We can talk endlessly about how many San Francisco 49ers players retired and how the team changed its coaching staff in such an unexpected, ridiculous manner. But at some point it just devolves to me sobbing over my keyboard, trying to convince everyone that I really do think the 49ers will be fine but good God what a mess that all was, right? At some point we need to move on ...
... And instead talk about the negative or risky things that were totally in the 49ers' control.
Over at ESPN, Paul Gutierrez graded the 49ers for their offseason, and gave the team a C-minus. I haven't watched the video so I'm not sure if that includes the retirements and all of that, but they are mentioned significantly in the writeup. I'm not about to fault the team for those though, I'm much more interested in the "riskiest move" section.
In that section, Gutierrez says the riskiest move the 49ers made was to trade away punter Andy Lee, while relying on a rookie in Bradley Pinion. It got me wondering whether or not that was, in fact, their riskiest move this offseason. Sure, Lee was excellent and his salary wasn't that bad, and yes, Pinion did seem to "win" the "battle" after just a handful of practices, so that's a concern.
But what about the other potentially damaging moves?
There's the fact that the 49ers let Chris Culliver and Perrish Cox walk in free agency, without proven options at the position. Culliver and Cox were the two best cornerbacks on the roster last season. Tramaine Brock is solid, of course and I'm the biggest fan Dontae Johnson has right now (and I'll take that title to my plus-sized grave, thank you very much), but it's still certainly a concern. It's still risky. Guys like Kenneth Acker and Keith Reaser may be something eventually, but they're essentially rookies.
Let's not forget about running back Frank Gore, either. You can talk about him being past his prime or you can talk about a potential steep decline all you want -- the fact is people have been saying that for four years now and it hasn't happened in a big enough way to eliminate his value. Carlos Hyde has a lot of potential and Kendall Hunter is excellent when healthy, but it'll be awhile before we know for certain that Hyde is the real deal.
Along the offensive line, the 49ers knew they were going to have a competition at left guard and center, but they didn't add any significant players to those competitions. This is less a big deal than the other two things, of course, given that Brandon Thomas, Joe Looney, Daniel Kilgore and Marcus Martin will likely combine for at least two average starters, but with two spots open it's still a risk.
Blaine Gabbert and Craig Dahl both still exist. That's a risk.
Not targeting an inside linebacker in any significant fashion despite plenty of notice from both Patrick Willis and Chris Borland on their retirements is a concern. NaVorro Bowman is the absolute best player you could ever ask for to fill in for a guy like Willis, but he's coming off a major debilitating injury and we still don't know what to expect of him going forward. Michael Wilhoite looked worse the longer he played, and Nick Moody was a special teamer more than anything else. The 49ers were in a good position to add a talented young inside linebacker, but they ultimately passed on the opportunity.
Then I suppose, because I'm me and this is what I do, I'll mention the coaching staff again. Getting rid of one of the most immediately successful head coaches in NFL history and betting on Jim Tomsula is a leap of faith if I've ever seen one. But if you feel like that one is too easy a choice, please feel free to pick one of the others or let me know anything I've missed. Concerned about the lack of a big-name tight end early in the draft? Nervous that the 49ers are going to proceed with a seventh-round pick at the right tackle position? Let's talk about it.