San Francisco 49ers 2017 Season Simulation
It’s a word so deplorable and hateful for sports fans that it ought to be an expletive. Were it not so ubiquitous to the situations of struggling franchises throughout sports history—that word is “rebuilding,” and whether the 49er faithful like it or not, the ‘9ers are going to be doing a lot of that over the next few seasons. It’s a jagged pill for any sports fan to swallow, made even more bitter in this instance since a narrow 4 or 5 years ago the 49ers seemed to have put it all together again. In consecutive years, the 49ers played in an NFC Championship and a Super Bowl, in the first two years of coach Jim Harbaugh‘s professional career—the 49ers’ defense was reliably competing with their divisional rival Seattle Seahawks for the NFL’s best. Colin Kaepernick and Alex Smith both began showing flashes of brilliance under their former head coach and it seemed that the 49ers were poised to be an NFL powerhouse franchise for years to come.
Then Jed York happened.
The details of exactly what transpired between York and Harbaugh after the 49ers’ loss in Super Bowl XLVII are not widely known, but the general consensus among those within the organization is that they just couldn’t get along. Now, I could get really deep into why it isn’t an owner’s job to “get along” with his head coach, or how money can’t buy practical football experience, but it wouldn’t make a spot of difference. The fact of the matter is that Jed York fired Jim Harbaugh and the players who respected him as a coach either retired early or found their way out through free agency. Now, what remains is a smoldering crater where something incredible might have been. Let’s get out our shovels now and dig into this crater, game by game.
Week 1 (9/10) Vs. Carolina Panthers
Despite the condition of the 49ers’ roster and completely overhauled coaching staff, they always seem to find new ways to impress and inspire their fans, en route to disappointing them again. In spite of how this looks on paper, the 49ers have a knack for jumping on teams in Week 1 and looking like world beaters, perhaps due to the fact that their lack of an identity makes them both unpredictable and tempting to overlook. I think that the 49ers will surprise Cam Newton and the Panthers in Week 1, which will lead to wild speculation and ridiculous overreactions on both sides.
Result: Win 27-24
Week 2 (9/17) @ Seattle Seahawks
Back to life and back to reality. The Seahawks know better than to overlook the 49ers, and by now the video from the Carolina game will have circulated and Seattle will know what to expect from Brian Hoyer and Carlos Hyde. The Seahawks are going to stack the box and crush Hyde’s opportunities between the tackles and Hoyer is going to lose the rest of his hair trying to beat the Seattle corners in single coverage. I’m also not overly optimistic about Hoyer’s ability to escape Seattle’s pass rush.
Result: Loss 42-9
Week 3 (9/21) Vs. Los Angeles Rams
This was once a great rivalry of the Titans in the NFC which has fallen in both qualities of play and prestige. These teams, each rebuilding in their own way, will battle their hearts out to try and prove that they are not the awful disappointments that their fans see when they look at them. I think this one will be close, as it’s going to be rare that either of these teams faces a team as bad as they are. I think the 49ers will squeak out an overtime win in what might be called the “Rebuilding Bowl.”
Result: Win (OT) 17-14
Week 4 (10/1) @ Arizona Cardinals
This seems like about the time when the wheels will come off for the 49ers’ rebuilding effort. Up to this point, they’ve probably looked like a real team with a chance of success, but this rivalry with Arizona is not a playful rivalry and the Cardinals have years of being shown no mercy by their divisional rival when the 49ers really were the best in the league and the Cards were trapped in a long cycle of rebuilding years. This also feels like the time when injuries start to stack up against our paper-thin roster. Hyde will probably go down with an ankle or head injury and some corner that no one’s ever heard of will go down and suddenly the secondary (a weakness from last year, largely ignored in the 49ers’ rebuilding process) will become a speed track for Arizona’s impressive stable of receivers and dual-threat running backs.
Result: Loss 48-10
Week 5 (10/8) @ Indianapolis Colts
Much has been made of the 49ers drafting of Reuben Foster and Solomon Thomas, both of whom are already having their name batted around for Rookie of the Year consideration—and while all signs point to these young men becoming great assets for the 49ers in years to come, neither addresses the porous secondary that was absolutely decimated by quarterbacks last season and playing the Colts, in the dome without a reliable shutdown corner is a recipe for disaster. Whether Andrew Luck is back from his injury or not, whoever is under center will find lots of opportunities deep and Frank Gore will undoubtedly go a little harder against his former team.
Result: Loss 36-14
Week 6 (10/15) @ Washington Redskins
Another franchise in the midst of rebuilding, but the Redskins at least seem to have found their identity at quarterback with Kirk Cousins. I think that this will be a closer game than most of the other losses I’m predicting, but once again, the 49ers’ lack of a reliable secondary will be the difference.
Result: Loss 21-20
Week 7 (10/22) Vs. Dallas Cowboys
Another of the NFL’s Classic rivalry games, going back to a time when these two teams used to be the dominant forces in football and whichever one of them surpassed the other in the NFC would go on to win the Super Bowl. In modern times, the Cowboys seem to have jumped to the head of the line in their rebuilding process, adding quarterback Dak Prescott and running back Ezekiel Elliot, both of whom enjoyed tremendous success last year. The thing about young players, though, is that they sometimes lose track of the importance of historic rivalries like this one, and as I mentioned earlier, the 49ers lead the league in their ability to be overlooked by superior teams. I like the 49ers to surprise the Cowboys in this game when they will be looking to their playoff chances a little prematurely.
Result: Win 17-14
Week 8 (10/29) @ Philadelphia Eagles
This is a tough one to call because by this point in the season the weather will start limiting colder climate teams to just go deep against the 49ers and depending on the health of Carlos Hyde, a bad weather slug-fest could favor the 49ers. I think this one goes into overtime, but the rowdy Philly fans make enough of a difference to deliver a win for their beloved Eagles at home.
Result: Loss (OT) 13-10
Week 9 (11/5) Vs. Arizona Cardinals
I’d like to say that I believe in the 49ers’ ability to bounce back against a tough opponent, but I still can’t see that 49ers secondary stopping the passing attack of the Cardinals for four quarters. A heartbreaker at home, the Cardinals eek out a road win in the final two minutes of regulation.
Result: Loss 14-10
Week 10 (11/12) Vs. New York Giants
The Giants are always a mystery to me, a team that seems to have it all together, enjoying a great amount of success in recent years, yet I still never quite know what to expect from Eli Manning. Sometimes he’s brilliant, looks like a world-beater and Odell Beckham Jr. catches everything that comes his way. Other weeks, Eli will be easily rattled and quick to frustration. I actually think that the 49ers’ pass rush gets there a few times in this game and rattles Eli, scraping out another win.
Result: Win 28-20
Week 12 (11/26) Vs. Seattle Seahawks
Coming off of a bye week, playing their biggest rival at home, coming off of a decent win—expectations will be sky high for the 49ers coming into this game. Maybe we’ve found our route back to competitive parody, maybe we can build on that win and actually make something of this season, maybe we can compete in our division again! Then Russell Wilson will say, “or maybe not.”
Result: Loss 35-3
Week 13 (12/3) @ Chicago Bears
The weather may play a factor in this one, but even in a low scoring game that favors the 49ers’ strengths, I don’t think that any of the 49ers’ offensive weapons can consistently beat an above average defense like Chicago.
Result: Loss 13-6
Week 14 (12/10) @ Houston Texans
Terrible matchup for the 49ers; played indoors and DeAndre Hopkins is going to put on a clinic against the 49ers’ below average cornerbacks. Houston might even rest some of their starters in the fourth quarter.
Result: Loss 34-17
Week 15 (12/17) Vs. Tennessee Titans
Overall, I think that the Titans are a much better team than the 49ers this year and they seem to have found their answer in quarterback Marcus Mariota, but at this point, I think that Kyle Shanahan will be looking for other ways to make something or anything positive happen for his new club. By this point in a rebuilding year, people start panicking from the top down and people start losing their jobs. I think that C.J. Beathard sees his first action in this game and flashes a little cause for optimism. Mariota and Co. will still win the day, but a shootout at home might give the 49ers Faithful and their trigger-happy ownership something to smile about.
Result: Loss 48-45
Week 16 (12/24) Vs. Jacksonville Jaguars
With a new quarterback under center, most of the coaching staff fighting for their jobs and Jed York desperate for someone other than himself to blame, the 49ers are likely to flash a little bit of urgency in this game between teams that are both statistically (I predict) eliminated from the playoffs. I don’t expect the Jaguars to make it easy, but I like the 49ers to squeeze one more win out of this dumpster fire of a season.
Result: Win 21-17
Week 17 (12/31) @ Los Angeles Rams
It’ll be New Year’s Eve when these old rivals square off again for the last game in either of their seasons. Each will be trying to avoid being the last place team in the division. The Rams get their revenge in this hard fought (but mostly irrelevant) game. Regardless of the outcome, neither of these teams take a snap in the playoffs.
Result: Loss 24-21
2017 Season Results: 5-11
Ugly? Yeah, you bet it’s going to be ugly but rebuilding is seldom pretty. Much like giving birth, losing weight or rebuilding the framework of a once proud football dynasty, most of it isn’t going to be pretty. Yet, we football fans continue to hope, in spite of ourselves. We can hope that the 49ers can continue to capitalize on prime draft positions. We can hope that Jed York learns a little patience and doesn’t clean house every time the 49ers don’t win a Super Bowl. We can hope that the current coaching staff and the roster will be left alone long enough to gel into a cohesive unit—but most of all, we hope that next year will be better.