Who's Most to Blame for San Francisco 49ers' Dismal Season?

Grant CohnFeatured ColumnistNovember 25, 2015

Who's Most to Blame for San Francisco 49ers' Dismal Season?

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    Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

    Who is most to blame for the San Francisco 49ers’ dismal season?

    Are the players to blame for not tackling well, not blocking well, not executing their assignments? Are the coaches to blame for not teaching well, not scheming well, not adjusting well? Is the front office to blame for not giving the 49ers coaching staff enough talent to succeed?

    Or is ownership to blame for meddling with a winning team, alienating a good head coach and replacing him with a loser?

    In ascending order, here are the people who are most to blame for the 49ers’ terrible 2015 season.

5. Anthony Davis

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    Tony Avelar/Associated Press

    The 49ers’ biggest loss this offseason wasn’t Justin Smith, Chris Borland or Patrick Willis.

    Those losses hurt—don’t get me wrong. But at least the Niners could do something about them. Borland and Willis retired before the draft, and Pro Football Talk broke the news Smith planned to retire on March 9.

    Starting right tackle Anthony Davis didn’t retire until June 5—during minicamp. The Niners weren’t prepared to lose him. They were counting on having their 25-year-old tackle.

    Davis played only seven games in 2014, but when he did play, the offense scored 21.6 points per game, averaged 173.3 rushing yards per game, 5.4 yards per carry, and the team’s record was 4-3.

    In the 19 games Davis didn’t play since 2014, the Niners’ record is 7-12. Their offensive line is no good, and their running game is ordinary at best without Davis.

4. Colin Kaepernick

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    Ben Margot/Associated Press

    This was supposed to be Colin Kaepernick's breakout season, the season he became an elite quarterback.

    During the offseason, he trained with Super Bowl-winning quarterback Kurt Warner, who was supposed to make Kaepernick a better pocket passer.

    During free agency, the 49ers signed deep-threat wide receiver Torrey Smith, who was supposed to make Kaepernick more dangerous.

    To top it all off, the Niners built their offense around play-action passes, rollouts and the read-option, which was supposed to make Kaepernick more comfortable.

    Somehow, none of that helped. This season, Kaepernick set career lows in yards per pass attempt (6.2), touchdown percentage (2.5) and quarterback rating (78.5).

    His replacement, Blaine Gabbert, has posted a quarterback rating of 88.9 during his first two starts for the Niners. If Gabbert had started from Week 1, who knows, maybe San Francisco would be .500.

3. Trent Baalke

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    Eric Risberg/Associated Press

    Trent Baalke is the most overrated general manager in the NFL. Always has been.

    He had one good year—2011. That’s when he drafted Aldon Smith, Colin Kaepernick, Chris Culliver, Daniel Kilgore and Bruce Miller, signed Donte Whitner and Carlos Rogers and won the NFL Executive of the Year award.

    In 2010, Baalke drafted Anthony Davis, Mike Iupati and NaVorro Bowman, but he didn’t set that draft board—Scot McCloughan did that before he got fired. Baalke doesn’t get credit for that year.

    Baalke gets credit for 2011 and beyond. And since 2012, despite having 40 draft picks, Baalke has drafted only one Pro Bowl player—Eric Reid.

    As a result, the Niners went from being one of the most talented teams in the league to one of the least talented teams in about 20 months.

2. Jim Tomsula

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    Stephen Brashear/Getty Images

    If the 49ers fired Baalke, he probably would find another job as a general manager somewhere in the NFL. He isn’t the worst one out there, and over the years, he has made some decent draft picks—mostly on defense.

    If the 49ers fired Jim Tomsula, he almost certainly would not find another job as a head coach in the NFL. Nor would he find one in college at one of the major five conferences. Nor would he find one at some of the better high schools in the Bay Area.

    Tomsula is not a leader. He is an awful head coach, the worst in the league and the worst in 49ers’ franchise history. Even worse than Mike Singletary. At least Singletary could get players to play hard. Tomsula can’t even do that.

    The Niners could have been a competitive team this season with a real head coach. Instead, they got Tomsula.

1. Jed York

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    Michael Zagaris/Getty Images

    On some level, we understand why Jed York parted ways with Jim Harbaugh at the end of last season. As good of a coach as Harbaugh is, he seems to wear out his welcome and change jobs every few years—that’s his pattern.

    Here’s what we may never understand, though: why York decided to replace Harbaugh with Tomsula, a defensive line coach who had never been even a coordinator in the NFL, let alone a head coach.

    Technically, Baalke hired Tomsula, but York had the final say—he’s the CEO. He should have vetoed Baalke’s pick and hired someone—anyone—with a track record as a coordinator or a head coach in the NFL.

    Instead, York settled for the cheapest coach he could find. Shame on him.

     

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