It’s hard not to see a matchup with Seattle and think back to the classic battles from just a few seasons ago. Not so much wondering about the “what if” in terms of how certain outcomes lead to this point but simply that these contests used to really mean something, whether it was playoff seeding related or to see who would represent the NFC in the Super Bowl, it seemed to always involve San Francisco 49ers and Seattle. Those important games seem like ancient history at this point as Seattle is poised to win another division title and can potentially secure a bye before this final week is all said and done.
Meanwhile the 49ers are dragging themselves to the finish line of this season with more players on IR than points in the second half the last few games.
For about three hours last week this lost year finally had some meaning as the shocking win by Cleveland had granted San Francisco with the number one pick in April’s draft. The months of frustration and struggling to come up with answers could have at least been justified with a potential window into the future of the franchise. Instead the team found new life and secured their second win against Los Angeles and all but guaranteed the second slot in the draft. A Rams team that could still end up with twice as many wins as San Francisco despite a horrible year in their own right that resulted in the firing of head coach Jeff Fisher.
The irony surrounding this organization is almost unbearable, of course a team that had consistently run out of gas in the second half of almost every game would find a way to rally 15 points together in the fourth quarter (involving a bold 2 point conversion to pull ahead in the final seconds) of the game. It was actually a perfect microcosm for what this franchise has become, incredibly good at making things ridiculously difficult for themselves.
I say that because in a season like this, where it is painfully obvious that large scale changes need to be made within the 49ers organization, the team is still finding ways to short change themselves at every turn. If all of the assumptions are true and current general manager Trent Baalke will be relieved of his position within the front office it will most likely result in a brief search for an outside replacement only to settle on the existing internal candidate Tom Gamble. I say this because it is so classically and ironically in line with Jed York’s reactionary decision making. With the college bowl games set to happen this week it will be too late in the calendar year for Gamble to shift any focus on the existing college players in terms of crafting the draft board for April. Shifting him from “co-pilot” to “captain” might only mean that he can make subtle changes to the actual flight plan of this draft. Perhaps that will simply be enough though, maybe its just about having someone else calling the shots in that draft room and making sure that person isn’t doubling down on positions of need with injured players that are a year away from the field.
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Seattle At 49ers: Fans may see a game closer than they think
Flipping ahead to the draft, with Cleveland having a firm grip of the number one pick again and currently owning the tenth pick via Philadelphia there seem to be a variety of scenarios that could play out. Selecting Myles Garrett first overall would likely cause San Francisco to either trade out of the spot or take the first quarterback off the board with the second pick. With so many glaring needs on this 49ers roster it is hard to say any choice would be a “reach” as seemingly any position outside of defensive end is in the conversation at the second pick. The inherent drama within the draft is centered around the fact that in spite of all kinds of metrics and measurable comparisons there is no way of knowing if a player is going to work out as a team and fanbase envision.
I’ve gone on record stating that I feel like Notre Dame’s Deshone Kizer would be my choice if the scenario played out as mentioned above with Garrett going first. I must say though, after watching the North Carolina vs Stanford bowl game today it wouldn’t surprise me if the decision makers in San Francisco ended up leaning towards Mitch Trubisky. He consistently showed accuracy, quick decision making, and even mobility at various points in the game. Trubisky hasn’t declared for the draft yet and could end up staying in college one more year to become more of a finished product in hope of being the top selection in 2018 but with everything he displayed today it might be too tempting for him to wait any longer.
With the regular season coming to a merciful close it will be exciting to see how the rest of the bowl games and kickoff of the draft coverage plays out. For some of us this has been what we have been looking forward to for months. Hopefully this painful season was worth all the frustration and the rebuild can finally take place.