San Francisco 49ers inside linebacker NaVorro Bowman, 53, intercepts a pass against the Los Angeles Rams at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara on Sept. 12. (Stan Olszewski/Special to S.F. Examiner)

Bowman’s future in doubt, and Niners are poorer for it

Just when the Faithless thought the news in Santa Clara couldn’t get worse, it did.

Sure enough, Niners linebacker NaVorro Bowman blew out his left Achilles against the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday. He’s done for the season, maybe ever.

Bowman is 28 years old and less than three years removed from major knee surgery. Twenty-eight-year-old middle linebackers with reconstructed knees rarely get healthier and more effective.

So explain why Bowman was offered a lucrative contract extension before the season, will you please?

Last off-season, the Niners were in good spot. Sure, they had lots of holes. But they also had $50 million in salary cap money to address them. But rather than sign a lineman, wide receiver, running back, edge rusher, cornerback or safety in the open market, general manager Trent Baalke and CEO Jed York dropped jaws with a four-year, $44-million contract extension that Bowman couldn’t refuse.

Could you blame Bowman if he couldn’t sign soon enough? The deal extended through the 2022 season, by which time he would be 34 years old. Twenty million dollars were guaranteed.

Really, what was the hurry? At the time, Bowman had three years and $23.55 million left on his deal. The time to talk was next summer or the one after that, provided that he was still upright and productive. It’s not like his team was on the brink of a Super Bowl or anything.

Now, the No. 26th-ranked defense in the league has a big hole in the middle, although Balls doubts that it’s as large as many make it out to be.

The Niners have been gashed for 4.3 yards per carry, a major reason for their 1-3 record. That’s on the middle linebacker to large extent. Bowman looks to have lost another half-step and has been out of position too many times. Balls won’t mention pass coverage.

Bowman has a very iffy future, and the short-sighted Niners are that much poorer for it.

POSITIVE NEWS OF THE DAY: Cheer up, Faithless. Blaine Gabbert turned in a 91.4 passer rating in the 24-17 loss, his highest since the 15th game of last season.

Consider that the rumored ground game averaged all of 3.5 yard per attempt and that retread Jeremy Kerley was the most dependable wideout of the bunch, and Gabbert was better than his numbers especially in the first half.

Gabbert made one really lousy throw, a long ball to the wrong side of Torrey Smith that critics dissected like a lab experiment. But he wasn’t brought in to be the next Daryle Lamonica. At his best, he protects the ball and takes what the defense gives him. For the most part, that’s what the guy has done this season.

Until DeShone Kizor or Lamar Jackson or Deshaun Watson comes to Santa Clara in the next draft, that’s about the best this team can hope for right now.

SUCH A DEAL? Levi’s Stadium isn’t to blame for the Niners’ considerable problems. But the team left its loudest and most loyal fans behind when it bolted The City two years ago. Could that have been more apparent than on Sunday, when the Cowboys and their fans turned Levi’s Stadium into AT&T Stadium West?

Upward of 40,000 fans cheered the Cowboys to victory in their 68,500-seat home away from home. Don’t think they all took 3.5-hour flights from Big D, either.

“We work hard to create a California interest in the Dallas Cowboys,” team owner Jerry Jones said between autographs, per the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. “That’s why we’ve been coming out here for almost 30 years to do our training and we have generations of fans that have been Cowboys supporters. I’m sure a lot of them were up here. I know a lot of them are in this area. But a lot of them were up here. But it doesn’t surprise me at all that we have a lot of California fan support …”

REST OF THE STORY: Jones was smacked in the face by a helmet tossed his way for an autograph, probably the hardest hit that any Cowboy took all day.

JUST SAYIN’: One week after the Niners’ Eli Harold took out Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson on a late it, Jaquiski Tartt roughed up Cowboys QB Dak Prescott. Hey, who says they can’t execute tough guy Jim O’Neil’s game plan …?

Tartt pretended that he didn’t hear the whistle before his cheap shot. This came one week after Carlos Hyde claimed that he didn’t hear the call on the first play from scrimmage. In other words, there’s nothing wrong with this team that one teaspoon of salt and a half cup of warm water can’t cure.

Will Clark and Mark McGwire made the cut for the old-timers’ Hall of Fame ballot. As in no, and hell no.

Got an opinion? A gripe? A compliment? A compliment?! Send them to pladd@aol.com, and who knows, you may get your name in the paper before long.

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