After a historically challenging off season for the San Francisco 49ers, the organization has refused to use the one word that may have eased the angst of it's fan base: rebuild. From the moment that the organization parted ways with the their winningest coach since George Seifert, the word used was reload. The exact quote from Trent Baalke was: "This isn't a rebuild situation, this is a reload situation." This was, of course, in December 2014, before the departures of Frank Gore, Mike Iupati and Michael Crabtree. This was before the retirements of Patrick Willis, Justin Smith, Chris Borland and Anthony Davis.
You'd think that the word rebuild would have come up at some point before the start of the 2015 season, or even during the course of the season where the the team lost Carlos Hyde, Reggie Bush, Mike Davis and Colin Kaepernick, (to name a few) to significant injuries that were either season ending or nearly so. The 49ers go into Detroit with a team that looks completely different than the one it fielded at the beginning of 2014.
I have heard from more than one person in the facility that head coach Jim Tomsula, after asking, had been told to not use the word "rebuild." It definitely would not cure all of the 49ers problems, but it would have at least given the organization a little leeway in it's timetable to produce a playoff caliber team. After all, a good business person always under promises and over delivers.
One of the reasons that the word rebuild may have been absent in Santa Clara is the costly SBLs (Stadium Builders License) that the team charged for the privilege of being a season ticket holder. It's not the best practice to tell your biggest investors that your team may be headed for a challenging season only a year after asking them to put several thousands of dollars towards said team for several years to come.
For those of you that don't know how the process works, here is your simplified explanation: If you would like to be a season ticket holder for the 49ers, you must pay a licensing fee ranging from a few thousand to tens of thousands of dollars to do so, based on your seat location (Seats at and around the 50 yard line cost $80k per seat). You must purchase the two preseason games, regular season tickets, and most add parking passes as well. If you choose to not renew your season tickets before your contract is up, you forfeit the right to purchase your specific season tickets. The SBL holders that I have talked to said that their contract is for nine years. This is why you hear the attendance at Levi's Stadium being announced as sold out even though it seems barely half full like last week vs. the Bengals:
4:04 left in the 3rd. Here's your seat update. pic.twitter.com/RvIDcjh9xM— Jennifer Chan (@jenniferleechan) December 20, 2015
The most plausible reason that "rebuilding" has not been mentioned: saving face. By using the word rebuild, the organization would be admitting wrong, or at least acknowledging mistakes. Jay Feely's comments about his talk with newly anointed 49ers president Al Guido hinted as much but still didn't use the forbidden word. He admitted they "underestimated, a little bit" the effect of all of the departures of the offseason, which would be putting it lightly.
There's no question that as head coach, Jim Tomsula has repeatedly said there are good guys in the locker room who come to work and work hard every week. NaVorro Bowman has reiterated the same notion. The off the field issues have all but disappeared in 2015 which was one of the goals of the front office. As positive as this is, after Jed York's proclamation "We don't raise NFC Championships banners. We raise Super Bowl banners" the expectations were higher than Mount Everest and what was delivered was a huge disappointment for the fan base. This is a fan base who inherently knew this type of season was coming, but was told otherwise by the front office. You never really expect a front office to use the word rebuild but the 49ers should have at least refrained from making grandiose promises upon which they could not make good.