This is my Sunday column.
SANTA CLARA — Ain’t no five things to watch this week.
Only thing you need to monitor is which 49ers players actually show up to play a football game. Which players want to be on the field, and which players don’t. Who’s all in, and who’s not.
Most players fell in the “not” category last week. People noticed, including Cleveland Browns head coach Mike Pettine, who seemed disgusted by the Niners after blowing them out Sunday afternoon. “You saw one team that wanted to be out there and wanted to compete and wanted to win a football game,” Pettine said, referring to the Browns, “and I don’t know if I sensed that same attitude from the other side.”
Here’s what he may have sensed: 49ers players weighing long-term health against professional pride, and pride coming up short. Although, not for everyone. A few players played hard against the Browns, and few will play hard this week against the Bengals.
Here’s who still is in for Sunday, and here’s who already has checked out.
In: Joe Staley.
The Pro Bowl left tackle didn’t have to play against the Browns. His knee is injured. He could have shut himself down for the season, maybe have surgery, start rehabbing early, abandon his teammates and not make the trip to Cleveland. You know, like what the 49ers former backup quarterback did.
Staley didn’t do that. Staley played. And, he played great. He gave up no sacks, hits or hurries, according to Pro Football Focus. A perfect game.
In the locker room afterward, Staley seemed heartbroken over how halfhearted his team played. He vented to reporters for almost 20 minutes. After five minutes, a member of the P.R. staff tried to end his interview. Staley ignored him, turned to a reporter and said, “I can still talk.”
Staley cares, and wants everyone to know it. Good for him.
Out: Ahmad Brooks.
If you want to see a professional football player go through the motions this Sunday, watch No. 55 on the 49ers defense.
Watch No. 55 rush around the edge. Watch No. 55 get pushed upfield by an offensive tackle. Watch No. 55 circle around the quarterback but never touch him. Watch No. 55 do this 30 times.
After the game, listen to No. 55 talk about his uninspired performance. Listen to him say he came out flat, played on his heels, couldn’t “pin his ears back.” Listen to him say he just can’t figure out why he played that way. Hear how detached his voice sounds.
No. 55 earns more than $7 million this season, and is scheduled to earn almost $19 million the next two seasons.
In: Ian Williams.
Williams was the only starter on the 49ers defense who wasn’t terrible against the Browns.
The Niners nose tackle may have been the best player on the field. Pro Football Focus gave him a grade of plus-6.2 — a higher grade than all but two players on the Niners defense have earned all season.
Williams is a former undrafted free agent who has earned just $4.5 million in five NFL seasons. His contract is up in a few months, and he’s in line for a major pay day. He will play hard the rest of the season.
Out: Eric Reid.
Reid is vicious when he wants to be. If he’s giving everything he has, he’s the hardest tackler on the team, which is probably one reason he has suffered three concussions in his career.
Reid will not risk a fourth concussion this season. He has quit. Instead of delivering blows, he’s receiving them like one of those tackling dummies running backs plow through during practice.
The Niners should bench Reid the final three games. He’s a team captain, and he’s setting a bad example.
In: Blaine Gabbert.
Gabbert is playing for a job in 2016. He needs to play well, and he has only three games left. Every second counts, even the seconds in garbage time. Gabbert lives for garbage time.
Last week, he posted a passer rating of 123.2 during the fourth quarter of a game that was already over. This week, expect Gabbert to gorge out on the Bengals prevent defense if he falls behind again.
Out: Geep Chryst.
I’m sneaking a coach onto this list.
The Niners offensive coordinator talks like he knows he’s getting fired at the end of the season. Read what he said Thursday when a reporter asked him to evaluate himself:
“The stuff that you work on in training camp as part of your core offense, or the stuff that we ran out of 13-personnel (three tight ends) or with Carlos Hyde, we can’t use that. We can’t use that because we don’t have three tight ends dressed out. We can’t use that because we don’t have Carlos Hyde. So, any analysis of the offense starts with who are the people that you have.”
Translation: Players got hurt, so you can’t judge my performance. Don’t blame for me for the crummy offense.
Chryst has a point — players did get hurt. But, players get hurt on every team. Injuries aren’t unique to the Niners. Head coach Jim Tomsula refuses to make the injury excuse.
Chryst blamed the players for his own ineptitude. That’s how you know he’s all out.
Grant Cohn writes sports columns and the “Inside the 49ers” blog for The Press Democrat’s website. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.