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The Game Manager, Week 3: Christmas is cancelled

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Well, at least we don’t need to sort through complicated emotions this week. Just bad ones.

NFL: San Francisco 49ers at Kansas City Chiefs
Good night, sweet prince.
Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

The 49ers lost in Week 1, but there were encouraging signs, leading to mixed feelings.

The 49ers won in Week 2, but there were discouraging signs, leading to more mixed feelings.

Week 3 presented no such mixed feelings.

Yeah, that about sums it up.

Sunday was an unmitigated disaster -- and I don’t need to watch the tape to make sure. This was Black Sunday -- with apologies to the 70’s disaster film about a terrorist attack at the Super Bowl, which was somehow more uplifting than the 49ers loss to the Chiefs.

Jimmy Garoppolo’s season-ending knee injury was one of those you’ll-always-remember-where-you-were moments normally reserved for national tragedies. Like if the JFK assassination was announced by Thom Brennaman.

It was a gut punch the 49ers will take a long time to recover from. To say nothing of the fans, who if they are anything like me, are currently battling S.A.D. -- Sports Associated Depression. S.A.D. affects millions of Americans each year. But due to a lack of awareness, most go undiagnosed.

As with all feelings of sadness and loss, the only way out is through (even if it’s through the ”profoundly unimpressiveC.J. Beathard). So now we must all navigate the Kubler-Ross Five Stages of Grief, each at our own rate. Here’s how I see that going for me:

Denial

This sucks, but it’s not the end of the season just yet. The running game looks great, and C.J. Beathard has had time to learn the offense and see how it’s supposed to operate by watching Jimmy G. Everybody says it takes a year to learn Shanahan’s offense, and he had to do it as a rookie behind a bad offensive line. Maybe that experience will allow him to actually play well.

Anger

Dammit! Beathard sucks! Why the hell did they waste a third-round pick on him anyway?! And we can’t even just ask him to be a game manager because the damn defense is so bad we need to try and score 30+ to win! Are you seriously telling me nobody better is available?!

Really?!

Bargaining

There has to be some way to save this season. Maybe a trade?

Nevermind. Mediocrity is the enemy. It’s actually okay that Beathard sucks, because the more we lose, and the higher our draft pick will be. Nick Bosa, here we come!

Depression

Great, Beathard is going to pull out a win here or there — just enough so we don’t get Bosa. Instead, we’ll probably end up with an off-brand Bosa named ‘Rick Sosa’ or something. It’s the worst of both worlds. Life is meaningless. We’re all whistling past the graveyard.

Acceptance

At least Jimmy G got hurt early enough that we should get him back healthy by the start of next year. And by then we’ll have another draft class and year of free agency to stock the roster with talent. 2018 is dead, long live 2019.

Your results may vary.

The point is, I’m here to help you through this difficult time. And hopefully you can do the same for me. Let’s think of this as a S.A.D. support group. We’re here to share our feelings, find catharsis, and learn to move on. Here, I’ll start.

My name is Josh, and my emotional state and sense of well-being rests to an alarming degree on the NFL. Since Jimmy’s injury, people say I seem down and ask me what’s wrong, but I’m too ashamed to say I’m in a malaise because some millionaire I’ve never met hurt his knee. Please help me.

Anybody else?

That’s right, Kyle. Let it out. Let it all out. This is a safe space.

Let the healing begin.

Inspirational interlude #1

(Depressing) Stat of the week

The 49ers last five trips to Kansas City:

1994: 24-17, L (Young loses to Montana)

1997: 44-9, L (the 49ers came in 11-1)

2006: 41-0, L

2010: 31-10, L

2018: 38-27, L (Garoppolo tears ACL)

Analysis: The 49ers shouldn’t go to KC anymore. Arrowhead Stadium was clearly built on a Native American burial ground, and needs to be avoided at all costs. Jed York should blackmail Roger Goodell if he has to. I’m sure he has people on the payroll capable of that.

The blame game

It happens every day. People make bad decisions, put themselves in vulnerable positions, and pay awful consequences. It seems to me there are three ways we can react to this.

The first is to express regret for the result, and feel bad for the victim regardless of their own culpability.

The second, and the course I try to take: Acknowledge the regrettable choice which led to the situation without letting that overshadow the unfortunate result, and express sympathy for the victim.

The third, and one I feel is way too prevalent, is to focus on the victim’s mistakes in judgment, taking a “they had it coming” or “they have no one to blame but themselves” mentality.

I saw a little too much of that third one the last couple of days for my taste:

Maybe it runs in the family:

Look, I get it. There’s no arguing the basic facts: Of course, Jimmy should’ve protected himself — and his team — by stepping out of bounds, and surviving to play another down. Especially since he had already turned an untenable 3rd and goal from the 20 into a more reasonable 4th and goal from the 8. There’s no question that he risked his health unnecessarily by cutting back into the field of play. But I believe a couple of points need to be made.

I’ve seen Jimmy criticized for lowering his throwing shoulder into the defender to bull forward for an extra yard or two — putting his head and shoulder at risk. I don’t believe that was actually his intent. I think he was trying to cut back hard inside the defender, allowing him to slip past, back toward the middle of the field. Even if he had, there was a linebacker in pursuit who would’ve tackled him easily, so it was still a bad idea. But once his knee gave out, there was nothing to push off of, causing him to collapse right into the defensive back. This caused the hit he absorbed to be much worse, and made it appear his intent was more risky and self-destructive than it actually was.

Still, Garoppolo put himself in danger unnecessarily. But it was a mistake of aggression, of courage, of competitiveness, which is hard for me to criticize too heavily. Yes, it was reckless — though certainly not as reckless as a franchise QB cutting back into the field of play after losing his helmet (in a preseason game, no less!), which Steve Young was praised for — and the result is devastating. But young, exciting franchise QB’s also tear up their knees in practice, as Deshaun Watson and Teddy Bridgewater did the last two years, so there’s no way to eliminate the risk of that — even with non-contact jerseys.

Also, let’s remember the he was trying to drag the 49ers back into the game — and doing a pretty good job of it — until he found himself in a desperate spot. He overreacted by trying to play hero ball and paid the ultimate price. It’s crushing, but I’d rather just feel bad for Jimmy — not to mention myself — than waste time and energy blaming him.

But when disaster strikes, someone must be blamed. That’s just how the human brain works. So here’s a list of other people you can blame for Garoppolo’s injury:

Taylor Swift

I always knew that girl was no good.

The “defense”

If they could’ve just gotten in the way of Mahomes & Co. a little bit maybe the 49ers wouldn’t have been in desperation mode, forcing Garoppolo to go outside his comfort zone.

George Kittle

If Kittle hadn’t dropped the first pass of the game — his third straight game with at least one drop — the 49ers could’ve gotten off to a better offensive start, which may have led to a closer game and relieved some of the pressure on Jimmy’s comeback attempt.

Tom Brady

If Brady wasn’t so jealous of Jimmy’s good looks, talent, and youth, he might’ve taught him how a pocket passer should protect himself from getting hurt. And he had him locked out of the TB12 facility, so Jimmy couldn’t use his secret pliability exercises, which might have saved his ACL.

Matt Breida

Breida took a cool triple-option pitch from Kyle Juszczyk to the Chiefs 4-yard line with the Niners trailing 38-24 and about five minutes left in the game. Breida had a head of steam toward the end zone, and a defender one-on-one in space. Even Therrible Thom saw a potential touchdown, exclaiming “one man to beat.” It looked like Breida had a clear cutback lane to the middle of the field and even a blocker there waiting to help, but he only faked that way and headed down the sideline, where he was easily pushed out. A successful play, for sure, but also a missed opportunity. And one which turned out to be much more damaging than anyone could’ve imagined three plays later when Garoppolo went down.

Also, by suffering what appeared to be a nasty injury and ending up fine, he may have angered the football gods into one of those Final Destination-type situations. The Taylor Swift turf goblin was determined to take an ACL, and once he didn’t get Breida’s he came for Garoppolo’s.

The offensive line

After Breida’s run, the 49ers had a 1st and goal with seven and a half minutes left, needing a TD to make it a one-score game. On each of the two downs, the line allowed pressure, leading to back-to-back sacks. On the first sack, Mike Person also held, which was declined. On the second, Garaoppolo fumbled, but Mike Person recovered — I’m prepared to call that the worst fumble recovery in team history. This all left the 49ers with a 3rd and goal from the 20. Badly needing a TD, Jimmy G was pressured yet again on that play, causing him to scramble, which led to the injury.

Bill Belichick

Okay, this one might be a stretch. But Belichick is so Machiavellian, can you really put it past him to purposely conspire to injure a player he traded away, just to save face? And being such a football genius, I imagine he might be able to figure out a way to do it without anyone suspecting. Or maybe I’m just an over-caffeinated conspiracy theorist.

Josh Cootner

Yeah, that’s right — me. In my loving tribute to the start of fotball season, back before my soul was crushed by the sport of football, I wrote about the potential for early devastation in a football season, citing Tom Brady and Randall Cunningham’s season-ending ACL injuries. In hindsight, maybe I shouldn’t have tempted fate like that.

No, this wasn’t Week 1. And no, the 49ers didn’t have realistic Super Bowl hopes. But after having to imagine what that must’ve been like to suffer through as a fan, I now understand the feeling better than I ever wanted.

Also, just moments before Jimmy G’s injury, I also told my girlfriend, who knows nothing about football and wasn’t even paying attention, the 49ers should be happy to just take the loss and get out of Kansas City relatively healthy. I can’t remember ever saying that — or even thinking it — about a game the 49ers still had a legitimate chance to win.

This game just gave me the sense of impending doom right from the start. First, it appeared Matt Brieda suffered the dreaded non-contact knee injury. And even after he ended up shockingly fine — and extremely effective the rest of the game — there were scares involving Reuben Foster and Solomon Thomas. Not to mention injuries to Richard Sherman, Alfred Morris, and Mike Person. At some point, I had the feeling it was only a matter of time until we had a devastating injury. And then I said it.

So if we’re looking for someone to blame for jinxing the 49ers, I at least have to be a person of interest.

Inspirational interlude #2

On to San Diego Los Angeles Carson!

Poll

What is your attitude toward the rest of the 49ers season?

This poll is closed

  • 29%
    Season’s over, man. They need to tank, load up on talent in the offseason, and go for it in 2019.
    (136 votes)
  • 32%
    Enough with the negativity. Give C.J. a chance. Maybe he’s decent and they win some games.
    (150 votes)
  • 34%
    I’m devastated and not very hopeful, but I’ll still watch and root for my team. It’s 49er football, and that’s good enough for me.
    (160 votes)
  • 2%
    Only three weeks until the Warriors season starts!
    (13 votes)
459 votes total Vote Now