49ers’ roster steadily falling apart

Updated: August 7, 2015
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Patrick Willis, Justin Smith, Chris Culliver, Chris Borland, Perrish Cox, Frank Gore, Michael Crabtree, Mike Iupati and Anthony Davis are just a few names that will no longer be on the San Francisco 49ers‘ roster this upcoming season. Four of those players retired, all coming as a surprise, and some decided to skip town and start fresh with new teams.

But each player listed was a starter last season, and was for the majority of their careers while in San Francisco. They were all productive on the field, and played a style of football that was perfect for the team’s identity.

But not only did the 49ers lose out on a number of big-name players, they also lost their head coach, in Jim Harbaugh — the man that led them to three NFC Championship games, one resulting in a trip to the Super Bowl. In his four years spent roaming the sidelines for the Niners, Harbaugh had a combined regular-season record of 44-19-1, and 5-3 in the playoffs. With a young quarterback in place, in Colin Kaepernick, a consistent running back in Gore, a bruising offensive line and a strong defense, you would have thought the 49ers would be a team to beat in the NFC for a long, long time.

But, things started to fall apart. They fired Harbaugh, for a reason I’ve still yet to wrap my head around. They allowed Gore — one of their most consistent players over the last decade — to get away and sign with the Indianapolis Colts. Crabtree is just minutes away playing with Oakland, Iupati is now with the Arizona Cardinals, one of the Niners’ divisional rivals, Cox signed with the Tennessee Titans, and Culliver will now lineup as a member of the Washington Redskins.

To add fuel to the fire, on Friday morning, outside linebacker Aldon Smith was arrested, again, for a hit-and-run, DUI and vandalism. It was his fifth run-in with the law, and the team finally decided that they’ve had enough. He was released just hours after the news was reported.

So, where will the 49ers go from here? Have they officially hit rebuild mode?

The division they plan in, the NFC West, is one of the toughest in the NFL. The Seattle Seahawks aren’t going anywhere, the Cardinals have become a legit threat, and the St. Louis Rams are hoping to improve with a new quarterback in place: Nick Foles.

New head coach Jim Tomsula has his hands full with this now-depleted roster. They did add a few pieces over the offseason, in former Cardinals defensive lineman Darnell Dockett, former Detroit Lions running back Reggie Bush, former Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Torrey Smith and former Miami Dolphins linebacker Philip Wheeler. But was it enough to keep them relevant? Was it enough to replace all that they’ve lost?

I honestly don’t believe so.

The only two remaining defensive starters from the 2012 team that made it to the Super Bowl are linebackers NaVorro Bowman and Ahmad Brooks. There are many holes to fill, and they just seem to be a team on the decline. Even though they finished last season with an average 8-8 record, they played a lot worse. They didn’t seem motivated, and the aggression that we became accustomed to watching out of them was no longer on display.

It’s the reason why rumors started circulating that Harbaugh wasn’t getting through to the players, which eventually led to his departure — as he will now coach the Michigan Wolverines, his former college.

After being the favorites to win the NFC West or at least make it to the playoffs over the last few years, the 49ers will now be heavy underdogs in 2015. That could be beneficial, as it may cause them to play with a chip on their shoulder, but it’s difficult to see them making any type of serious noise in that division.

Suddenly, in just the blink of an eye, it feels like the 49ers are starting from scratch.

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