While quarterback Colin Kaepernick and head coach Jim Tomsula catch much of the flak for the 49ers’ poor excuse of a season, the football guy who deserves most of the blame is conspicuous by his silence.
That would be general manager Trent Baalke, who won a power struggle with coach Jim Harbaugh, even though he did little if anything to earn a vote of confidence from those above him.
The 49ers’ 2-5 start is the result of an utter lack of talent up and down the roster. That starts with Baalke and his personnel decisions, particularly in the draft, which have left his rookie coach in a very bad spot. The GM hasn’t just thrown Tomsula under the bus. He has gotten behind the wheel of the bus, run over him, stopped it, put it in reverse, then rolled over him again.
Start with the once-productive 2011 class, which flamed out a while ago.
Problem child Aldon Smith rushes the passer for the other local team now. Kaepernick is an absolute wreck. Cornerback Chris Culliver was allowed to walk out the free agent door. Running back Kendall Hunter is damaged goods. Guard Daniel Gilmore is a backup, fullback Bruce Miller is a seventh-round bargain and everyone else is all but forgotten.
A lot of the problems can be traced to the 2012 draft, which saw Baalke whiff in a big way. Wide receiver A.J. Jenkins and running back LaMichael James were busts. Center Joe Looney was cut last month. Safety Trent Robinson, tackle Jason Slowey and linebackers Darius Fleming and Cam Johnson were gone before we knew it.
The Class of ’13 has been marginally better. Safety Eric Reid has zero interceptions and blown countless assignments. Wide receiver Quinton Patton is a nut case. Linebacker Corey Lemonier is lemonade. Tight end Vance McDonald is a one-dimensional reserve. Retired running back Marcus Lattimore is somewhere in South Carolina. Defensive ends Quinton Dial and Tank Carradine have combined for one sack.
The 2014 draft produced a keeper in Chris Borland, but the linebacker retired after one season. The jury remains out on safety Jimmie Ward, cornerback Kenneth Acker and guard Brandon Thomas. Wide receiver Bruce Ellington gets hurt a lot. That leaves running back Carlos Hyde and linebacker Aaron Lynch as the only potential difference-makers barely one year later.
It’s too early to judge the most recent group, but has anyone impressed you at this point? Arik Amstead? Jaquiski Tartt? We’ll see.
CALL WAITING: After the Seahawks took his team behind the woodshed last Thanksgiving Day, owner Jed York issued this infamous tweet: “Thank you #49ersfaithful for coming out strong tonight. This performance wasn’t acceptable. I apologize for that.”
GET A MOVE ON: York left Levi’s Stadium in a huff, whispers have it, and he may be ready to back up the truck finally.
Veteran Vernon Davis could be the first to leave before the Nov. 3 trade deadline, as he confirmed that his agent had informed him of interest around the league. The Atlanta Falcons and Green Bay Packers reportedly have inquired about him. The tight end is in the final year of his contract and comes off a four-catch, 61-yard performance, which can only enhance his value.
But don’t expect any changes where they’re needed most — in the front office.
Baalke has one year left on his contract and the CEO likes him, so he’s safe for now. No way does Tomsula get canned only months into a four-year deal, though he and his staff have shown little ability in coaching and developing the talent. The best move that York can make is to fire himself, but that’s not gonna happen either.
JUST SAYIN’: Seattle Seahawks linebacker Michael Bennett was in their backfield so often on Thursday, it’s a wonder the 49ers weren’t whistled for 12 men on the field more often.
WANTED: MORE COOP: Raiders rookie Amari Cooper hasn’t disappointed anyone in his rookie season. Now think of what the kid can do if they let him play the entire game.
Cooper has been lights out in the first two quarters, not so much after that. He has 18 receptions and two touchdowns on 28 targets in the first half, but only 10 catches and zero TDs on 16 chances after the break.
Part of the reason for the drop-off is that defenses have paid more attention to Cooper late in games. They’ve made a habit to roll a safety toward his side of the field to take away the deep ball, which explains why he doesn’t have a reception of more than 20 yards in the second half.
Quarterback Derek Carr and offense coordinator Bill Musgrave bear some of the responsibility as well.
“You have a little chance to reflect when you get into the bye,” coach Jack Del Rio said. “In this case, we want to make sure we’re keeping our key people involved. We’re not gonna do anything crazy, I think the reads just took it away from him on a few occasions, but certainly there’s been some opportunities to make sure a guy stays involved and we’ll look to make sure that happens.”
SANDY IS DANDY: Congrats to former Athletics general manager Sandy Alderson, who once again has done what Billy Beane can only dream of — build a World Series contender.
It took five years for Alderson to turn the New York Mets to a pennant-winner, but few GMs walked into a worse ownership mess. While that was being resolved, he patiently rebuilt the farm system. Then he wisely resisted overtures for the young arms that he had brought into the organization.
When Alderson finally received the go-ahead to spend money, he wasted no time to hit a grand slam. Only minutes before the trade deadline, he acquired Yoenis Cespedes, who almost single-handedly turned around a dormant offense. Then he added Kelly Johnson, Juan Uribe and Tyler Clippard, another ex-A’s pitcher.
(While we’re at it, let’s not forget Mets assistant general manager J.P. Ricciardi, who worked under Alderson as an A’s scout a while back.)
In the meantime, Alderson’s 1989 team remains the last in the East Bay to win it all.
THE LIST: Balls’ sure things against the spread in Week 7 of the NFL season:
Atlanta Falcons (-4 1/2) at Tennessee Titans: The Falcons will bounce back against another team with a backup quarterback.
Baltimore Ravens at Arizona Cardinals (-6 1/2): The NFL West leaders will put a big number against an dreadful Ravens defense.
Houston at Miami Dolphins (-3): Rule No. 21: Take the underachiever with the new head coach in his home debut.
Raiders (+4) at San Diego Chargers: Would be a far better game if the loser had to move to Siberia.
Cleveland Browns at St. Louis Rams (-4): See Todd Gurley run. See Todd Gurley run wild.
Last week: 3-2. Season: 21-9 (.700)
Got an opinion? A gripe? A compliment? (A compliment?!?) Send them to firstname.lastname@example.org and you may get your name in the paper one day.