I'm not going to pretend that my feelings after yesterday's game are unique. I'm sure every fan was in some way disgusted, depressed, and/or frustrated with half of the Carolina game, and that half was the offense. All season I have been part of the faction that has defended the run first, clock management, field position football that has usually resulted in wins. Now I can no longer support what could have only been an overly optimistic view of a lifelong fan.
The offense as it is today, and has been all season, is a dead end road. The 49ers can keep heading down it, but it will not change the fact that what has worked in the previous two seasons under Harbaugh and Roman will not produce against winning teams going forward. The team should ride out the rest of the season as they planned, and must make some critical decisions and changes for next year. These questions I raise will hopefully be answered with film analysis over time, rather than just opinions. I'm strongly considering the NFL GameRewind package now, but until then, I at least raise my concerns.
1) How good is the offensive line? I don't think it's as good as people thought at the beginning of the year. An obvious change is coming at center, what's less obvious is what held Kilgore back from that change happening earlier. Staley is better than good, and Davis keeps improving, so the tackle position seems ok. Iupati looked like he got beat yesterday, and he has before this year. I don't think he's worth keeping at a premium price. This is the area I really can't wait for someone to show the film on after giving up six sacks. For a team that subscribes to the "iron sharpens iron" mantra, who is behind these five in practice and the offseason, pushing them to improve?
2) Is Kaepernick really the quarterback of the future? I think it's too soon to tell, but there are some obvious reasons for both cases. He has immense physical talent and a great attitude, so the sky's the limit. But he clearly struggles when plays don't go as planned. Foot injury, no time in the pocket, nobody to throw to, coached to be a game manager; it doesn't matter what the excuses are, he isn't making plays even occasionally. Someone needs to figure out why and fix it before we watch a great guy with great talent spend more years frustrating himself and his fans.
3) Why would anyone want a mad scientist for an offensive coordinator? Nobody said anything about Roman when the 49ers were dominant, but a lot of critics came out after the Super Bowl, and even more this season. What I question is what makes and offensive coordinator good or bad? A good offensive coordinator is creating mismatches, exploiting weakness in the opponent, and anticipating the defenses' play call in critical moments. Roman is failing all of these areas.
4) Does the 49er offensive strategy have a plan B? Sure, keeping possession, taking points when available, wearing down defenses are things that all teams try to do. But when it's not working, when the team no longer has the lead, then what? It's fine taking up all 40 seconds of the play clock with the lead, but it didn't seem like the 49ers had every practiced a two minute drill yesterday. Sometimes, even good teams fall behind. All teams lose key players to injury. Good teams have an answer to those situations before they happen, and know what to do.
5) What goals are realistic for the 49ers? The team has a lot invested in the defense, it would be unreasonable to expect the top ground game and passing attack. This isn't Madden, no team can lead every category. There will always be areas to improve on, but which areas deserve the most attention, what parts of the team must be a higher priority than others, all of these things impact how SF should address what clearly isn't working for the team offensively.