On the surface you could look at all the recent success for the San Francisco 49ers and easily assume they’re well on their way to being perennial contenders for a long time to come. But despite their 36-11-1 record over the last three years which included a Super Bowl trip in 2012 and NFC Championship game appearances in both 2011 and 2013 under Jim Harbaugh, the team seems to be falling apart at the seams. While the chaos that surrounds them has done little to affect their on field performance to this point, one gets the sense a little in season adversity is all it would take to send them in a serious tailspin. Of course there’s always the possibility the team will once again overcome off the field issues and locker room strife to rise above the madness, but this team sure feels ripe for an implosion laden with finger pointing. There’s a lot of egos on this team and their resolve seems more fragile with all of the off the field issues. This offseason in particular may be the final nail in the coffin that ends this incredible run they’ve been on.
It all started with the Jim Harbaugh saga. Harbaugh’s tumultuous relationship with the front office despite the team’s success led him to almost getting traded to the Cleveland Browns following the season. Both the Browns and 49ers have since denied those talks took place, but everyone around this business seems to take it as a given. Since then the bad blood within the organization at the top is largely being ignored, but it’s clearly just temporarily dormant on the surface. Harbaugh’s abrasive managing style and his sideline antics have rubbed many people wrong from the front office to the sidelines and some fear the damage is beyond repair. A head coach possibly losing his team is grounds enough for a major implosion, but then you consider what’s happened since.
Colin Kaepernick, the team’s starting quarterback who is a year away from demanding a top tier contract that would likely eat up a nice portion of the team’s cap space, has been caught up in a very serious investigation in Miami. With the red flags that surround this issue, you have to wonder how and if it will affect Kaepernick’s ability to play the 2014 season. Further, does this make the 49ers second guess a long term commitment? If so, the team could be relying on the head scratching offseason trade for -so far colossal draft bust- Blaine Gabbert to maintain success.
Even more recently sackmaster and defensive star Aldon Smith is once again in serious trouble. Smith was just arrested for the charge of a false bomb threat at an airport. How Smith has avoided suspension prior to this incident is already baffling and it’s unlikely Roger Goodell will allow his antics to continue unpunished moving forward. Goodell aside we’ll of course wait for all the facts and court sytem to play, but Kaepernick and Smith could both see time in jail. Those are two of the most critical and recognizable faces on the roster.
Talented as the team may be, I don’t think they’d qualify as one of the more high character teams in the league by any stretch. Sooner or later that will catch up with the 49ers, and 2014 may be the year. What has transpired in the offseason is certainly setting up a very rocky 2014 if the team can’t get off to a good winning start.