49ers’ NaVorro Bowman a shell of his former self

This is my Wednesday column.

NaVorro Bowman is not good anymore. This is the saddest story on the San Francisco 49ers.

It’s painful to watch this proud warrior play like a scrub. Bowman used to be the Niners’ best player. When they would use their “dime” defense — six defensive backs and one linebacker — Bowman was the one linebacker. Patrick Willis, one of the greatest linebackers of all time, would jog to the bench. The Niners believed Bowman was better.

Bowman was great at everything an inside linebacker had to do. He was big and fast enough to cover tight ends, quick enough to cover running backs, and a vicious hitter. Running or throwing at Bowman was a bad idea. Opposing offenses tried to avoid him.

Bowman tore his ACL and MCL in January of 2013, and spent the next 18 months rehabbing. His first game back — an exhibition game against the Dallas Cowboys — he played three snaps and made two tackles. Some analysts and fans declared Bowman was better than ever.

The next week, Bowman played 42 snaps and recorded two sacks. Some believed Bowman would win the Comeback Player of the Year Award.

Week 1 of the regular season, Bowman recorded two more sacks and seemed fresh, almost like the knee injury never happened. I was beginning to think Bowman was some kind of mutant with superhuman healing ability, like Wolverine from X-Men.

But Bowman is no Wolverine. Turns out, Bowman is no Bowman, either. He looks like a guy who should join Willis in retirement.

Through the first five games of the season, Bowman has played 331 snaps and seems totally worn down, like a guy who has played eight million snaps through five games. He is slow, and has no quickness left. He can’t cover anyone anymore.

The league knows it, too. This past Sunday night, the New York Giants’ offensive game plan was to exploit Bowman. Not Kenneth Acker, the young cornerback playing his fifth game in the NFL who gave up six catches and 120 yards to Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown Week 2.

Acker was not the mark. Bowman was.

The Giants targeted Bowman in pass coverage 10 times, completed all 10 passes and scored two touchdowns.

The first touchdown came in the second quarter with the score tied 3-3, and the Giants facing third-and-goal from the 2. Eli Manning sent tight end Larry Donnell in motion, and inside linebacker Michael Wilhoite followed him.

This let Manning know the Niners were in man-to-man coverage, and who was covering whom. Wilhoite clearly was covering the tight end, so Bowman must be covering the running back, Shane Vereen.

The center snapped the ball to Manning in the shotgun. Vereen ran directly at Bowman, then cut to the right, toward the front pylon in the end zone.

For a split second, Bowman seemed stuck in the turf. He watched as Vereen made his move, then tried to chase after him. Too late. Vereen already was wide open, and Manning hit him in stride. Bowman never touched him. Sad to see.

Before halftime, the Giants ran the same play in the middle of the field, except this time Vereen cut to his left. Again, Vereen was wide open. This time he caught the ball and ran away from Bowman, and strong safety Antoine Bethea had to rush up and tackle Vereen after a gain of 12 yards and a first down.

In the fourth quarter, Manning threw a simple check down pass to running back Rashad Jennings, who ran directly at Bowman then cut to the right. Again, same play. Again, Bowman couldn’t defend it. He dove at Jennings’ ankles, whiffed, and Jennings gained 20 yards. But Bowman caught a break — a holding penalty in the backfield wiped out the play.

That was the last time Bowman covered a running back against the Giants. After that play, the Niners changed Bowman’s assignment and made him cover the tight end.

So, instead of winning the game by throwing to the running back against Bowman, the Giants won by throwing to the tight end against Bowman. On first-and-10 from the Niners’ 12 with 26 seconds left in the fourth quarter, New York couldn’t wait to target Bowman.

Manning dropped back, looked left, pump-faked, looked back to his right and lofted a pass over Bowman’s head into the hands of Donnell, the tight end. Touchdown. Bowman lost the game.

You almost wished the television would have frozen before Donnell caught the pass, like at the end of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid when the picture freezes on the two heroes’ faces instead of showing their death.

Unfortunately, real life isn’t that sentimental. And there are no kindly interruptions.

“How did Bowman do in pass coverage?” I asked head coach Jim Tomsula Monday morning after the game. I had to ask.

“Well, I mean, there was some stuff, our underneath all the way we have to tighten up,” he said. “I wouldn’t just say NaVorro Bowman.”

Tomsula wouldn’t single out the former great. Good for Tomsula.

“(Bowman) seems to have lost mobility in lateral ways that he used to have,” another reporter said, pointing out the obvious. “Do you look at it that way?”

“No, I’m not going to say that, sir,” Tomsula said, without ever defending Bowman.

Indeed, no one wants to say Bowman has lost the ability to cover. But it’s the sad truth. The old Bowman is gone forever.

Grant Cohn writes sports columns and the “Inside the 49ers” blog for The Press Democrat’s website. You can reach him at grantcohn@gmail.com.

Stats courtesy of Pro Football Focus

This article has 115 Comments

  1. Or he could need more time to recover. He’s not in superb football shape mentally

    1. Wooooooow 5 games into the guys comeback and grant wants to bring him behind the barn and put him down. Ridiculous. Most guys take a full year of playing before returning to form. AP comes around and puts on a super human display and people forget how serious this injury is. I agree Bowman isn’t playing well but you think we can give the guy a year before we send him into retirement??

      1. Navorro has been contributing since his injuries and for him to get back and to his all pro form will take sometime..Keep him a Break no pun intended..

    2. The jury is still out on Bowman but the main problem may be that they do not give him any rest. Look, the guy got his leg bent like a twig and it needs to be exposed to rough nfl play on a gradual basis. That dumb ass defensive coach keeps him in even in lost causes. WTF

    3. Seb, with another prediction and being totally checkmated my Scooter. Will Seb ever learn not to predict…Clint Eastwood once said, “A man’s got to know his limitations…Maybe a few more slapdowns by scooter may help him wise up.
      October 13, 2015 at 8:25 pm
      October 13, 2015 at 8:25 pm
      Wow, writing off Winston as a bust after five games. Ok.
      October 13, 2015 at 9:45 pm
      Seb, you come up with some crazy things, but saying a rookie QB is going to be a bust after five games is right up there.


      October 13, 2015 at 9:19 pm
      I am extrapolating the whole season after watching him lose to Tenn and Houston while still having to play Atlanta and Carolina 3 more times.
      Beating NO and Jax does not make him a SB QB.

  2. Are you kidding me? if you heard what Tomsula said a game or two back is that Bowman tweaked his knee playing. Another report was that it takes bowman an hour to loosen his knee in the morning when he wakes up. Think about the pain he endures to come through and make tackles just because he loves football, and wants to help the team win. He will get back to it, it will just take some time. Bowman definitely doesn’t deserve to be publicly bashed and embarrassed by who ever wrote this article just because he had a bad game against the giants, so whoever wrote this sir, i spit on your shoes!

  3. I noticed that also, from the second game on, our hero of yesteryear showed a lost step or two. And Manning just flat picked on him like the weak kid on the sand lot.
    The 49ers need a linebacker to fill his slot. Whether he needs more time to heal I cannot say, but as of now he is a liability.
    Too bad we cannot talk Chris Borland into coming back just for this season.

    1. Not at all, and he got injured by a midget qb in Seattle. He was overrated and was going to be exposed time and time again.

  4. Yes he has not been the bowman we are used to seeing, but I honestly didn’t exspect it either. He has a ways to go and I believe he will get there. He took a whole year off, yea he stood in shape and worked hard but it will take time for us to see him like his old self but he will get there. I get how writers need something to write about though, and that’s why u guys are writers and not a gm. Although most writers can probably do a better job then the one we got.

  5. I Still Think He’s A Great Player,I Think He Realizes That Like Kaep He Can’t Do All By Himself.

  6. Truth be told, we don’t have a linebacker better than Bowman to fill his spot.
    It took even Revis island a whole year back from a less severe injury to regain his form. So cut him some slack. You type out definitively condemning letters on your keyboard while he makes excruciatingly painful tackles, sacrificing his body just to help this sorry team. Thanks to our draft kings and management who didn’t draft a capable linebacker to stop the hemorrhaging and godawful shell of this team we formerly proudly cheered for in its glory over the years but nevertheless still love and which you and your kin loved to denigrate just to make a buck. Get a real honorable living sir. You’re not even fit for a tabloid.

  7. Grant, you should slow down there for a second. While Bowman may not be the all world player he once was. He’s still pretty good. The issues in coverage are more schematic than a personal performance issue by Bowman. Put simply, it seems Bowman (like many of the other Niner’s defenders) seem flat footed while in static zone assignments something they didn’t do as much under Fangio.

      1. Hey look, Grant is wrong about football. Color me shocked.

        Bowman is playing a completely different scheme than he has at any point in his pro career. Mangini’s defense is nowhere near as simple as Fangio’s…and as a result EVERY 49er defender is a tick slow. They’re thinking about their assignments instead of reacting.

        That’s what you’re seeing.

        Anymore talk about Bowman retiring, and I’ll suggest you ask him to do so in person.

      2. So basically Grant Cohn, you expect a guy who blew out both his ACL and MCL and had his knee reconstructed constructed to be the same player he was year one post injury?? And you talk about him being flat footed. Wrong. The late reactions you are seeing with him going laterally is a man who’s mentally still in the process of mentally trusting that left knee again fully. It’s more of a mental thing and learning to trust it and just reacting instinctively again. So I disagree with your point of view. I’ll hold off judgement until I see how he is at the end of next year.

  8. Grant, you should slow down there for a second. While Bowman may not be the all world player he once was. He’s still pretty good. The issues in coverage are more schematic than a personal performance issue by Bowman. Put simply, it seems Bowman (like many of the other Niner’s defenders) seem flat footed while in static zone assignments something they didn’t do as much under Fangio.

  9. Grant, I usually enjoy what you write, but come on! Get real.
    Bowman is still the best tackler on the team. Check the stats.
    He has the 6th most tackles in the entire league!
    If his arm would have been in a slightly different location on that last play,
    he might have saved the game. It was a great catch and he was defended pretty well.
    I admit that the season has been tough so far, but don’t you be the one who starts the circular firing squad.

  10. I have no problem with honest journalism, and one could honestly question whether Bowman has returned to pre-injury form. However this article can hardly be considered journalism. It’s insulting to readers, to journalist, to Bowman, and really to you. The only reason I even click on article links with titles like yours is because I don’t realize you guys wrote it. Mark my words Cohen – I won’t give you or your hack son any more of my clicks.

    1. You appear not to even know who wrote the article. I’d much rather read Grants stuff than your comment. You might want to look up the journalism.

      1. Both Cohens write extremely biased drivel that rarely takes into account surrounding circumstances, so neither deserves the credit of being fully acknowledged.

        It’s obvious that Bowman is a step behind where he was, but it’s absurd to expect him to be back in top form this soon after that devastating of a knee injury. And it’s classless and disrespectful to dedicate a whole article to cheap shots at Bowman during his darkest hour when he has given this team and city his heart and soul.

        Almost all of either Cohn’s articles involve kicking 49ers when they are down, or at best using selective stats to subtley influence the reader. Hardly “journalisim” when you use your platform to push a petty agenda.

        Example: “Bowman lost the game”. Did you forget Donnell is roughly 6’6″ and high pointed a perfectly thrown pass and Bowman is 6’0? What 6’0 LB out jumps a 6’6 TE?

        Grant, there are plenty of fish in the sea- just because you took a girl out in the city, ran into some 49ers players and she went home with a Pro-Bowler doesn’t mean you should jeopardize your credibility as a journalist.

        Probably no surprise that no player or coach grants you interviews, pun intended.

        If you need some support in righting your ship, be it learning how to word and put together a decent article or how to properly dissect a play or situation, drop me a line.

        I’m here to help :)

  11. While Bowman did get exploited last game, and may be a little off this season, I wouldn’t go burying him yet. They always say it takes a couple of years (back on the field) to come back from injuries like his. The morning routine to warm up his knee is definitely concerning, but I’d cut him a little slack and see if he bounces back next year.

      1. Very true. In a couple of years he will be older.

        You admit Bowman looked great early on and we’re pretty amazed he looked so good. Isn’t that the same as saying you didn’t expect him to look so good so soon?

        With that being the case why the doom and gloom on his career now that he is performing more like you might have expected? Is it because that kind of article would get less clicks?

        1. Injuries affect everyone. Both of those dudes have all the money they’ll need. Now that the team is crappy and the coaching staff/front office are a mess, there’s no motivation to play through those injuries.

          Rather than proclaiming Bowman’s career done, let’s just expect him to take more time to round into form. If he makes it through another year unscathed, I expect his knee will have improved quite a bit. Hope he is so fortunate to prove grant wrong in 2016

  12. Sad but true. I had osteomalitis (staph infection in the bone) after I stopped playing. I was in the hospital for a month on IV antibiotics and had two operations performed. I recovered quickly and haven’t had any issues since then, but I still feel scar tissue tearing in my lower leg every now and then. That was nearly twenty years ago. It doesn’t impact my knee, but I can only imagine what Bowman has gone through. Expecting him to be the same is unrealistic. It’s also very sad because he was a truly exceptional player. He lost his edge with the injury and is now an average LB.

  13. Grant

    Another nice piece of writing. Good job. I would only venture to say that Bowman is now among the worst ILBs in the NFL, and that he was never better than Willis in the first place, regardless of the fact that he stayed on the field last year when Willis jogged off.

    He was a tremendous player, but no way in Hell was he better than Willis, ever.

  14. Bowman has the most tackles in the NFC, 6th most in the NFL and you say he is not good anymore.

  15. From PFT:

    Seahawks waived WR/QB B.J. Daniels and RB Rod Smith.
    A gadget player who’s been bouncing around the NFC West since 2013, Daniels is just about out of chances in the big leagues. The release of Smith may be a good sign for Marshawn Lynch’s (hamstring, calf) Week 6 availability.

  16. Seriously? “Bowman lost the game”? Most of what was said in this article is fairly accurate, but to say he “lost the game” with that one play is ludicrous! First, he had great coverage on the TE; couldn’t have been much better. Second, the TE just made an exceptional grab. Bowman certainly isn’t close to back to his former self, and maybe never will be. Or, maybe he just needs more time, or should have taken more time to come back. Time will tell, but don’t write his epitaph just yet.

  17. Grant, late at night do you ever wonder what sort of people really get into the writing you do for this blog? Probably not.

  18. Bowman may never get back to what he once was, or it just may take him a while to once again play at a high level.
    But, he is one of the last of those who made the Niners once again relevant and feared.
    Grant is going to find out that Niner fans don’t take too kindly to one of their heroes being called a scrub.

  19. A couple of things:

    1) The confusion defense that Mangini is running could be pay off what is slowing Bowman down like the rest of the 49ers defense.
    2) You are putting too much emphasis on the TD pass that was the game clincher for the Giants. It was one of those passers that couldn’t be defended by just one player.

  20. It takes a player usually 2 years to get back to pre-injury form. So talk to me at this time next year Grant!

  21. You’re not being fair to Bowman or realistic. He’s just back from major surgery on two important ligaments. Maybe someone can comment on how long it really takes an athlete to come back from that. Longer term the problem is, of course, that he’s not getting any younger. So will he ever be the player he was? I can’t answer that, but we should be clear what the issue is.

    The Niners are hurting in several ways. And of course they shot themselves in the foot by walking away from probably the best defensive coach in pro football. Jed’s a turd. How’s that for a message on one of my t-shirts?

  22. It does not help to have Wilhoite next to him playing so poorly.
    I hope Hodges is ready, and Skov could play more. Does anyone know the status of Desmond Bishop?

    1. Maybe he needs Patrick Willis? Patrick made Bowman who he is today before his major injury. Patrick Willis mentored Bowman, people forget how great was Patrick Willis.

  23. Dude you are trippin. You obviously don’t know much about football. Bowman is one hell of a ball player. Still is probably the best player on the Niners. You tell me you could go out and do what he is doing after a torn ACL? He has to make up for the many losses on our defense due to retirements and free agency. How could you even put bad and Bowman in the same sentence. You should watch more.

    1. He has been terrible since game two. An absolute liability in coverage and maybe slightly above average against run. In neither case is he playing at an elite or near elite level.

  24. GC is correct, Bowman is not the same. Not sure how or why anyone would debate that. THE ONLY question is whether he has permanently lost a step or he just needs more time to get back to full strength. No one here has that crystal ball.

    1. N. Bowman is going to be 28 next May. Time will tell if his injury has totally healed. Younger players often recover faster than the older ones. But sometimes when you suffer a major injury you loose a step and it’s hard to come back to your old formed.

  25. Let us be honest. Bowman obviously is not the same player he was prior to the severe knee injury, and he is going to require more time to recoup the quickness and lateral movement needed to play the game at optimum levels.

    Not to shock you, but the Niners should be intelligent enough to understand this, and, as a result, provide some relief for Bowman and not expect him to be out there for such an extensive period of time.

    Why not be intelligent and use some substitution to give Bowman a break?

    Why should the 49er brass not realize that it takes almost two full seasons for all of the QABS (quickness, agility, balance and speed) and COD (change of direction) to return?

    You cannot have a front office of “tools” running the show.

    The 49er SUITS remind me of the adage, “When God was passing out brains, you thought you heard trains, and waited for the next one.”


  26. Hate to say it, as Bow has been such a great player for the 49ers, but I agree he is a shadow of his former self. He isn’t terrible by any stretch – he can still play – but he does look like he struggles moving laterally and making sharp cuts. We shouldn’t be shocked by this if the reports it takes him an hour to loosen the knee up in the morning are true. But it does mean he is going to struggle to be as effective in coverage as he once was. His coverage responsibilities should be limited to short zones, much like the Ravens used Ray Lewis towards the end of his career.

    I understand there is some hope he is just working the knee back to health at the moment, but I think that is an optimistic viewpoint. He’s getting onto two years removed from the injury. I don’t think his knee is going to improve much from here. What we see now is likely what the Bowman product will be moving forward.

    1. I disagree guys on the overall assessment of Bowman. It takes a full 12 months to recover physically from knee surgery and probably another 10 months to mentally recover while also gaining the confidence to do things you were able to do prior to the injury. You watch that replay of Reid crashing into Bowman and it’s Joe Theisman grotesque.
      Now has he looked like he has lost a step, for sure. But to write him off completely, I’d say we need to make that determination at the end of the year.
      To me this coaching staff has the impossible task of covering and masking many things that ails this team. From injuries to youth, to retirements, it’s really an impossible task to think any one of these players was going to be successful. This I base on the coaching staffs inability because of their inexperience and lack past success. Also, to date they have not matched a scheme to the talent level of the players.
      One thing that really stood out to me Sunday night was how young this team really is. That to me might give Baalke a pass but when you look at the overall body of work with drafting and free agency during his tenure, without a doubt he needs to be on red alert.
      Will Jed put him on notice? How many more loses this year will it take. That’s the painful 3 month question us fans have to endure.

      1. I’m not writing him off as a bad player. Bow is still a good run defender and pass rusher. But expecting him to recover his speed and agility at this point seems pretty optimistic to me, which means his coverage ability is going to be hampered.

          1. I hope so. I hope he’s good enough to do so.

            Actually, I’d just replace Wilhoite altogether, with Bowman playing in nickel on passing downs, but being replaced when they go dime. But I’d limit the area he needs to cover. I like the pass rush threat Bowman provides.

            1. Maybe they can use him strictly as a rusher on obvious passing downs. Let him move around and pick his lane, but make him part of a 4 man pass rush with Lynch, Carradine and Armstead.

  27. There are extenuating circumstances. The lack of a pass rush does not help. Willhoite is not playing well. Eli got the ball out quickly. Mangini did not scheme well or make the proper adjustments. Bow did make 16 tackles.
    Throwing Bow under the bus is not kind. Its kinda like kicking some one when they are down.
    Maybe the more gentle approach would be to advocate subbing Bow on passing downs, and replacing Willhoite with Skov or Hodges.

    1. Agree with all. Though maybe instead of replacing Bow on passing downs they could just look to give him short zones to cover when they put him in coverage, because he is still a decent pass rusher from the ILB spot when they blitz.

  28. Bowman is not what he was pre-injury, but considering the type of damage he sustained, it may take a couple years to get to about 80-90% of his former playing level.

    Bowman’ lateral movement is hampered because he is still in the process of dealing with a full recovery. His speed is ok but not what it was before being injured. Still, he is our best defensive player so we will wait it out and see how he does throughout the season.

  29. It sets up perfectly for the 2016 draft, though. A guy who scouts have referred to as the best LB they’ve seen in pass coverage ever is now draft eligible. He got hurt, which Baalke loves. His stock drops to high 2nd round, which Niners can do at the current rate, after drafting a QB in the 1st.

    Since the team spends big on the middle, they move Bowman to the old Willis role and bring in UCLA’s Myles Jack to replace Bowman in coverage and they work perfectly off each other. The good news: Jack’s injury is not extremely severe and he can be ready for the start of next year.

  30. Bowman was never better than Willis. Willis had more responsibilities than Bowman. It is showing now how much Willis meant to this team. He was the Heart of the defense.

  31. I love Bowman. I think the harsh reality is that he plays one of the easier to replace positions, MLB. He and Willis were truly exceptional at their best. MLB is a meat grinder. Bowman’s injury took that exceptional ability from him. He can still be a very productive player, but he could have been up there with the all-time greats. It sucks.

    One thing to consider is that it was unusual to have so much money invested in the MLB position. Willis and Bowman were well worth it when healthy, but there was a significant drop off in talent after them. Borland was a tackling machine but poor in coverage, like most MLB’s. It was always kind of a risky investment because of the position, but they were great players. I don’t think you will see two MLB’s of that caliber playing side by side again for a long time.

  32. I can and will admit he is no here near what he used to be YET. He is still top 6 in the NFL in tackles. He’s hardly a scrub.

  33. Shelter reporting the 49ers “might” be interested in moving V Davis. Had his back for years, but he quit and I wouldn’t mind seeing him gone. Just a rumor but I can see why it would be.

      1. Why would any of those teams trade for a 2/3 season rental on Davis?

  34. Is there any news on Smelter? If healthy when is he eligible to be on the roster?
    Perhaps the 49ers ridding themselves of VD opens a spot.

  35. Bowman played the Giants with 2 defensive starters from last year. I am not saying he is a good or bad player, but he is playing the game without Justin Smith, Ray McDonald, all four linebackers, and both cornerbacks. He also just played Manning, Rodgers, and Rothlesberger.

  36. When you say that Bowman lost the game you lose all credibility. On the final play, Bowman had perfect coverage. But a perfect throw and great catch will always beat perfect coverage when the receiver had six inches on the defender.

    As for the rest of the game, to put the blame on Bowman rather than the disgraceful performance by Mangini is borderline trolling.

    Finally, Bowman is likely not physically where he will be when completely healed. He may never be what he was (which was the best defensive player in the league) but he will likely be better than what we currently see. Moreover, let’s not pretend that playing behind a five man front that had four new players doesn’t play a role in how good the MLB looks.

      1. How did Acker play and why don’t you discuss how many times he was targeted and how many passes he gave up? How many sacks did the D get? How many combined hits did Harold and Lemonier get on Manning (hint: begins with z and ends with o).

        Bowman had perfect coverage on the last throw. Please tell me which LB in the league plays that one any better.

        The defense sucks. The personnel and coaching are substantially worse than at any time in Bowman’s career, but you want to blame Bowman? I suppose the offense’s woes coming into last game were all Kap’s fault, too.

        I expect this kind oversimplification from fans; perhaps I was wrong to think a paid observer of this team might be a little more nuanced in his analysis.

        1. Acker gave up three catches on six targets for 37 yards. He was OK. Bowman was THE mark. The Giants must have circled him in red on their gameplan.

          1. That was clear. Whenever the NYGs wanted to move the chains, they passed in the ILB area.

            I hope Bowman gets up to speed. I’m really rooting for him. As for now, he’s a phone booth linebacker. Teams will target him.

          2. And Tartt gave up six catches in six targets for 96 yards, Acker committed a costly interference penalty, Wilhoite looks like one of the worst LBs in the league, and Brock contributed to a 120 yard performance by Beckham.

            When OBJ went out, the Giants had no quality recievers so they targeted a RB out of the backfield. They went after Bowman because the guy Bowman was covering was their only offensive weapon. But again, let’s ignore the disaster taking place around him and call for Bowman to be cut….

            1. Leo, while I admire your loyalty, it’s clear to even my amatuer eye that he’s now a lateral liability. Whether or not he evers regains that asset is up for debate, but I doubt it considering the magnitude of the injury and the maintenance involved in preparing it for live action….

            2. Brock allowed a passer rating of 62.2. Bowman needs to play at a higher level to justify his contract.

            3. Leo,

              You are on a futile mission. After a loss, many fans are hellbent on finding a a sole scapegoat, despite several probable causes of the defeat. Grant just feeds these fans. Bowman clearly is not the same player he was 2 years ago. He may or may not return to that form. Niners do not have a replacement for him at this time. ‘Nuff said.

            4. The middle of the field was being targeted well before the Giants WRs got hurt. Grant is correct, the coverage in the middle of the field was very poor.

      2. Yep, and one of those catches he gave up was so obviously on him that it was named the second best play of the week on NFL Total Access. It was only beat out by a between the legs catch.
        I’m getting tired of an emphasis being put on that one play. Bowman did what he was supposed to on that play; it’s just that Manning and the Giants TE did it better.

  37. I always thought it takes a year to physically heal, but to get it all back mentally takes 2. Regardless after the horrible off season it’s hard not to root for bowman. They let gore, iupati go, Willis Borland Justin retired. Qb gurus win, see Walsh,holmgren, mooch harbaugh etc.. But the Yorks are too dumb or cheap or both, and want nobodies when they dumpster dive for coaches , to run their team as though they can coach these new age quarterbacks. Guess the ignorant Yorks they never learned from Nolan and later sing with Alex smith. Was in Dallas for the TO dance on the star thing, they hated jimmy Johnson, but no be ever questions his desire to win. The Yorks make it so obvious that they only want a big fat faintly cash cow to live off of,that it makes you yearn for the moribitio brothers again. They may have been cheap, but they had some pride.

      1. Grant,

        Thanks for a Kap mechanics update…Is it any wonder the niners don’t stay in-house when trying to fix his mechanics, but instead, go to Warner or others.

        You never heard about Montana, Young, Bono, or Garcia’s mechanics being off because, like the San Francisco Giants have Dave Righetti in-house, the 49ers had Walsh, Holmgren, Shannahan, Gruden, Green, Marriucci, Knapp, etc..

        Will the York’s ever hire a strong offensieve minded passing guru again?

    1. I think Kaep is over coached. They said he needed to work on his progressions, and he took sacks because he did not release the ball soon enough. They have messed with his throwing mechanics, and that resulted in 4 picks. They said he needed to read the defense, and that has resulted in him letting the play clock run down to zero, thus wasting precious seconds. Logan said in one of his videos that the quick sideline pass should be safe and automatic, but when the defense anticipates the throw, it ended up with 2 pick sixes in a row.
      The Niners should just let Kaep be the field general and call the plays at the line so he can run the hurry up with quick snaps.They should spread them wide so the defense cannot stack the box, and always have the RB swing outlet pass available to avoid holding onto the ball too long. The O line needs to give him time to throw, so Tiller and Brown should be allowed to play.

    1. Like Walsh’s WCO, (the sum of passes combined equals big outcomes), the sum of litte details, uncorrected, adds up to losses.

      Wasted time-outs by Tomsula, Kap’s mechanical issues leaking oil, one week the offense is good, but the defense is not, etc., etc., are all signs of bad management.

      When the Kap mechanics problems mentioned by Grant occurred, these were the litte things that you never heard slip out to the press, because Walsh was on top of the details…

    2. This article makes complete sense. I particularly like the contrast with Stafford.

      Baalke misjudged his high-round O line picks (which can happen to any GM) but had no Plan B in the form of meaningful depth or worthwhile FA. Can’t build depth on a stable of UDFAs and 6-7 round picks. With VD’s continued disappearance, also missing is a credible red zone threat.

      That said, Niners should still draft a BPA QB, after getting better help with QB coaching. Not sold on Geep or Logan.

      1. I do not trust the current offensive minds within the franchise to develop a quarterback. Trade for Payton and move Tomsula to DC….

        1. I’d love to see Payton as our HC, but he’d butt heads with Baalke and hurt York’s feelings by telling him to quit cowering and get out from underneath his desk, so I don’t see him being brought in as the new HC.

        2. Payton will likely be in Philly or Indy next season.

          Jed went through a lot of contortions to avoid paying oldJim 5M….he will owe newJim a lot more if he fires him after only one season.

          Baalke’s contract runs through the 2016 season.
          Expectations are best adjusted accordingly.

        3. Interesting thought, Razor. Both Payton and Baalke have worked for Parcells, but Payton was a QB and his offense is not stuck in the Parcellozoic Era.

    1. Bowman is in perfect position, turns to locate the ball, and challenges Donnell at the catch point. Donnell just makes a phenomenal catch in a critical moment. And that was really what this final drive, and much of the game, came down to: the better team made more plays.

    2. Ultimately, the 49ers defense simply had no answer for the Manning to Vereen hook-up. Bowman, Tartt, and Reaser all tried their hand at covering the shifty running back to no avail. Manning made accurate throws with Lynch repeatedly bearing down on him, and in rare situations when he was off target the 49ers couldn’t take advantage.

      Putting the blame squarely on Bowman’s shoulders is horse $@!#.

      1. Things would have been different if Niners could have put some pressure from the side opposite to Lynch. Brooks was missed.

    3. This is an excellent article cubus, it really highlights the issues the 49ers had in that final drive.

      On that first play to Vereen where he beats Tartt, this is what I was referring to in my post match analysis where I said the young DBs let themselves get picked too easily. The route by the TE takes Tartt out of position and left him trailing Vereen.

      That play that Brock almost picked off is a great example of how Bowman is struggling in coverage. He got beat easy as you like.

      The last paragraph sums things up beautifully. Second worst coverage in the middle of the field this season. Its not just Bowman that is struggling in coverage – Wilhoite and Tartt have struggled too. And when they go zone coverage they are struggling to fill their lanes to prevent passes over the middle.

      This last point is an important one. I have seen on more than one occasion during Grant’s game coverage how a DB “got beat” for an easy completion over the middle. But when I watch the film I am often seeing the DB playing off coverage, outside shoulder. They should be getting help inside from one of the LBs, taking away the quick hitting inside shoulder route, but the coverage is late getting across. It was plain as day to see on one play this past week where Harris the slot WR caught an easy 3rd down conversion on Ward, but Bowman flashed across the screen late trying to knock down the pass. That inside route was his responsibility, but he filled the lane too late and gave up the 3rd down conversion.

  38. As usual, Grant takes a legitimate point and turns it into an exaggerated hit piece.

    Grant, until you learn to write more objectively without sounding like judge, jury, and executioner, you will never be a relevant journalist.

    What’s sad is that you took a subject worth analysing, and turned it into a forgone conclusion. Navorro Bowman is no where near 100% recovered from his catastrophic injury. Most doctors will tell you that, even under the best of circumstances, a knee injury of this magnitude would likely take the better of 2 years recovery before get to the point where you can say that the knee is fully healed and Navorrow’s recovery has reached it’s maximum potential. And, even at that point it’s reasonable to assume that an athlete may be able to find a way to get better by finding ways to compensate for their decreased agility. We don’t yet know if the Bowman we see playing this season, is the best player Bowman can be post recovery.

    That said, it’s clear that, AT THIS STAGE, he is not capable of playing at anywhere close to the level he did a mere 21 months ago, prior to the dreaded 2013 NFC Championship game. And the question TODAY, is whether or not, at this stage of recovery, Navorrow is a defensive liability. And after watching closely the last few games I can say that, IMO, Navorrow is A MAJOR LIABILITY right now, and he probably cost us the game Sunday Night, and will likely cost us more games in the coming weeks if we don’t replace him.

    A smart coach (and smart person) would never take your approach and declare Navorrow Bowman’s career over at this point, and release him. Because, there is a chance his knee will continue to improve, and he could be more agile 6-12 months from now. But he is clearly a liability at ILB right now, and really affecting our ability to defend the middle of the field. And Tomsula needs to use the right approach and put his team first by letting Navorrow take a step back and give his knee more time to heal. He needs to promote Gerald Hodges and sit Navorrow. Let him stay on the roster, and have an emotional impact from the sideline, as an inactive player, but spiritual leader the team can rally around.

    The only thing else I would say is, thank god your aren’t making these decisions for the 49ers because your inability to look at things objectively would turn the 49ers into your irrelevant blog.

    1. “Smith said he didn’t realize it in the spring, back when Harbaugh was keeping his team on the field for the maximum amount of time allowed by NCAA rules for each session, but in retrospect he says that’s when they learned to lean on each other. The four-hour practices haven’t returned this fall, but their effects are now paying dividends.”

      This is how Harbaugh turned Stanford from a team of wusses under Teevens and Harris to a tough, hard-nosed, physically well-conditioned team. That was awesome and every Stanford football fan is grateful to coach Harbaugh. The problem is that this sort of approach will reduce the careers of NFL players, as well as their patience.

      1. A Harbaugh camp sounds very similar to an armed services boot camp. Nobody enjoys it, but at the end of the day, that is what gives you the best odds of surviving and thriving….

  39. From ESPN: http://espn.go.com/blog/san-francisco-49ers/post/_/id/15411/jim-harbaugh-follies-contributed-to-49ers-downfall-since-super-bowl-xlvii

    Why Baalke should be blamed with Jed slightly behind:

    Most notable:Poor drafting has also contributed to the roster overhaul. Since 2011, Baalke’s first year as general manager, the 49ers have made 49 picks … and only eight are currently starters for the team. And since 2012, the 49ers have drafted 22 players in the first four rounds, and just four of those players have played more than 50 percent of snaps this season — free safety Eric Reid, defensive back Jimmie Ward, center Marcus Martin and running back Carlos Hyde.

    1. Up until about a month ago, one could not mention Baalke’s name without also adding top 5 GM as a qualifier.
      Good to see more people are taking a closer look at his track record.

      Paul Gutierrez was a local beat writer before moving onto ESPN.

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