Here is a link to my Tuesday column about the 49ers. The full text runs below:
From the Famous Last Words Department: “This isn’t a rebuild situation. This is a reload situation.”
Trent Baalke, poor man, uttered that whopper quote at the Jim Tomsula introductory news conference, a whopper in its own right. Forget reload. If news reports are correct, Baalke has a full-blown rebuild situation on his hands. And that’s quite a situation. Or as William Bendix used to say on “The Life of Riley,” “What a revoltin’ development this is.”
According to the Internet gone wild, 49ers great linebacker Patrick Willis, who sat out part of last season with a bad toe, is retiring because he had a religious conversion. A religious conversion is an important event in a person’s life, a serious event. If this is true, we wish Willis well. He always was a gentleman in my presence. And he was (is?) one hell of a football player.
In addition to his religious conversion, did Willis also have a come-to-God moment? I’m being metaphorical here.
What’s a come-to-God moment in this context?
Could be this. Willis, in all the innocence of his brave heart, took one look at the 49ers’ roster, took one look at the new coaching staff, took one look at the executives who make all the big decisions and said, “Good, Lord, I gotta get out of here.”
It was a matter of self-respect not to mention self-preservation.
Justin Smith apparently reached the same conclusion, or at least seems to be leaning that way. He said Monday he won’t make a final decision known until next week. In his case, it won’t involve God or a conversion. It will involve age and, one assumes, lack of motivation. The great defensive lineman, the man teammates call The Cowboy, couldn’t suffer through all the preparation for one more rodeo knowing what the once-great 49ers have become what they will be next season.
We will miss you, Justin, but we understand why you can’t bear to return.
Let’s get this straight. Two of the 49ers’ best players will retire. Two of the defense’s anchors, stalwarts, leaders. Choose your noun. This is a very bad development because the defense is the best thing about the 49ers. The offense is no big deal. Repeat after me: The offense is no big deal. Hey, we’ve even heard reports quarterback Colin Kaepernick may be on the trading block.
What saves the team — what has saved the team season after season — is the defense. One of the best in the National Football League. A defense to admire. To brag about.
That defense is about to lose two significant players. That defense does not know if NaVorro Bowman still is a good player after suffering a bad injury. That defense doesn’t know how good Aldon Smith will play after all his troubles.
That defense isn’t what it used to be. And that means the 49ers aren’t what they used to be.
Reload situation indeed.
Willis and Smith leaving the team is a vote of no confidence on the state of the 49ers. Vic Fangio leaving the team is a vote of no confidence. Mike Solari leaving the team is a vote of no confidence.
That’s a lot of no confidence going around.
The no confidence has lots to do with rookie head coach Jim Tomsula. Good players don’t want to play for him. Good coaches don’t want to coach for him. Good luck, Jim.
When suckers — I mean fans — paid thousands of dollars for seat licenses, they were paying to see the real 49ers. That’s what they thought. That’s certainly what they were told.
They thought they would see Willis run laterally as fast as a sprinter and grab hold of Marshawn Lynch and bring down that runaway truck. PSL-holding fans thought they would see Justin Smith brush aside an offensive guard like pushing aside a feather and rush Aaron Rodgers or Carson Palmer or Russell Wilson and grab them or other quarterbacks and knock them to the ground for a sack. And they thought they’d see Jim Harbaugh on the sideline screaming at the refs, Harbaugh who almost certainly was pushed out by management.
Forget about all that. Instead of Willis, fans can gaze on Chris Borland, such as he is. Instead of Justin Smith, fans can gaze Tank Carradine, such as he is. Instead of Harbaugh, fans can gaze on Tomsula such as he is. Such as this team is.
Are fans getting their money’s worth?
It’s like they paid for the prime rib dinner au jus and got hamburgers instead. But, hey, the overpriced food at Levi’s Stadium is fancy and there’s Internet access and the so-called “fan experience” is fabulous except for little things like the grass and the team.
Jed York’s kingdom is fast falling down around him. The 49ers are degraded and even good soldiers like Frank Gore, reportedly going to Philadelphia, want out.
How do you like your team now, Jim Tomsula?
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.