugh’s 49ers – love them, hate them, whatever – the guy won 70 percent of (games) that he coached representing the 49ers. So it’s a tall task to replace Harbaugh’s success, and yet they feel pretty good about it. Offensively, I got to be honest. In the first couple preseason games, the 49ers looked better offensively than they did at any point a year ago under Harbaugh and (former offensive coordinator) Greg Roman.”