Mark Purdy suggested in this morning’s San Jose Mercury-News that yesterday might go down as the worst day in 49ers’ history, unless today is even worse. At least when it comes down to off-the-field news, he might be right. Free agents Gore, Crabtree, Iupati and Skuta are gone, or presumed gone (hours before the free agent signing period begins); Patrick Willis confirmed that he’s retiring, amid an NBC report that Justin Smith will do the same; and Santa Clara police confirmed Bruce Miller was arrested last week on a domestic violence charge.
Niners’ owner Jed York and general manager Trent Baalke can’t be pleased, and it would be an understatement to say that for 49er fans, York’s popularity is at an all-time low, particularly the news conference announcing the team’s parting with head coach Jim Harbaugh, and his insistence that it was a “mutual parting,” because “that’s what it says in the press release.” York comes across as smarmy, even to the most forgiving of Niner fans.
But York and Baalke could eliminate much of this pessimism by making smart decisions during this free-agency signing period, and during the college draft. And the team itself could create a new sense of optimism and excitement by getting off to a good start to the 2015 season in September. Could it happen? Of course it could. Darnell Dockett could effectively replace Justin Smith, if indeed Smith retires; Chris Borland effectively replaced the injured Patrick Willis last season, when the Niners statistically had the fourth best defense in the NFL; Carlos Hyde could effectively replace Frank Gore, and given his youth, may exceed what Gore would have produced at this stage of his career; and Torrey Smith could give the 49ers the deep threat they’ve long lacked, that after Anquon Boldin told CBS Sports, “it’s a done deal,” that Smith—his former teammate in Baltimore—is signing with the 49ers.
This doesn’t address the potential replacement for left guard Mike Iupati, and a myriad of other questions. But as much as I am turned off by Jed York public persona—and I definitely am—I know that he and the 49ers will have a chance this fall to eliminate the pessimism and cynicism surrounding the team. Whether they succeed is a huge question that remains to be answered.