Clay Matthews said it best: "You ain't Russell Wilson, bro."
Those were his words to Colin Kaepernick on Sunday, as the Packers beat the 49ers 17-3. Through four games, San Francisco has scored five offensive touchdowns, including two thrown by Kaepernick, one run by Kaepernick, and two run in by Carlos Hyde. They are 32nd in points scored, 31st in total yards, 32nd in passing yards, 32nd in net yards per pass attempt, 27th in points allowed, 30th in net yards per pass allowed, and 30th in rushing yards allowed.
I guess I could have just said, "The 49ers are so terrible you wouldn't believe it" like I was Dustin Hoffman tied to a dentist's chair, but San Francisco's current performance is even more torturous than that. And it all pretty much centers around the fact that without Jim Harbaugh, Kaepernick looks like he's closer to being the next Josh Freeman than he does the next Joe Montana.
Kaepernick is completing 62.7% of his passes for 6.3 yards per attempt with two touchdowns and five interceptions. The last QB to throw at least 100 passes in his team's first four games and gain two or fewer touchdowns with five or more interceptions was Christian Ponder in 2013. Eleven others have done it in this century, including Kyle Boller, Ryan Leaf, Chris Simms, Aaron Brooks and Kerry Collins. However, that list also includes Ben Roethlisberger, Donovan McNabb, Kurt Warner, and Drew Brees.
So is too soon to write off Kaepernick after three horrible games and one very good one?
Well, it's not as though Kaepernick is coming off of a very good season either. Over his last 19 games, Kaepernick has 19 touchdowns, 15 interceptions, a passer rating of 81, 6.8 Y/A, with 823 rushing yards and two touchdowns and San Francisco is 8-11. This season they added Torrey Smith, who is doing normal Torrey Smith things. (Making big catches, but not a lot of catches.) People will also probably start to ask if Anquan Boldin is finished now at age 35, as he's averaging 8.3 YPC and 31 YPG. Vernon Davis has just 354 yards in his last 17 games.
There are plenty of issues outside of Kaepernick, and Kaepernick has done something rarely seen in the NFL: He's shown in the past that he can play quarterback at a very high level. So this is what I assume could probably happen to the San Francisco 49ers between now and May:
They fire Jim Tomsula after one season, maybe less. They might fire him midseason and give the interim tag to Eric Mangini, see how he does. The 49ers lose between 12-14 games. (On average, they are losing 27.5-12 right now and they that's even after they won their first game 20-3.) They part ways with Boldin, Davis (both are free agents), and use their ~$50 million in cap space to sign a couple more receivers, tight ends. They use a top-five pick on an offensive tackle, because that's probably going to be the in-demand position in the first round of the 2016 draft.
I suppose one thing that would be interesting, though admittedly I have no idea if it's the job that would pull him away from college, is if Nick Saban would leave Alabama for San Francisco. It's a prestige job, he's a prestige coach, the 49ers had success hiring a college coach before, he's probably done as much as he can with Alabama, he's still yet to prove he can win in the NFL which he probably wants to do ... If Jed York was going to start feeling out the market before he fires Tomsula, I would think he starts with Saban or something like him. Perhaps the biggest issue will be, "How much control does he want and where does that leave Trent Baalke?"
Hey, isn't that same strategy working for the Eagles right now?!
Does that make them better? I don't know. But the Raiders aren't the only Michael-Jackson-eating-popcorn.gif show in the bay anymore.
Cards down, Rams up, that's the way I like to.... F*#k?
Before Sunday's game between Arizona and St. Louis, of course everyone in Seattle was rooting for a Rams upset. It would mean that the Cards didn't get out to a 4-0 start and nobody really expects St. Louis to make the playoffs, so who cares if they improve to 2-2.
But maybe it isn't as good of a thing as we thought it might be?
The Rams stopped the runaway train that was "the Arizona Cardinals" this week in a 24-22 win that ended when Carson Palmer had three plays to gain two yards but threw three straight incompletions to turn it over on downs with 1:44 left. On the next play from scrimmage, St. Louis running back Todd Gurley ran for 20 yards, then -4 yards, then two yards, then 30 yards.
Gurley ran for 48 yards on the final drive, which is more than Tre Mason has all season. He finished with 146 yards on 19 carries and while I don't want get all hottake (pronounced like bukkake and meaning "to spew a bunch of hot takes all over your face"), it's reasonable to wonder if Gurley is going to be the best running back in the NFL over the next 6-7 years.
He was so good that he overshadowed a performance by Nick Foles that included three touchdowns and no interceptions. This season, Foles has a passer rating of 122 in two games against NFC West opponents and 74.8 in the other two. Of course, that's the biggest thing so far: The Rams are 2-0 in the NFC West and have beaten the two best teams in the division, one of them in their home stadium. Is that going to be the advantage that puts them over the top come December, if they even stay relevant to December at all?
Which ... they might not.
St. Louis is still playing well when they shouldn't, and shitting the bed when they should be cleaning up. They beat Seattle and Arizona, but lost to Washington and Pittsburgh, even after knocking Roethlisberger out of the game still only down six and plenty of time left. That means that the Rams will beat the Packers in Lambeau next week, then following a bye, will lose at home to the Browns and 49ers. They are third in YPC and fifth in net yards per pass attempt allowed, but 26th in points scored and dead last in first downs gained. They have 17 sacks (no surprise) but if they're down by any points in the fourth quarter, do they have the offensive firepower to come back?
I mean ... when's the last time St. Louis was down late in the fourth quarter of a game against a good opponent with almost no hope to win and managed to throw a prayer of a pass to a little-used tight end for a late victory? Seriously, just name one time.
Injury-wise, the Rams did lose leading tackler Alec Ogletree to an ankle injury that required surgery. He was a very important part of the defense and it is a significant loss for them. But is it as significant as the literal loss for the Cardinals?
Arizona really needed this win at home. Here's what happens when three of your first four games come in your home stadium: The Cards go on the road for four of their next five games and six of their next eight.
They have back-to-back road games with Detroit and Pittsburgh, back-to-back with Cleveland and Seattle, then back-to-back with San Francisco and St. Louis. That 4-0 cushion would have been a huge help for them getting out to a big lead on the Seahawks and essentially would've knocked out the Rams, but here we are.
The truth is that Arizona's defense didn't really have any sort of lapse. They only allowed 13 first downs, their rushing defense was only okay not great, Foles didn't blow them up for a lot of yards he just protected the football. Tavon Austin scored two receiving touchdowns (something he's done twice before in his career, even though he's never scored just one receiving touchdown in a game). Mostly this was just a normal game for the Cardinals and that's a good thing: It proves they can be beaten even when they're playing their usual type of game.
Seattle and Arizona first meet in Week 10 in CenturyLink on Sunday Night Football. Right now the Cards are 3-1, while the Seahawks will look to get to 2-2 on Monday night. (If they lose to Detroit at home and fall to 1-3, then we can scrap all future articles about their playoff chances.) That's a one game deficit for Seattle with four games between Week 4 and Week 10.
The Cards play @DET, @PIT, BAL, bye, @CLE
The Seahawks play @CIN, CAR, @SF, @DAL, bye
Arizona's schedule seems easier, but anything could happen between now and then. It was a year ago that people couldn't believe that Seattle could catch up to first place in the division after they were 6-4 and the Cards were 9-1. Now it's hard to believe that the Cards were ever 9-1.
Still lots of football left to play, but the top three spots in the NFC West are tighter than expected, while that team on the bottom is firmly entrenched.