How to Fix the San Francisco 49ers
It is Election Day! As we elect a new Commander-in-Chief, it would be a great luxury for San Francisco 49ers fans if we were able to do the same with the team's owner. Unfortunately, there is no such way we can get rid of Jed York unless he miraculously sells the team to somebody more competent. The 49ers are in a tailspin and are somehow doing worse than they were at the midpoint of 2015, so it's important to know exactly how to change the 49ers by the end of the season.
Step One: Fire Trent Baalke
It's important to start from the top. If we can't get rid of the owner then the next best thing would be to fire the general manager. He was the person that should have been relieved from his duties rather than former head coach Jim Harbaugh during the team's power struggle. He has made questionable draft choice after questionable draft choice and has yet to address the issues that have plagued the 49ers for the last two seasons since Harbaugh's departure.
A lot of the success that Baalke had received during the years when the 49ers were making NFC Championship appearances were due to decisions made by previous GM Scot McCloughan. Many of McCloughan's draft choices and offseason acquisitions were the reasons as to why the 49ers were able to achieve some form of success during the Harbaugh era.
It's evident that the franchise won't be going in the right direction anytime soon with Baalke still making the decisions. The team already has a front office candidate in waiting as the Assistant GM Tom Gamble can step in and take over.
Step Two: Give Chip Kelly One More Year
Yes, the team is actually doing much worse at this point than they were one year ago under the guidance of Jim Tomsula. But Chip Kelly is no Tomsula. He actually has credibility and a track record of success at the pro level.
The struggles with the team aren't entirely to do with the offense either. The team is currently fifth in the league in rushing the ball and is finally starting to see some success in throwing the ball with Colin Kaepernick finding his rhythm in the system that Kelly has implemented.
It has primarily been defensive coordinator Jim O'Neil who has not lived up to his end. The team is currently last in yards allowed, rushing yards allowed and points allowed. We can point fingers all we want at the fact that we're missing a lot of players on the defense due to injury, but it still goes back to the coaching of the defense as to why San Francisco is doing so poorly. If anything, they need to fire O'Neil.
Step Three: Focus on Defense During the Offseason
The one bright spot about the defense is that the team is currently eleventh in passing yards allowed -- which isn't much of a compliment for such a woeful unit. If the team wants to get back to where they were as Super Bowl contenders just a few seasons ago, then they need to start with what got them there:
- A strong running game (currently fifth in the league in this category)
- A capable head coach (give Kelly another year, not every coach is best in his first year with a rebuilding team)
- A great overall defense (priority number one in the offseason)
For the 49ers to get to where they need to be, they need to help out the front seven. They already have some key pieces on the defense with NaVorro Bowman, Arik Armstead, DeForest Buckner and Aaron Lynch but they will need more help than that if they are going to get back to NFC Championship-caliber defense.
The first part of it would be to find a coordinator that is capable of taking over this defense. Jaguars head coach Gus Bradley could be on his way out of his current job and would be a prime candidate to pursue if the team wants somebody who is familiar with the NFC West and has the ability to change a defense. The next step is to help the interior defense by getting Bowman a new running mate at the inside linebacker position -- namely through the first three rounds of the NFL Draft (unlike last draft when San Francisco chose not to go after an inside linebacker at all) and then picking up a nose tackle much like Ian Williams (hopefully without the injury problems).
Finally, allow players like Ahmad Brooks and Antoine Bethea to walk so that the 49ers can develop the young guys behind them such as Jaquiski Tartt, Ronald Blair and Eli Harold.
Step Four: Address the QB Issue Immediately
Whether it would be through a trade or the draft, the 49ers are in desperate need of a franchise quarterback. Kaepernick isn't going to be the starter next year and neither is Blaine Gabbert. The quarterback position has been a questionable spot for quite some time now and it won't go away just because of Kaepernick's near 400-yard performance. This team is going to need somebody that is capable of leading this offense and giving this team a chance to win ball games again.
Step Five: Add Depth to the Playmaking Positions
One of the things Baalke did was add depth to many of the positions on the team. Although many of the moves that he made have panned out pretty well on the defensive side of the ball, the same can not be said about what he has done with the offensive side. A lot of the choices at the wide receiver and running back positions have been questionable at best as there isn't a true playmaker on the offense aside from Carlos Hyde (who still can't stay healthy).
The backup running backs have been good pass-catching options but nothing too much in the running game. A great amount of the receivers, including top option Torrey Smith, haven't been able to prove that they are anything more than just one-trick ponies. Torrey Smith is an overpaid deep threat, Quinton Patton has his moments but isn't entirely reliable and somehow Jeremy Kerley is the best option at the receiver position. Vance McDonald still has a drop problem and Garrett Celek has done nothing to show that he's like his brother, Eagles veteran tight end Brent Celek.
We need answers at these positions immediately otherwise the offense is going to remain near the bottom of the league.
All in all this process isn't going to be solved immediately. This rebuilding project will most likely take longer than we can tolerate, but in the end it is important that we can all come together to resolve this issue.
Mitchell Blahut is an NFC West writer for the San Francisco 49ers. You can follow him on Twitter @mablahut21.