Oh how the mighty have fallen. Just a few years ago, the San Francisco 49ers were atop the National Football Conference (NFC), and one of the premier teams in the National Football League (NFL). But one off-season later, they are not the power house they used to be, but a mess. After making the NFC Championship Game for three straight years and having an appearance in Super Bowl XLVII (in which they lost to the Baltimore Ravens 34-31), the 49ers went 8-8. The downhill spiral began at that point.
The organization had already had a falling out with head coach Jim Harbaugh, and had fired him, hiring Jim Tomsula to take his place. Not only that, but former offensive coordinator Greg Roman jumped ship to become the offensive coordinator for the Buffalo Bills, and then the team fired defensive coordinator Vic Fangio. However, that was not all. Several key players on the 49ers roster chose to retire, or find greener pastures in free agency.
Veteran defensive cogs Patrick Willis (Linebacker), Justin Smith (Defensive End), and key offensive lineman Anthony Davis chose to retire. Even the young, (coming off his rookie year) linebacker Chris Borland decided to retire for health reasons. Then came free agency, where even more talented players like Chris Culliver, Mike Iupati, Michael Crabtree, Frank Gore, and Stevie Johnson left the team. To make matters worse, Aldon Smith, who was to be the defensive anchor after all the changes, got arrested again, and was released from the team.
Now what is left is a team in disarray, and in a new era of coaching. All hope is lost, the 49ers are sure to be a bottom feeder team in the NFL, nothing can save them now, right? Not so fast, this team can still play.
Even with the amount of blows this team took, they can still be a competitive team. They still have Quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who though had his worst season statistically, has shown growth through a week of training camp. Not only that, but he still has weapons in the form of wide receivers Anquan Boldin and Torrey Smith and tight end Vernon Davis. The offense also has stalwart defenders in the offensive line in the form of Joe Staley and Alex Boone. The 49ers defense is not in shambles, as they still have linebacker NaVorro Bowman, who is coming off injury, and hopefully can stay healthy in the coming season, and he will also have veterans Darnell Dockett and Glenn Dorsey to assist. The defense also has great potential in rookie Arik Armstead from Oregon.
Even with the young potential and returning veterans, the San Francisco 49ers are far from being able to compete for the Super Bowl. The 49ers play in the toughest division in all of the NFL, the NFC West, consisting of the Seattle Seahawks, St. Louis Rams, and Arizona Cardinals, who each have been busy in the off-season, improving their teams for a playoff push.
The Seahawks are a juggernaut of a team looking to make it back to a third straight Super Bowl, the Cardinals have stability at quarterback with Carson Palmer and can return to the playoffs again, and the Rams have upgraded and are on the rise to the point where they can compete for a playoff spot. That leaves with the 49ers having to fight through a gauntlet just to make the playoffs. Yes, the 49ers will win some key games, but they won’t top 10 wins, they wont have the chance to win that 6th playoff spot. Year one of the Tomsula era will be tough for the 49ers and 49er faithful to swallow because of this downward spiral nightmare.
Now former San Fransisco 49ers star linebacker Aldon Smith was yet again arrested, this time for a DUI, the third DUI he has gotten since entering the league. As I’m writing this I just got the alert on my phone that the 49ers have released Smith, this makes me question how dumb some of these NFL players and athletes could be in general. You have guys like Aldon Smith, Josh Gordon, Justin Blackmon and of course Aaron Hernandez who are throwing away millions of dollars because of the stupid decisions they’re making. These guys are living the dream, making millions of dollars to play football, what could possibly be better than that? Well apparently to some of these guys going out getting high, shooting people as well as other dumb things there doing, has a higher priority.
Makes you also question how these guys made it this far and if they were just kept being passed on because of their talent and never disciplined for issues before the NFL. Did everyone just turn their backs when these guys were in high school and let them do as they pleased because of their talent? Could some of these guys have been changed and not made the mistakes they did had they been punished and had tighter rules when they were younger? A good thought, but something we’ll never know.
Aldon Smith was the 7th overall pick and finished second in defensive rookie of the year voting, he looked like he was gonna be a pro bowler year after year and could have been a force in the league. He was then arrested for now three separate DUIs, and for joking about having a bomb at an airport, another just purely stupid move. After his second DUI, Smith entered a rehab facility which seems clear he didn’t take very seriously. When you’re given an opportunity to get help when you need it, you take it and hope you can not only save your career, but also save yourself from going down an even worse path. After his release from the 49ers, his career is almost sure to be over at the age of 25.
Another guy throwing his career away is Josh Gordon. Gordon bounced around college because of suspensions due to substance abuse problems and hardly played. Gordon was still selected by the Browns in the second round of the supplemental draft and ended up missing time in his rookie season because of his drug use in college. Gordon also missed time during his second season for a substance abuse violation, and again was suspended. When Gordon returned he went on to be the best receiver in the NFL even with missing 14 games. Entering his third season Gordon was suspended yet again for substance abuse, this time originally for the season, which ended up being reduced to 10 games. You think that maybe, just maybe, Gordon would learn from this, nope. Gordon was suspended for at least one year after testing positive for drinking alcohol, which he could not do after being placed in the leagues substance abuse program. Gordon was a complete stud during his very brief NFL career and is now in question if he will ever play again. I loved Gordon on the field and was pulling for him to change his ways off the field. Even with my fandom of Gordon I don’t feel bad for him at all, he could have changed his off-field ways, he was in the leagues substance abuse program after three different substance abuse incidents, and after constant suspensions he just didn’t learn. Apparently weed is more important than playing football and making millions to Gordon. Have fun selling cars again in Cleveland Josh, hope you were good at it because it looks like that is going to be your future, not the NFL.
Like Gordon, Justin Blackmon has faced many suspensions due to substance abuse problems. Blackmon was suspended 8 games in 2013 because of failed drug tests and after not learning was suspended the whole season in 2014 for substance abuse and currently faces an indefinite suspension. The Jaguars general manager recently said he doesn’t expect Blackmon to play in the NFL again. 25 years old, and out of the NFL because of weed, not talent which Blackmon had all the talent in the world, not injuries which tend to happen to players, but for smoking weed. Go back a few years and say Blackmon and Gordon would be among the top receivers in the NFL at this point in their careers and almost on one would disagree, tell someone the two would be out of the league and people would be shocked. I don’t feel bad for Blackmon just like I don’t feel bad for other players I mention, he didn’t love the game and rather would live the way he wanted, smoking weed and doing whatever else he wanted to do which didn’t involve football. The last that was seen of Blackmon he was not nearly in the playing shape he was and by the looks of it he has no desire to play in the NFL again.
And of course the most well-known idiot on this list, Aaron Hernandez. All us Patriots fans as well as the rest of the country know his story and his legal trouble. Hernandez was convicted and given a life sentence for the murder of Odin Lloyd and still faces a double homicide charge stemming from a 2012 incident. After news of Hernandez’ arrest in the Odin Lloyd incident, Hernandez was released by the Patriots and then other news and incidents from his past began to slowly come out. From him taking a selfie with a gun during his time at Florida, to bar fights, to gang related activities from his time in high school combined with drug use, Hernandez was a thug off the field with all his issues. Hernandez had all the talent in the world on the field and had all the problems in the world off of it. After just having a baby and a new $40 million contract, you would think Hernandez would give up his old ways and change his life, apparently not. Hernandez is a sociopath and all he knew was his street mentality and was apparent he didn’t wanna change for anything and its who he was, giving up his family, football career, a $40 million contract at the age of 23 and his life.
No one will ever know the reasoning these guys have to do what they do, act how they act, and know whats important to them in life. The are all guys who were given many opportunities to change their lives and change who they are. Rehab through the league or separate rehab are and were all options to these guys. Johnny Manziel entered rehab after the end of last season because he knew his drinking and parting would have led to a quick end of his career. Johnny now seems to be on the right path, only focused on football and competing to be the Browns starting quarterback for the 2015 season. I hope Manziel has that all behind him and is focused solely on football, though I loved Johnny Football and the college party boy swagger he brought to the field being a college kid myself, I hope and would rather see Manziel as a successful NFL player.
These guys gave up the American dream, just about everyone including myself will never understand why and what is important to these guys, and they now have to live with their decisions which have changed all their lives for the worse.
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