MIDSEASON REPORT CARD
--PASSING OFFENSE: D -- Both Blaine Gabbert and Colin Kaepernick have lived down to expectations. The 49ers rate dead last in the league in passing yards per game (161.4). So why not an F? At least they've avoided a significant number of turnovers (seven interceptions in seven games), and the door remains slightly ajar on the possibility that a rusty Kaepernick might get better.
--RUSHING OFFENSE: C -- On the surface, the 49ers appear to have had some success running the ball this season. They rate fourth in the league at 128.6 yards per game and third in touchdowns with 10. But this is an area where the 49ers were supposed to excel, so even the 128.6 figure is a bit disappointing. When the 49ers have needed to run the ball to have a chance to win, they've failed.
--PASS DEFENSE: C -- Again, the numbers are a bit deceiving. How can the league's seventh-best team in yards allowed (222.0) be the sixth-worst in touchdowns permitted (15)? Here's how: Teams pretty much only pass against the 49ers when needed. And when they do, they tend to put up points.
--RUSH DEFENSE: F -- Blame the loss of NaVorro Bowman if you like, but the fact is, the 49ers miss Patrick Willis more. They haven't come close to replacing Willis' run-stopping ability despite trying multiple candidates. They're allowing more than 40 yards a game more than the second-worst team (Cleveland). That's embarrassing.
--SPECIAL TEAMS: C -- The 49ers have a solid punter in Bradley Pinion and one of the best kickers in Phil Dawson. The fact that they're rated a C in this category speaks volumes of how bad their return teams have been. Their longest return of any type this season has been a yawn-inspiring 26 yards. Talk about a good time to head to the concession stands.
--COACHING: D -- San Francisco fans are happy to report that Chip Kelly is doing poorly enough to supposedly assure that general manager Trent Baalke will be fired at season's end. But then what? The new general manager better find Kelly a quarterback, because his offense has gotten basically nothing out of the current two. The honeymoon is over, but fortunately for the coach, a scapegoat likely has been identified.
Most Valuable Player: Inside linebacker NaVorro Bowman. Remember way back when the 49ers won a game? Yep, Bowman was the star, spearheading a defense that shut out the Los Angeles Rams. The 49ers actually had a chance to win for a second time in Week 4 against Dallas before their defensive standout sustained a season-ending Achilles injury. You could say the 49ers' season ended at that point as well; the defense has allowed 112 points in the last three games against far lesser competition.
Most Disappointing Player: Running back Carlos Hyde. Like Bowman, Hyde was a standout in the opening win over the Rams. And like Bowman, he's done little of late. Only in Hyde's case, his demise started well before sustaining yet another of his annual injuries, this one a bruised shoulder. With shaky quarterback play and little to offer in the receiving corps, the 49ers needed Hyde to be great more than ever this season. He's been a great disappointment.
Most Surprising Rookie: Cornerback Rashard Robinson. He was good before getting himself into trouble on more than one occasion at LSU, prompting a slide to the fourth round. He's been on his best behavior so far for the 49ers, and he's playing back to his freshman level in college. He's already started games, which is more than most fourth-round picks will have to say for their career.