The San Francisco 49ers lost their 10th straight game in Miami making the possibility of matching last season’s record almost statistically out of reach. Interestingly, the post-game mood in the locker room has been noticeably more positive than it was last year, or maybe I should say less negative.
Last season, a very upset Anquan Boldin left the locker room without speaking to the media gathered around his locker stating, “I’m sorry, but I don't have anything to say.” That same afternoon, Carlos Hyde did the same thing, but likely at the urging of the PR staff, eventually came back into the locker room to talk.
This season has been different. The team is setting records in the wrong kind of ways and yet, the locker room hasn’t felt as somber. Honestly, last year it often felt like a funeral. Is it that the coaching staff is more positive/capable? Is it because of the character of the men in the room? Is it because everyone has lower expectations than last year? Has everyone finally recovered from their “Harbaugh hangover?”
In 2015, along with promises from ownership of championship banners and winning with class, expectations were high in the locker room and in the stands of Levi’s Stadium. After going to three straight NFC Championship games, 8-8 felt like a fluke. What happened next left a lot of fans and players completely shell shocked. The players that remained from the Harbaugh era still felt they were capable of reaching the playoffs, and the fans, although they had an idea that Jim Tomsula wasn't the answer, believed that the players could hold their own.
After the team’s heartbreaking loss in Miami, I asked a few players about how the team has remained more positive than last year. Vance McDonald spoke about the leadership:
I really think it’s the leadership we have starting out at the top. The first thing Chip said when we came in is ‘stand together.’ That’s really what we try to do throughout the week and it helps in moments like this when it is frustrating and you have the choice to just put yourself on an island and kind of separate yourself from the team but we've done a good job of sticking together.
When asked about the mood in the locker room compared to last year McDonald replied:
It’s outstanding, I would even say, considering our record. I mean, you come into the locker room each week after practice, there’s no division. We are all on the same page. Everything is out in the open and coach does a great job of addressing anything that would separate us from not being in synch. So, I think compared to last year we’re in a great spot. Our record is definitely not saying that but the team itself, and our mentality, it’s in a good spot.
I think everybody wants to win, everybody is working hard. It could be very ugly around this time with the way our season’s gone and it hasn’t been. I think it’s a credit to guys around here being professional and willing to work, wanting to win. It’s good guys around here, able to handle it.
It’s a gut check really. It’s so easy with a young team with not a lot of experience to give up, but that’s not these guys. It’s a true test of our character. I think this week will be a great test to our character, seeing guys mature while they’re away in different scenery, bringing it to work every day.
Garrett Celek however, believes the mentality was just as positive in 2015.
We’re still staying really positive. I mean you can see the way we’re playing, we’re not just going out there and giving up. We’re still fighting every play and it’s showing, but different mentality, I wouldn't say there’s any difference.
Whatever the reason is, the team seems more unified and honestly, less miserable. Torrey Smith said in an interview a several weeks ago that it couldn’t get any worse than it was last year, but he also didn’t know that the team would go on a 10 game slide. Regardless, there’s still some football left to play and 49ers have refrained from throwing in the towel.
Currently only 13 players remain from the 2013 active roster which was the last time the 49ers advanced to the playoffs.
- Colin Kaepernick
- Joe Staley
- Daniel Kilgore
- Garrett Celek
- Vance McDonald
- Quinton Patton
- Quinton Dial
- Glenn Dorsey
- Tony Jerod-Eddie
- Ahmad Brooks
- Michael Wilhoite
- Tramaine Brock
- Phil Dawson
NaVorro Bowman (IR 2016), Eric Reid (IR 2016), Tank Carradine (IR 2013), Mike Purcell (PS 2013).