SEATTLE – Trent Baalke folded his arms and hung his head in shame. The 49ers’ season was over. The Niners and Seahawks were shaking hands at midfield and Baalke was staring at his desk in the press box.
Bad look, Trent. Time to face the failure you created.
KAEPERNICK: C. Played like Alex Smith. Didn’t turn the ball over – a first for Kaepernick against the Seahawks. Yes, he scored zero touchdowns, but he didn’t single-handedly lose the game and that’s progress.
RUNNING BACKS: B+. You need points to win, and Frank Gore was the only 49er who scored. Carlos Hyde carried the ball six times for 55 yards before he left the game with an ankle injury – the Seahawks didn’t seem prepared for him. And Bruce Miller led all 49ers with four catches for 56 yards. It took the 49ers 14 games to figure out Miller is one of their best receivers.
WIDE RECEIVERS: F. No one showed up. Michael Crabtree caught three passes for 19 yards. Anquan Boldin caught two passes for 23 yards. Brandon Lloyd caught 1 pass for 12 yards. It’s been clear for more than a year that these receivers can’t beat the Seahawks’ cornerbacks. Baalke did the team a disservice by drafting zero good wide receivers the past few years.
TIGHT ENDS: F. Did Vernon Davis play? The stat sheet says he did but I don’t remember seeing him. I wrote during training camp that Davis could decide to hold out this season if the Niners didn’t renegotiate his contract. Did we witness him holding out without actually holding out? Did he mail in the season?
OFFENSIVE LINE: D. Gave up six sacks and 11 quarterback hits. Mike Iupati is a flat-out liability in pass protection. I doubt he’s on the team next season.
DEFENSIVE LINE: B-. The Niners’ defense sacked Russell Wilson five times and hit him 10 times. The pass rush was the best aspect of the Niners’ defense in this game, and Ray McDonald was the 49ers’ best pass rusher, not Aldon Smith or Justin Smith. But the run defense did not play well, giving up 152 yards and a touchdown.
LINEBACKERS: B-. Once Chris Borland rolled his ankle and left the game, the Niners’ defense no longer had enough talent to stop Marshawn Lynch.
DEFENSIVE BACKS: B-. Gave up just 12 completions, but Perrish Cox and Antoine Bethea each gave up a deep catch. And Eric Reid gave up a 10-yard TD catch to Paul Richardson, the Seahawks’ rookie receiver. Reid also was flagged twice in one drive for unnecessary roughness. He did not play well this season. If you’re going to draft a safety in the top-20 picks, he better be a Hall of Famer. Reid won’t even make the Pro Bowl this season. Baalke should have drafted a cornerback instead of Reid.
SPECIAL TEAMS: F. Gave up a 19-yard punt return and committed three holding penalties – one occurred on a fair catch.
COACHES: F. After four seasons, the NFL figured out Jim Harbaugh’s offense – that’s been clear all year. The Niners need to hire an offensive coach who makes better adjustments between seasons, between games, between halves. Once again, the Niners scored zero points in the second half. That’s bad coaching.
BAALKE: F. Before the season began, I wrote that the 49ers were at the mercy of Vernon Davis, the only fast skill player on the offense. If he held out or didn’t play well, the Niners offense would become slow and beatable. That’s exactly what happened. Yes, the offensive coaches coached poorly, but Baalke could have made their jobs easier if he had drafted just one go-to offensive skill player during his five years as the Niners’ general manager. Remember, Baalke passed on Alshon Jeffery and T.Y. Hilton in 2012, and he passed on a dozen good wide receivers in 2014.
Think about that as you stare at your desk, Trent.