Bonta Hill: 49ers are playing the long game

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo was sacked six times on Sunday, giving him nine for the season. He’s also been hit the second-most times in the NFL. But it’s not all on Garoppolo, nor was Week 2 entirely on the offensive line.

It’s because the wide receivers and tight ends couldn’t gain separation. My guy Kevin Jones tweeted some information that I thought was wild: Per NFL Next Gen Stats, 27.1 percent of Garoppolo’s throws have been in tight windows, where the defender is a yard or less away from the receiver, the second-highest rate in the league.

The 49ers lack explosive playmakers on the outside, but head coach Kyle Shanahan and the front office obviously aren’t too worried about that. They believe in the group they have inside of their locker room.

Shanahan and general manager John Lynch are playing the long game. They’ll be competitive in 2018, sure, but they aren’t exactly ready to take the next step.

That was apparent when the 49ers didn’t aggressively court embattled wide receiver Josh Gordon.

The Cleveland Browns grew tired of Gordon, trading the dynamic wide receiver to the New England Patriots for a conditional 5th round draft pick Tuesday afternoon. A plethora of 49ers’ fans like myself were adamant over the weekend that San Francisco aggressively court him.

Of course that’s the same Gordon who’s played a total of 11 games since 2013 due to being suspended multiple times for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy, but the 49ers don’t have a sure-fire, go-to option Gordon could be, especially in the red zone, where they’re 3-of-9 on the young season.

There’s definitely risk in bringing a guy with issues into a young locker room, but Gordon, who seems serious about playing football despite his many demons, is the type of talent that could turn a mediocre offense into a dynamic one.

Bill Belichick and the Patriots by no means have a mediocre offense. That’s impossible with Tom Brady at quarterback. But they’ve been in Super Bowl-or-bust mode for nearly 20 years. The 49ers? Feels like Shanahan and Lynch are acknowledging that this team is a year away.

It’s hard to believe that if San Francisco was among the NFL elite, they wouldn’t offer more than a conditional fifth-round pick for Gordon, who led the NFL in receiving in 2013 with 1,646 yards.

Lynch and Shanahan have been adamant about the culture, about the locker room being full of players who can be held accountable for being on time to meetings, practice, etc. Gordon obviously hasn’t been that for much of his career.

“Anytime a good player becomes available on the open market, you look into all that stuff. By no means is it something you ever would get desperate for,” Shanahan said. “We feel very good about the guys on our team. That’s something that we looked into and obviously went a different way.”

The 49ers don’t think Gordon is worth the risk. Lynch has turned this team over since taking over for Trent Baalke, building it “brick-by-brick” from the ground up. This team has holes, sure, but though Gordon has the ability to cover up some of those holes, the 49ers are obviously playing the long game.

Bonta Hill
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Bonta Hill

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