The 2014 season ended up being a disappointing one for the San Francisco 49ers, filled with injuries, turmoil, back stabbing, and sub par play on the field. While fans may want to forget most of what happened this year, it’s still important that we take away some important lessons amid the chaos.
What did we learn? Here are three things to take away from 2014:
1) Vic Fangio is irreplaceable
Just let this sink in: Defensive stalwarts Patrick Willis, NaVorro Bowman, Glenn Dorsey, Aldon Smith and Tramaine Brock played a total of 16 games all season. That’s 16 games COMBINED for the team’s two All-Pro inside linebackers, nose tackle, best passer rusher, and top corner.
Despite being absolutely decimated by injuries, defensive coordinator Vic Fangio still managed to get every ounce of production possible out of his unit. The 49ers amazingly finished fifth in the NFL in total defense, were seventh in yards allowed per play (5.2), and lead the NFL in interceptions (23).
While the 49er offense has been inconsistent at best for much of the past four seasons, Fangio’s defense has been a constant force. They finished second overall in 2011, second in 2012, and third in 2013. If the defense was even remotely healthy in 2014, there’s no reason to think they wouldn’t have been in the top three again.
If Fangio is passed over for the team’s head coaching position, it’s essential they find a way to keep him on as defense coordinator.
2) Colin Kaepernick has regressed
If the 49er brass can’t bring in a coach who can fix their broken franchise quarterback, the team will have a serious problem moving forward.
For most of his fourth season, Kaepernick looked lost behind center, and didn’t show many signs that he’ll be able to figure it out. Whether it was breaking the pocket too early, or missing open receivers (either with errant throws or simply not seeing them), Kaepernick’s play held the offense back for most of the year.
His play seemed to get worse in the second half, as he failed to break 200 yards passing in five of his last seven games, and was held to under a 58 percent completion percentage in six of his last eight.
Kaepernick also committed 15 turnovers in 2014, while only accounting for 20 total touchdowns. In turn, the offense as a whole had trouble putting up points. The 49ers finished 25th in the league in scoring, and only managed 30 total offensive touchdowns all season.
3) Frank Gore is ageless
There are three certainties in life: Death, taxes, and running backs over the age of 30 declining. That’s unless your name is Frank Gore.
The 31-year-old bucked the trend this season, and finished with 1,106 yards rushing, while maintaining a 4.3 yards per carry average. Perhaps even more surprising is how strongly Gore finished the season. Over his final two games, the 49ers’ all-time leading rusher carried the ball 51 times and gained 302 yards (which was 27 percent of his season total).
Gore is set to become a free agent, and San Francisco has to seriously consider bringing him back on a short-term deal.
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