When the NFL schedule was released earlier this year, the San Francisco 49ers weren’t expecting to enter Week 4 against the St. Louis Rams with a 1-2 record, but that’s exactly where the defending NFC Champions find themselves.
Losses to Seattle and Indianapolis have spurred a firestorm of doubt and criticism amongst pundits and fans alike. Though they were touted as contenders to return to the Super Bowl in 2013, the 49ers have experienced a near complete reversal of opinion when it comes to their play with many questioning head coach Jim Harbaugh, third year quarterback Colin Kaepernick, and the offense at large.
But is the criticism deserved?
After watching San Francisco score only 10 points in the last two weeks, it’s hard to say the Niners don't deserve some criticism. And with all the heightened expectations placed on the shoulders of Kaepernick and his offense to produce, it’s understandable why some fans might be irked with the recent turn of events.
But maybe some of those expectations were a bit unrealistic and maybe, just maybe, people are jumping on the doom boat a little too soon. Even though he wowed football fans with last season’s performance, Kaepernick is still just a third year quarterback with only 16 starts to his name. People should expect him to struggle on occasion, especially when opposing defenses have had an entire off-season to game plan against him.
As for Harbaugh, there’s no escaping the fact that his decision to replace Alex Smith with Kaepernick will be brought up throughout the season, especially when Smith and his new Kansas City Chiefs are winning and San Francisco is not.
I think it’s important to remember that San Francisco’s play has been greatly impacted by injuries, though. Michael Crabtree, Mario Manningham, and most recently Vernon Davis, have not been available for Kaepernick. Those limitations, coupled with defensive injuries to the likes of Patrick Willis and Nnamdi Asomugha as well as the entire Aldon Smith debacle, are prime ingredients for a team’s failure to win.
But even with players missing and locker room distractions, the 49ers can be all right. They did, after all, torch the Green Bay Packers in Week 1 with Kaepernick throwing for 412 yards and three touchdowns, so there’s no denying the ability to be great is still there.
The truth of the matter is that the past two weeks have given birth to the first real criticisms of Kaepernick and Harbaugh—a reflection of the success 49er fans have been enjoying as of late. If losses continue to pile up, starting with Thursday’s game against the Rams, then 49er fans might have cause for concern. Until then, I think it’s important to keep in mind that both Seattle and Indianapolis are playoff caliber teams, Kaepernick is still growing into his role a San Francisco’s leader, and anything can, and often will, happen in a league as competitive and talent ridden as the NFL.
So don’t lose faith in Kap — just yet.