There has been no safe space for the 49ers this season, one that was to vaguely resemble something celebratory and joyous, even if the players weren’t expected to compete for a NFC West title after an offseason that saw more defections than the Cuban national baseball team. This season was supposed to be a five-month lead-up to Super Bowl 50, which will be played in their swanky, $1.3 billion stadium in Santa Clara, an hour-long, traffic-slogged commute from the city that still bears the team’s name (and will, no doubt, host a majority of the Super Bowl parties and functions). This season was supposed to bear some level of basic football competency, as one does in the NFL. A glimmer of fun along the way would only be a welcome bonus.
Instead, it’s been a season of crushing disappointment in almost every conceivable way. San Francisco, which hosts struggling Cincinnati this Sunday (4:25 p.m. EST, CBS), is 4-9, which feels like a record approximately three wins better than it deserves. They’ve lost star quarterback Colin Kaepernick for the year and possibly for good. Head coach Jim Tomsula is clearly in over his head. The team president was internally demoted. The local media turned against this regime long ago, and now the dysfunction is garnering national attention, even so far as to spur rumors that the York family may try and sell the team. Oracle founder Larry Ellison, who successfully brought the America’s Cup to San Francisco and is desperate to own a sports franchise here, would apparently be ready to jump aboard should the Yorks suddenly want to bail.
Few around the Bay Area really appreciated that it would be this bad. Yes, the Niners seemed headed for a rebuilding year, if only because the roster truly needed to be rebuilt from almost nothing. But they still had a Super Bowl-appearing QB in Kaepernick, their running back of the future in second-year man Carlos Hyde, wide receiver Torrey Smith coming in on a $40 million contract … OK, that’s about it. So yeah, it was always going to be this bad, whether the predictors saw it or not.