Here is a link to my Tuesday column about the 49ers. The full text appears below:
The Seattle Seahawks exploded the San Francisco 49ers’ football program. Set back the franchise for who knows how long.
If you are a 49ers’ fan, if you think my statements are strong, harsh, you are ignoring reality. You are indulging yourself. Funny how one damp gray afternoon in the Pacific Northwest can inflict major harm.
The people who run the 49ers from Jed York on down must ask themselves who they are. Must ask where they are. Nothing less. We are talking deep existential questioning.
Start with this. The 49ers team that just exited the playoffs is loaded. It could be the most talented squad in the NFL, but it’s not getting any better. Understand that. Jim Harbaugh could not win with this team. So, is he going to do better next season when Frank Gore (14 yards rushing Sunday) is 31, when Justin Smith is 35, when NaVorro Bowman (horrible knee injury) may no longer be NaVorro Bowman, when Mike Iupati is recovering from a busted leg or maybe isn’t even a 49er anymore? When Anquan Boldin may leave as a free agent?
You tell me. This was the Niners’ shot — this season, last Sunday. For this group, the shot may be gone forever.
You want more?
What happened in Seattle must make York and general manager Trent Baalke question the coaches. It should. And that means question Jim Harbaugh. At the end of the game with everything still possible, the coaches blew it. The loss was on the coaches. Sure, Colin Kaepernick threw that miserable interception. No need to go over that again.
But Harbaugh and his overrated offensive coordinator Greg Roman (17 points against Seattle) made a mess of the clock like they always do when coaches need calm and forethought and presence, need that special coaching demeanor. These guys just freaked. You could see them freak.
The Niners had first down at the Seahawks’ 18 with 30 seconds left in the game. Why they let the clock wind down to 30 seconds is still anyone’s guess. But they still had two timeouts. Those they had. Pure gold.
What you do then is obvious. You call timeout. You take a deep breath. You gather yourself. You think about your playbook and you call the best play for that moment with the entire season on the line. Not some warmed-over loser from the previous Super Bowl, a play that flopped three times in a row. A proven loser. And you don’t have the gall to go up against the best cornerback in the league. You use your brains.
But the 49ers’ coaches lost control of the game when they most needed control of the game. They rushed in a play and attacked the wrong defender and, naturally, Kaepernick — “Kaeper-pick” — loused it up. Hello, postseason.
I’m going to invoke Bill Walsh. Bear with me. He would have scored from the 18 with either Joe Montana or Steve Young.
He would have won on Sunday. He would have managed the clock and he would have taught his quarterback to read the receivers and he would have called the right play. He would have kept his poise when Harbaugh lost his. FYI, he would have won last season’s Super Bowl, because he would have known which play to call at the Ravens’ goal line.
How do I know Walsh would have won these games? Because he won three Super Bowls with worse talent than Harbaugh has. He won his first Super Bowl his third season. Harbaugh just completed his third season.
Not long ago, Harbaugh was the hottest coach on Earth. The Texas job opened up and people said he could have been a Longhorn for a cool 10 million a year. There’s been talk of York giving him an extension?
Why? Based on what?
York would pay a fortune to a winner. Is Harbaugh a winner? Not really. He is what you call a semi-winner. Look at his record. Just look at the data. Twice, he’s flopped in the NFC title game, once in the Super Bowl. He is a high-level loser, a man who gets close but can’t close the deal. It’s possible he’s taken this team as far as he can.
Possible. People in power need to consider this. We’re talking explosion.
Then there’s the case of Kaepernick. Another high-level loser. He can’t win in Seattle. He choked on Sunday, not the first time. He threw a crummy pass to Michael Crabtree, that awful pick that ended the game. He never looked at other receivers — two others existed at that moment. He went into the play telling himself he would throw to Crabtree no matter what. Just awful.
So, is he the franchise quarterback, this not-so-young-anymore — he turns 27 next season — who reserves all his worst mistakes for the fourth quarter when the game is on the line and he needs to be cool? He looks cool wearing his headphones. He’s not cool on the field.
Niners’ fans are angry at Seattle’s Richard Sherman. Disgusted. It wasn’t enough he tipped that final pass to Malcolm Smith for the game-ending pick. He had the nerve to mouth off afterward, called Crabtree “mediocre” and “sorry.” How rude of the man. No class.
Well, here’s the deal. You win, you can say whatever you want. On Monday, Sherman apologized for his words but didn’t take them back. Don’t complain about Sherman’s mouth, as Crabtree did in tweets. How weak. Stand up and take it. Or better yet, shut up Sherman the right way.
Catch the pass. Win the game. Don’t explode the franchise.
For more on the world of sports in general and the Bay Area in particular, go to the Cohn Zohn at cohn.blogs.pressdemocrat.com. You can reach Staff Columnist Lowell Cohn at firstname.lastname@example.org.