A San Francisco 49ers team, already eliminated from the postseason and decimated by injuries, hosts the Arizona Cardinals in Week 17 in a game that is mostly for pride on both sides. Arizona has a glimmer of hope of winning the NFC West, but a Seattle win over the Rams will end all hope, regardless of the outcome of the Cards/Niners game.
Essentially, this becomes a mostly meaningless game of pride for both teams.
In any case, David Fucillo from Niners Nation and I swapped some questions. Here are Fooch's answers to my questions.
Root: With the playoffs out of the picture and a strange coaching situation, how much pride is left on the 49ers squad and what are the guys playing for anymore?
Fooch: I mean I suppose they are playing for pride, but with only one game left, I gotta think plenty just want to see the season end and move on. They looked good early against the Chargers last week, but then thoroughly collapsed in the second half. Injuries were a problem yet again, most notable the departure of Eric Reid to a concussion. Craig Dahl is not a good safety, and Reid's injury cost them.
I figure there are a few things to take from this game. First, no major injuries. The 49ers have been ravaged by injuries, so really, just get through the game without anything overly significant. A sprain or a strain is fine, but I don't want to see anything bigger than that. Second, there are some individual goals to reach. The first is getting Frank Gore the 38 yards he needs for 1,000 on the season, and 71 to reach 11,000 for his career. It really has just come down to that.
Root: Reflect on the 2014 season. What has been the greatest success and, conversely, the greatest lament?
Fooch: The greatest success would be getting a lot of playing time for rookies. Chris Borland, Aaron Lynch, Marcus Martin, Jimmie Ward, Dontae Johnson and Carlos Hyde all got some significant playing time. They had plenty of downs to go with the ups, but it was crucial playing time that should benefit in 2015. For Sunday's game, Borland, Ward and Hyde will all sit out. Lynch will probably get some significant snaps at OLB, Martin should start at center, and Dontae Johnson will probably start at cornerback.
The greatest lament is blowing Super Bowl caliber talent because of idiotic drama between the front office and the coaching staff, and plenty of other nonsense. This team was as deep as any heading into the season. Unfortunately they could not overcome so many problems. They are headed home having not made the playoffs primarily because the offense did not evolve and improve. I suggest the front office drama as a culprit in this in part because there is some chatter Harbaugh's loyalty to offensive coordinator Greg Roman might have been part of the problem.
Root: Like the Cardinals, injuries have taken their toll on San Fran. Who are the players most like to miss the season finale and who will play in their stead?
Fooch: The list is long and notable. Here is the rundown of names you know that won't play:
- ILBs Patrick Willis, NaVorro Bowman, Chris Borland all on IR = Michael Wilhoite and Nick Moody starting in their place
- CBs Tramaine Brock out, Perrish Cox probably out = Dontae Johnson and Chris Culliver starting outside
- RB Carlos Hyde out = Frank Gore gets most of the work, Alfonso Smith spells him on occasion
- FS Eric Reid potentially out (concussion) = Craig Dahl starts in his place
- NT Ian Williams, Glenn Dorsey on IR = Quinton Dial starting in their place
- DT Ray McDonald released = Tony Jerod-Eddie starts, Tank Carradine more reserve time
- C Daniel Kilgore on IR = Marcus Martin starting in his place
- DB Jimmie Ward = Leon McFadden at nickel
- TEs Vance McDonald, Garrett Celek, Derek Carrier on IR = Vernon Davis and Asante Cleveland starting
- WR Stevie Johnson potentially out = Bruce Ellington, Quinton Patton likely get more opportunities
It's just ridiculous, and I know Cardinals fans are aware.
Root: Assuming Harbaugh is let go after the season as reports all seem to indicate, who are some names the team could look at?
Fooch: Internally, DL coach Jim Tomsula is the most frequently mentioned name, but defensive coordinator Vic Fangio is in the mix as well. Externally, we have already hear offensive coordinators Josh McDaniels and Adam Gase have both been mentioned. They could potentially look college with a guy like Gus Malzahn, but I would be surprised if that happened. I've seen a mention of Sean Payton if the Saints decide to move on, but I doubt that as well. It really is kind of hard to figure out right now given that there is no clear-cut big name candidate.
Root: Outside of Harbaugh, what will be the biggest offseason questions?
Fooch: WR Michael Crabtree, OG Mike Iupati, CBs Perrish Cox and Chris Culliver are all free agents. They are all starters, so figuring out replacements is a big question. They have some young internal options, so they'll get their crack at those jobs. The bigger question beyond just Harbaugh is figuring out where this offense is going. And really it's about where Colin Kaepernick is going. He is incredibly talented, but he has to put it all together. We are fast approaching the point where we need to figure out what's next for him.
Fooch: I'll go 49ers win an ugly one because Bruce Arians has pulled everybody he can when it is clear the Rams will not beat Seattle. I'll go 23-17 49ers win.
A big thanks to Fooch for answering my questions. Here's to a good game for Week 17.
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