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49ers mailbag: Which version of the Niners will we see against the Rams?

Answering all of your questions ahead of Week 6’s divisional matchup

Miami Dolphins v San Francisco 49ers Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

You get the feeling that the San Francisco 49ers season is on the line Sunday night as they face the Los Angeles Rams. The Niners can’t afford to fall to 0-2 in the NFC West or 2-4 overall. We’ll find out what this team is made of and if they have any fight in them in a handful of hours. Until then, let’s answer some questions from 49ers fans.

Odds of dan Quinn joining staff?

This felt inevitable unless Quinn joins Seattle’s staff instead. The obvious connection is that Kyle Shanahan and Quinn worked together in Atlanta. Defensive coordinator Robert Saleh coached under the recently fired Falcons head coach when he was calling plays for the Seahawks defense in 2013.

The other thought was that if Saleh becomes a head coach next year, Quinn would make an easy transition and save the front office the headache of going through the search for a new defensive coordinator. Quinn’s record as a head coach will scare some off, and a Super Bowl collapse won’t help, but familiarity tends to win in the NFL. I could see Quinn coming on as a consultant.

Should we Tank for Trevor or Fail for Fields the rest of this lost season?

This may be difficult to believe, but no team openly tries to lose games in the NFL. The Jets aren’t trying to lose. Adam Gase just coaches them. Before the 49ers landed Nick Bosa, they didn’t have a pre-game speech before the game that included, “Hey, remember, if we win, we lose out on Bosa.” That’s not how this business works.

Even if the 49ers were to lose against the Rams, they’re too talented to finish this season with two or three wins. That’s what it’s going to take to land the two top quarterbacks in the NFL Draft. Essentially, San Francisco would have to bottom out completely and, despite how rough the schedule looks, this team will remain competitive and sneak out a few victories over the next couple of months. I’d be shocked if the team ended up with Trevor Lawrence or Justin Fields. Mad? Not a chance. Shocked? Quite.

Do the 49ers make any trades?

I’d guess Ahkello Witherspoon or Dante Pettis are gone at the trade deadline. With Richie James set to be active, that all but closes the door on Pettis’s chances as the returner. He’s already been phased out of the offense. Why keep him on the roster at this point? It’s unlikely there’s any type of role for Pettis with the 49ers moving forward. The question now is, what are you willing to accept? If you think the team is going to receive any value for Pettis, think again. He hasn’t produced, and once you’re a healthy scratch, your “stock” plummets. Recouping the fifth-round pick the 49ers lost in the Trent Williams trade would be a win, as sad as that sounds.

Part of me says Witherspoon is gone, but that means you’re relying on Emmanuel Moseley and Jason Verrett to stay healthy for the rest of the season. Witherspoon serves as a critical backup. It’s been a month since Richard Sherman has taken the field, and it doesn’t appear that he’ll return to the lineup anytime soon. That may be Witherspoon’s saving grace. Keep an eye on Cleveland, though.

Has there been any justification given as to why T Moore didn’t play on Sunday? Would you expect to see more of him going forward (instead of off-the-street guys)?

Shanahan was asked about this topic on both Sunday and Monday. Shanahan said there was a discussion about Moore playing throughout the week as an emergency, but he hadn’t practiced at cornerback in two years. Kyle said the team had hoped Witherspoon would play throughout the week and felt like that on Saturday, so they were caught off guard when he couldn’t go on Sunday. Sure. At some point, you have to either adjust or figure out how to get your best 11 players on the field. On this roster, there’s never a situation where Brian Allen or Jamar Taylor is your best 11.

The most frustrating part about watching the stubbornness of Shanahan was watching Tarvarius play well during training camp in the slot. For everything the 49ers ask of their slot cornerbacks, which is essentially a hybrid safety, Moore does well. Common sense says we’ll see more of Moore moving forward. That would make even more sense as Kwon Alexander is out. The defense could play more “dime” with Moore as the Rams live in 11 personnel.

How tf are we going to stop Donald from destroying us? Gotta assume lots of bootlegs, end arounds, etc.?

That question is courtesy of “depressed 9er fan.” Expect to see all types of misdirection Sunday night. The Bills did a great job of using misdirection to open up running lanes. I’d suspect we see Deebo Samuel involved in a way that he hasn’t been all year. Donald will always get his; it’s about minimizing his impact. Take a look at who the Rams have played: Washington, the Bills—who lit them up in the first half before taking their foot off the gas—the Giants and the Cowboys Week 1.

Against the Cowboys, Ezekiel Elliot rushed for a first down on 32% of his carries. There’s no logical answer for Mostert not to have 20 touches in this game. You have no choice to respect the motion of the 49ers as Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk will hurt you. That should open up a crease for Mostert to take off. I’m not sure about bootlegs, as it cuts the field in half, but those “slide” routes where the receiver comes across the formation behind the line of scrimmage was there against Miami and should be there against the Rams. That, and RPO’s. This is a favorable matchup for the 49ers offense. They must avoid those disastrous turnovers, though.

What do I gotta do to make any and all conversations about Jimmy G being replaced go away? Especially the ones about Tom B should be here....

Jimmy has to play better. It doesn’t get any simpler than that. At some point, we’re going to have to acknowledge his issues this season aren’t new. For as much that’s been made about the struggles of his play being tied to the offensive line, look at his stats since the Saints game last year, including the playoffs. He’s averaging 180 yards passing per game—a number that’s skewed thanks to two starts where Jimmy only played a half—with an 8/7 TD/INT ratio. Garoppolo is averaging eight yards per attempt, which is promising, but how much of that is tied to the scheme? Here are more numbers from his past nine starts.

Quarterback rating: 46.4

Completion percentage over expectation: -1.6

EPA/play: .12

The league average for QBR this season is 64.9. For CPOE, it’s 3.0, and for EPA per play, it’s .16.

If you want the conversations about replacing Garoppolo to go away, he must start playing like an above-average quarterback. Over his past nine starts, he’s been below average. To make matters worse, Garoppolo is in uncharted territory as he’s turning the ball over, despite not throwing the ball down the field.

The greats mask their offenses deficiencies. We see it every week. Garoppolo needs to elevate an already talented offense instead of holding it back. Until that changes, don’t expect the quarterback conversations to go anywhere.