The sky is falling in 49erland.
Every time you turned around this offseason, another San Francisco player had followed their coach out of town.
Aside from the expected free agent departures of running back Frank Gore, guard Mike Iupati, wide receiver Michael Crabtree, and troubled defensive end Ray McDonald, linebackers Patrick Willis and Chris Borland, defensive lineman Justin Smith, and offensive tackle Anthony Davis blindsided the 49ers.
Though several of the players aged out of their primes and McDonald’s exit likely represents addition by distraction subtraction, replacing a coach who led his team to the NFC Championship Game in his first three seasons with Jim Tomsula, whose total head coaching experience amounts to a 2010 Week 17 “interim” tag with the 49ers and a one-year stint in the defunct NFL Europe, appears at this point as a long-shot gamble at best.
Borland and Davis retired over concussion concerns. Willis had a severe toe injury that never healed properly and hurt his mobility. The 35-year-old Smith felt he had nothing left.
“If you don’t have the tools, you can’t do the job,” Smith said. “So it’s time to go.”
This might be a bit hyperbolic.
Let’s not forget, the myriad departures came off a 49ers team that epitomized mediocrity in 2014, finishing 8-8, and out of the playoffs.
So, it’s not like the 1985 Chicago Bears are breaking up.
And all these guys are replaceable. True, Willis was an all-time great. But that toe injury took his game down a notch.
NaVorro Bowman, who missed last season with a knee injury, will replace Willis. Bowman was an emerging star before hurting his knee. With the #17 pick in this year’s draft the team grabbed Oregon’s Arik Armstead, who who should help the 49ers with their suddenly depleted defensive line.
Veteran Erik Pears, who has started 86 games in the NFL for various teams, takes over at right tackle for now. However, standout guard Alex Boone, a terrific offensive tackle at Ohio State, could also swing out there.
Former Arizona Cardinals star Darnell Dockett replaces Smith.
Dockett has no second thoughts about signing with the 49ers, even with the departures.
“The show’s still got to go on,” Dockett added. “Hope those guys well, hope whatever their reasons were for departing that they live comfortable with their decisions. You don’t want guys that really don’t want to play and are just here to collect a check, otherwise you’re going to lose on Sundays.”
Sounds like he’s talking about Davis and Borland. NFL football is so violent and physically taxing that you have to be all-in. If you fake passion, a fire-breathing opponent likely exposes you on game day.
But the bottom line is the NFL is a quarterback-driven league. It’s usually the teams with top-shelf quarterbacks that remain standing at season’s end.
The 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick took a step back last year, and that was the biggest reason the team struggled in 2014. If Kaepernick can get back to the form he displayed during the 2012 season, when the 49ers went to the Super Bowl, these departures likely become an afterthought. Super Bowl MVP Kurt Warner tutored Kaepernick this offseason to help him fix his game.
Dockett recently tweeted, “We will win, just watch.”
Regardless of all the negative stories about the supposed demise of the 49ers this offseason, unless you own a crystal ball, nobody knows right now if the slew of departures necessarily lead to a disastrous season.
We shall see.