Heading into the regular season, ESPN’s Football Power Index gave the San Francisco 49ers a 68.4% chance to make the playoffs. On Wednesday, we discussed whether the Niners' preseason expectations were too high. It’s hindsight to say that since everything you point to had this team having success in 2021.
After a four-game losing streak that served as a “how-to” of what not to do, San Francisco’s FPI playoff chances have dipped to 21%. That difference of 47.4% is the second biggest decrease in the NFL, only to the Miami Dolphins, and slightly ahead of the last-place Seattle Seahawks.
ESPN’s Bill Barnwell notes that advanced metrics still like the 49ers more than teams with significantly better records, such as the Chargers, Raiders, and Colts. There’s no shame in losing to Aaron Rodgers, Kyler Murray, and Russell Wilson. It’s the manner in which the 49ers lose that’s driving fans up the wall.
The injury bug has made a home at the 49ers facility as five potential starters have landed on the injured reserve this season, while critical starters such as Trent Williams, Emmanuel Moseley, and Jimmy Garoppolo have missed time.
The cornerback situation went from Moseley and Jason Verrett to a fourth-quarter against the Colts where Josh Norman (33) and Dre Kirkpatrick (32) were on the field. Barnwell pointed out the Niners' strategy of trading up for a player has failed miserably, and their best drafts had come when they stayed put.
As is the case with most of San Francisco’s roster decisions, they all come back to one person:
All of this then figures back to Garoppolo, whose $24.1 million base salary wasn’t guaranteed to start the season. If the 49ers had cut Garoppolo or worked out a deal in March, they could have saved that money and used it to invest in secondary help while also having enough time to bring in a veteran quarterback. They have held onto Garoppolo because they don’t think Lance is ready, but their decision to keep him through camp is what limited their options. Garoppolo didn’t have to be their only alternative to Lance.
Garoppolo’s deal became guaranteed in Week 1. History suggested that he would struggle to stay healthy while producing results that are inconsistent from week to week but competent on the whole when active. That’s exactly the player he has been so far this season. We can be frustrated that the 49ers have dealt with injury issues, but it has been their own choices leading them to vulnerabilities.
Pretending as though there was no other alternative to Garoppolo is Barnwell’s best point. We saw the 49ers have rumored interest in lesser names like Sam Darnold, Teddy Bridgewater, Gardner Minshew, and seemingly every quarterback available last spring.
Garoppolo has been the same player he always has. The only thing that’s changed is his surroundings. As Barnwell mentioned, the team has nobody to blame but themselves.