When you lose a game in the NFL, Monday mornings are reserved for "the sky is falling" mentality. When you lose to a divisional opponent that's playing its backup quarterback, left tackle, two backup receivers, and manage to get outgained by 100 yards while turning it over three times, people will want heads to roll.
Let's talk about some dos and don'ts for 49ers moving forward. Is the sky falling? Not yet. Is the sky visible or getting increasingly closer and closer? You bet.
Do - Release Josh Norman
You have to draw the line somewhere. Am I saying you can pin the loss on Norman? Not even close. In the grand scheme of things, Norman's penalty didn't hurt as the defense allowed a field goal. We shouldn't be looking at that play only based on the result.
Check out Norman here:
You are down two touchdowns at home, and the offense is inside of your red zone about to score again. And you...are talking trash to the opposing head coach? Where is the self-awareness at? To make matters worse, multiple teammates attempt to calm Norman down. But, instead of heeding their advice, Norman lets his emotions get the best of him and gets more upset.
Tavon Wilson showed signs of leadership from the first practice during training camp. Unfortunately, Norman treats Wilson like a practice squad player. You can't do that. You can't put yourself above the team. Norman did that.
The 49ers DB coach elected to bench Norman for the remainder of the game. After the game, Nick Bosa, a man of few words, was asked about Norman's fumble. He said, "yeah, that was one we could've avoided." To me, there's no reason Norman should remain a Niner.
Don't - Blame DeMeco Ryans
It's not an excuse when you say which players were on the field. The 49ers looked like a defense that fielded several backups. Injuries are not the fault of Ryans. This team is always hurt. Kentavius Street and Kevin Givens shouldn't be playing a combined 40 snaps.
There was a reason the Cardinals were successful of 45% of their rushes, and a significant part of that was the safety play. We're used to seeing Jimmie Ward and Jaquiski Tartt come crashing down. Talanoa Hufanga was slow to trigger and his lack of a second gear was evident. Wilson was not aggressive, and that hurt, too. You can't blame Ryans for either of those.
The Cardinals were up 7-0 in the first quarter and faced a 3rd & 18 on their 12-yard line. Azeez Al-Shaair misses a tackle on James Conner, and there wasn't a Niner defender within 20 yards of the ball. Think about that. On third and forever, there's one person on the side of the field? One play later, Arizona runs a trick play, and both safeties mess up.
The tackling was an abomination all game. Players were in a position to make a play but failed time and time again. I'm not blaming Ryans for backups making mistakes or missing tackles.
The 49ers' style of play is predictable on defense. They're banking on getting pressure from their front four, and when that doesn't happen, the secondary — a group they haven't invested in — gets exposed. That's not on Ryans.
It's fair to be upset about the lack of physicality from the defense. Arizona played hard on Sunday while San Francisco thought they could roll the ball out and the Cardinals would rollover.
Do - Get mad about the consistent turnovers
The only team with a worse turnover differential than the 49ers this season is the New York Jets. San Francisco's turnover luck this season has been terrible. They are -9. Fred Warner had both hands on the ball Sunday, and the defense failed to recover the fumble. That play summed up the 49ers season.
No team has turned the ball over more than the 49ers during Shanahan’s tenure. San Francisco has a -44 (!!) turnover differential. That seems impossible.
We have to account for the emotional side of the sport. When you are continually shooting yourselves in the foot, the offense and defense have these "here we go again" thoughts. You start to press, make mistakes, and we're seeing the results play out.
George Kittle's fumble was avoidable, as was Brandon Aiyuk's. It's difficult to get upset at those plays from a macro point of view, knowing that those plays happen every game. But, unfortunately, they only seem to happen to the 49ers. Outside of the Bears game, I'm not sure the 49ers have had a game where they didn't turn the ball over multiple times.
Is the fix as simple as doing more ball security drills? Probably not. Something has to change, and it doesn't seem like Shanahan has an answer based on the postgame presser. That's concerning and why you should be upset about the turnovers.
Don't - Pull the plug just yet
The 49ers are 3-5 and have not played like a good team. When your only wins are against bottom-feeder teams in the league, you don't get the benefit of the doubt to mention you in the same breath as other playoff teams.
San Francisco will face a ticked-off Rams team next Monday night at home. I think we all know what to expect to happen in Week 10. After that, the 49ers have the Jaguars, Vikings, Seahawks, Falcons, and Texans squeezed in between the Titans and Rams finale.
I'm not going to sit here and sell you a dream that the 49ers will finish this season 12-5. One of the main reasons to be frustrated with this team is we know they'll reel off wins and remain competitive. There is too much talent on this roster for them to pull the plug on the season.
Making the playoffs feels like a pipedream. Still, nine wins aren't far-fetched with their schedule and the potential of an upset win or two. Another reason is the NFC. Look around. Everyone is struggling — which is why a loss to Colt McCoy stings. There would be nothing more "49ers" than losing to McCoy and turning around and beating the Rams.
Do - Wonder what the plan is/was for the rookie draft class and the direction of the team
The 49ers have essentially fielded the same team that went below .500 in 2020. Garoppolo is back, which tells you they thought Jimmy would be the difference in a playoff run. The team has gotten next to nothing from its 2021 draft class.
It's not fair to Garoppolo, but everything comes back to him. Jimmy became irrelevant the second the team tied multiple first-round picks to another quarterback this season. Instead of building around Trey Lance and using the money available on Garoppolo's contract to add, I don't know, a secondary, a veteran offensive lineman, any other position, they thought a healthy Garoppolo would be enough.
So, Lance has given them one start, and that game went about as you'd expect for a quarterback who hadn't played in a live game in two seasons.
We are headed into Week 10, and second-round pick Aaron Banks has been a healthy scratch in all but one game. Right guard Daniel Brunskill had blocks where I'm not sure that he got a hand on the Cardinals defender in front of him. If Banks is worse than what Brunskill has shown...
You traded up in the third round for a running back. Trey Sermon was a healthy scratch Sunday. Supposedly, the team doesn't think Sermon makes the correct reads behind the line of scrimmage and dances too much. If that's true, you have an evaluation issue.
You're getting tremendous value out of Elijah Mitchell. However, that doesn't take away from missing on your Day 2 picks — where you find valuable depth and build the meat of your roster.
What's the plan? What is the direction of the team? Drafting Banks suggests that you wanted to run more gap schemes. You can't be upset that a 330-pound man doesn't fit your outside-zone running scheme. Sermon has never been the type of physical back that Jeff Wilson is. Why is this a surprise?
The personnel decisions continue to haunt the 49ers. The players brought in aren't married with the scheme. Samson Ebukam was the free-agent prize this offseason, and he'd never played full-time as an edge rusher.
When you think of a Shanahan-led offense, you think of a team that loves to run the ball and use play-action off that. Mithcell had eight carries Sunday after averaging 7.6 yards per carry on 18 attempts the week prior.
Garoppolo didn't play poorly Sunday, but expecting to win when he has to throw 40 times is a death wish. We saw him clutch the ball and drop his eyes when the first read isn't open due to phantom pressure. We saw high throws that should have hit the receivers in stride.
The path of this team is unclear. It shows with the lack of discipline on the field, and it's reflected in their record. Perhaps, it's time for Shanahan to relinquish control of personnel duties so he can see the big picture. It's time to bring in players who aren't "your guys," i.e., Mohamed Sanu, and trust the guys on your staff who do this year round.
Shanahan's vision for this team hasn't worked. We don't have evidence that he has a long-term plan. Look no further than the rookie class. The 49ers' problems aren't solely on Shanahan, but they start with him.