Why Your Team Sucks 2022: San Francisco 49ers
12:38 PM EDT on September 7, 2022
Some people are fans of the San Francisco 49ers. But many, many more people are NOT fans of the San Francisco 49ers. This 2022 Defector NFL team preview is for those in the latter group. Read all the previews so far here.
Your team: Dude.
Your 2021 record: 10-7. This is the weirdest goddamn team in football. They made the Super Bowl in 2019, watched everyone get injured the following year, and then decided to spend the 2021 season borrowing liberally from both of those previous campaigns. Hence, last year’s Niners treated America to a 3-5 start in which the Packers, with no timeouts left, drove down the field in the final 37 seconds to beat them. They also got boat-raced by a Seattle team that would go on to collapse in the back half of the year (and would eventually lose to the Seahawks a second time for good measure). They got swept by the Cardinals before pumpkin spice products had even appeared on store shelves. They even lost to the Colts thanks to a game-sealing touchdown pass by Carson Wentz. You don’t make Carson Wentz look like President Crunch Time without being a complete mess of a team.
And when you have a Super Bowl roster that you just hamstrung by deliberately engineering a quarterback controversy between a handsome moron and a kid who went to the NFL straight out of North Dakota Ropes Course Academy, you tick off every box on the Mess list. Ten months ago, you could have told me these Niners sucked or that they were a sleeping giant, and you would have been correct either way.
Then the back nine came and they suddenly went into God mode. They lost just two of those final nine games, and then bulled their way into the playoffs in the final week thanks to a stunning comeback from 17 down in LA to beat the Rams, in a game where they never held the lead until the final play of overtime. For two weeks after that, the Niners were my personal heroes, not only dispatching both the Packers and the Cowboys, but doing so in ways that left those teams’ respective fanbases SEETHING with anger. And there was much rejoicing. I refuse to hate them for such heroics, even if Kyle Shanahan looks like the most popular kid at school that every other kid privately despises.
Flush with both good will and momentum, the Niners went into the NFC title game and racked up a 17-7 lead going in the fourth quarter. Like you, they would never score again. Oh wow, a Kyle Shanahan blowing a healthy lead late in a championship game? Where have I seen that before?
Oh oh. But look, those were Super Bowls. Certainly these Niners would save their vomitousness for an even bigger stage, and not this game. There’s no way they would only run the ball three times in that final quarter (they had the seventh best rushing attack in the league last year), and all at the exact wrong time. There’s no way that Jaquiski Tartt would drop the most wide-open pick in history, and one that could have sealed the game. There’s no way they would fucking punt at midfield with the game tied late. And there’s no way this game would end with one of the funniest interceptions ever thrown:
Did I say these guys were my heroes? I lied. San Francisco managed to contend while existing in a vague state of rebuilding that has left everyone involved both confused and unhappy. I’ve never seen anything quite like it, and I don’t know if I ever want to see it again. Who’s in charge of this thing? Terry Gilliam? No it’s …
Your coach: Kyle Shanahan, who is a brilliant playcaller until the final half of any given season. Kyle also puts more mental energy into hat regulations than winning important football games.
"I have such beef with them right now. It's a tough issue going on. They won't let me pick out my own [hat]. They won't let me wear any one that's from a [previous] year, so I can't wear like an older one. I've got to wear the new ones that they give this year. Unfortunately, there's none I like wearing. Hopefully, we can figure it out, or wait until Salute to Service. ... It's just deals. I don't want to go too hard and get fined or anything but trust me, I'm upset about it."
I trust you, brother. Shanahan has been granted total authority over this team despite having a career winning percentage lower than Dave Wannstedt’s, so is it any surprise that his Niners are as erratic as a three-year-old meth addict? Reader, it is not. I’d like to say that Shanny will discover the error of his ways—along with the advantages of having a kickass rushing attack—one day, but we now have more than enough evidence, not to mention unworthy sideline hats, to prove that will never happen. The good news is that this is your new run game coordinator!
Actually, everything about the NFL makes sense if you assume that every coach is on blow all the time. That’s former Dolphins assistant Chris Foerster, who’ll combine with new passing game coordinator Bobby Slowik to replace departed offensive coordinator Mike McDaniel, who was far too adorable for Shanny to tolerate having around any longer. Your new QB coach is Brian Griese, whose qualifications for the job include being on the teevee and tripping over his dog while shitfaced that one time. Griese, so famously mobile in the pocket, will be tasked with developing his stylistic twin in this man …
Your quarterback: Trey Lance, who’s totally ready for the job!
Said coach Kyle Shanahan on Friday: “We’ve run out of those [preseason] games and he’s just ready to go as he can be.”
Shanahan said after the preseason finale that he’d planned to play Lance for only two drives against the Texans. Shanahan decided to give Lance a third drive. He may have been tempted to give him even more. “I would love to get Trey more practice and everything and more experience, so I would always want more of that.”
Well look, maybe that was Shanny being his usual, needlessly coy self. Let’s hear it from an actual player!
"We need to do our best to make it as easy as we can for Trey," Kittle said. "While there's going to be ups and downs, we need to play at a high enough level where if Trey has a game where he throws a couple picks, it is what it is and we're going to be playing well enough to win those games."
It’s not hard to read between the lines when those lines are eight miles apart: not unlike the distance between one of Lance’s throws and his intended downfield target. In a vacuum, going for broke by gambling your team on a fresh rookie contract is not only a modern thing to do, but also quite shrewd. Trey Lance is about to prove that line of thinking wrong. Can’t say I’m looking forward to it.
Just a few months ago, Shanny and his team were prepared to make Lance the unquestioned starter of this team. They may as well have stationed playoff starter Jimmy Garoppolo on a nearby street corner and put an open, empty guitar case next to him so that passersby could toss loose change into it. Then Garoppolo got shoulder surgery and weeks passed, and passed, and passed, and hey did you know that Jimmy sometimes disappeared on this team, perhaps to hang out in Bali or something? The Niners tried to find a trade partner, but other teams are just as lost as to Garoppolo's value as you and I are. Yes, he’s made the NFC title game two of the past three years, but also god he sucks. Then Shanny watched Lance throw the ball in training camp with all the accuracy of a blind man firing a potato gun and suddenly …
Again, this team is fucking weird. It’s like going out on a double date with a couple clearly on the verge of a trial separation. I feel itchy. Garoppolo stayed away from the team all through the preseason so that he could attend Handsome Boy Fitness Bootcamp. But now he’s back at a discount rate, and he’ll reclaim the starting job in five weeks once it becomes clear that Lance is a bust and a half. Shanahan will be rewarded with a 30-year contract extension as a result.
What’s new that sucks: As you’ve already seen, this team has been built on eggshells. Wideout Deebo Samuel, arguably the most enjoyable player in football, demanded a trade this offseason because he hated being used as a running back. Like Pizza Boy, he came back anyway. Not a chance he regrets that decision, no sir. Deebo and Brandon Aiyuk will be joined at wideout by free agent Ray-Ray McCloud, whose name kicks ass, and promising rookie Danny Gray. None of that will stop the Niners from losing their willpower and running Deebo on the jet sweep five times a half anyway.
That’s because that vaunted rushing attack I just told you about has vaporized. The O-line lost interior stalwarts Laken Tomlinson and Alex Mack, and is now staffed by middle school JV players. Not exactly wise to put yourself in a position where you need a mobile quarterback to avoid pressure, but the stiff you have on your depth chart is still, somehow, the better option. At running back, Trey Sermon busted out and got a visit from the turk. Second-year breakout Elijah Mitchell missed the preseason with a bad hammy (uh oh), leaving rookie Tyrion Davis-Price—who’s never had any Game of Thrones directed his way—and a handful of nobodies to fill the potential void. This is all part of the Niners’ hallowed tradition of having a run of camp injuries and then passive-voicing their way out of blaming themselves for it.
The defense tried to patch up a few holes in free agency, but you’ll still be able to throw for 100 yards in the final two minutes against them.
What has always sucked: George Kittle hasn’t played a full season since 2018 and never will again. The cornerback room is still an open grave. The fans need to chill the fuck out about the fullback. Everyone in the Bay Area is still a Raiders fan. Their stadium wasn't constructed with burnable human skin in mind. The Niners have essentially bought Santa Clara’s city council so that they can bulldoze any nursery school they wish. And their fans exist mostly so that Matthew Stafford’s old lady can huck pretzels at them.
Ratto says: This team is going to be defined not by Trey Lance, or even by Jimmy Garoppolo, but by the fact that Kyle Shanahan will survive them both. He gets full brownie points from Jed York for clearing the air space over Levis Stadium of the planes with the "Fire Jed" streamers, and in these parts that is a more important to ownership than either going to or hosting a Super Bowl, both of which Shanahan has done with only middling success.
What might not suck: SFGate is a fabulous website and I highly suggest you make it, like Defector, part of your everyday reading.
HEAR IT FROM NINERS FANS!
What the fuck is wrong with these assholes?
This team can't even build an effective game plan to rid themselves of a shitty quarterback.
Kyle Shanahan looks like Beto O'Rourke and has the same record of winning on the national stage.
They bet the future on Trey Lance, who has a name that sounds like a guy who would hit on you at 1AM at The End Up.
Our team is the cryptocurrency of the NFL.
Their stadium looks like a state-of-the-art facility at first glance, but was obviously planned with the same foresight as house flippers in a hot market. Sure, the oven and dishwasher are brand new, but you can’t open them fully because they installed an island in the kitchen that gets in the way. Sure, the field is in the full light of the fall Bay-Area sun. But so are the home sidelines and the cheap seats, so fans and players alike have their retinas burned out.
Our fanbase consists of tech bro bandwagoners and old money boomers who won’t shut the fuck up about Joe Montana.
I was there for a soccer game this summer and I swear the chief architectural directive must have been, “How can we give 40,000 people sunburn all at once?”
I can't tell you how excited I am for another season of seeing Shanny trip over his own dick when a victory is in sight. You want a QB sneak with a thousand shifts? You got it! A direct snap to the fullback which results in a turnover on downs? You got it! Line up one of the best offensive tackles as a wing and then not pick up the two yards you need for a first down? You got it. Overuse the best weapon in the NFL to the point where he doesn't even want to play for the team anymore? You got it!
Trey Lance is going to have his knee explode after three downs this season and they'll revert back to the wishbone offense. Kyle Shanahan would be a film coach in the SEC if he wasn't his father's son. John Lynch looks like the dude at the squat rack that tells you he's, "got a lot more sets, bro." People won't care about the Niners now that the Warriors won.
Kyle (not Shanahan):
I'm holding Jaquiski Tartt personally responsible for having to endure that horrid Matt Stafford/Lily ad for 67,890 times since March. I hope he pukes every time he sees it.
Somebody put a GIF of that drop on my Twitter timeline last week and I felt like I got hit with a 2x4.
Ray Ratto covered this team for years, and look at what it did to him! What chance do any of us have?
Jerry Rice was once found at a massage parlor with a long history of prostitution when it was raided by the police. He was conveniently let go.
The Niners have two FCS quarterbacks on their roster. One of them took the team to the Super Bowl three years ago, losing to the Chiefs. The other's biggest game was also three years ago, in the FCS Championship. The Niners have decided that getting to the Super Bowl is not as impressive as beating the James Madison Dukes.
Kyle Shanahan, 2017: Dual threat QBs don't fit in my offense, because you have to practice too many plays and then your players won't execute properly.
Kyle Shanahan, 2021: Dual threat QBs are awesome, because there's an added threat of running the ball if everyone's covered.
Offensive genius, my ass.
The coach, the front office, and the fans all united to sell the propaganda that Colin Kaepernick wasn't a fit for Shanahan's system, but the dynamic duo of Brian Hoyer and CJ Beathard both were.
Then the team traded a second round pick for Garropolo and got all the intermediate, quick release accuracy needed to operate the system, and then they decided that the team could do with a mobile, strong armed, athletic freak of QB at the helm. So they spent three first rounders to draft a guy who is a failed clone of Kaepernick.
Because they make the fan experience as inconvenient as possible. And I'm not even talking about the stadium itself, which has less charm that the Quality Inn down the street. I'd rather be blown off Candlestick Point into the San Francisco Bay than attend another game at Levi's.
Last October, two buddies and I flew up from Orange County for the SNF Niners vs. Colts game when that "bomb cyclone" scared off about 75% of ticket holders, leaving a handful of drenched idiots like myself to watch Carson Wentz be competent for 3+ hours. The best run came not from Jonathan Taylor or Elijah Mitchell, but from a runaway port-a-potty scooting across a barren parking lot. We saw this in person because the designated Uber drop-off area is, I shit you not, almost a mile away from the closest entrance. We had no choice but to trudge parking lot-by-parking lot, through the rain, to get inside.
It was 2012 and the Niners had just lost a heartbreaker to the Giants in the Super Bowl (Kyle Williams and the two fumbled punt returns). My friend and I decide to drown our sorrows at the nearby KFC. Ahead of us, a dude decked out in red Niners gear (baggy PJ's, hoodie, beanie) is stumbling around with a thousand-yard stare in his eyes.
A kid on a bike asks him for a cigarette, and the dude just knocks him out in one punch, steals his bike, and calmly bikes down Santa Clara St. We run to the kid and ask if he's ok, and if he wants us to call the cops. He says no and kind of freaks out. He tells us he has, "a bunch of pills hidden in my shoe," and that he doesn't want to go to jail. He says he's cool and calmly walks home as if he nothing happened.
Fuck Jed York, bring back Tomsula.
Fuck your shoulder, Jimmy.
My wife had brain surgery earlier this year. Six weeks later, our then-18 month-old had emergency surgery to remove pieces of food that he had inhaled into lung. Three weeks after that, said child had to have the same surgery to get the pieces that they missed the first time around. All of this is to say that I have had more than enough anger, depression, calamity, stress, and sense of overwhelming dread to keep my mental health ledger in the red for years to come (for the record, everyone is fine).
And yet. And yet, in another few days the wife and I will subjugate ourselves to this shitbox franchise that continues to hang its hopes on the concept that time is actually circular, and 1981 might come back around at any minute now.
The only time I've ever been punched at a sporting event was at a 49ers game, when a drunk fan was so excited about a touchdown against the Cowboys that he turned and gave me a forearm shiver to the face. Somehow that and my bloody nose were less excruciating than the game that day, which saw me freezing my ass off in an 80-degree day game at Candlestick.
Fuck J.J. Stokes.
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