In certain ways, the 49ers season was a success.
The 49ers won six games after starting 0-9.
The 49ers tripled their win total from last season.
The 49ers added quality rookies who improved throughout the year.
The 49ers traded for Jimmy Garoppolo.
The 49ers didn’t fire their head coach.
These are big steps. For the first time since Jim Harbaugh was the head coach, the 49ers can feel good about themselves. They were one of the hottest teams in the NFL by the end of the regular season and could have been dangerous in the playoffs.
But, they didn’t make the playoffs. They eliminated themselves.
Players and coaches made rookie mistakes almost every week during the first half of the season. They started to win when Garoppolo became the quarterback, the schedule got easier, and the rookie players and rookie coaches improved.
Had the 49ers not beaten themselves and lost five games in a row by three points or fewer early in the season, they might be playing this weekend.
They missed an opportunity.
But, they created hope they’ll have more opportunities to make the playoffs in the future.
Hope is good.
Here are the 49ers grades for the 2017 season. And remember, these grades are based on an entire season, not the final seven games. That’s how grades work.
Brian Hoyer and C.J. Beathard survived. That’s the best you can say about them. Neither was skilled enough to function behind the 49ers’ terrible offensive line. Both were mentally broken after five starts. They got sacked 35 times.
Garoppolo got sacked only eight times during his five starts. His quick release allowed him to beat blitzes and pressure routinely. He almost always passed the ball before a defender touched him. And his passes were accurate.
Garoppolo’s completion percentage was 67.4 — fourth best in the NFL among quarterbacks who threw at least 150 passes. And he averaged 260 passing yards per game — ninth best.
But, his touchdown-to-interception ratio was 7-to-5. For comparison, Alex Smith’s TD-to-INT ratio was 26-to-5, or more than 5-to-1. Kirk Cousins’ ratio was 27-to-13, or more than 2-to-1.
Garoppolo’s ratio was roughly 1-to-1, pretty much in line with Hoyer and Beathard.
The 49ers will need more points and fewer turnovers from Garoppolo next season.
Running backs: B.
Fullback Kyle Juszczyk made the Pro Bowl. He’s not a major difference maker, but he’s the best fullback in the NFL.
Carlos Hyde had the most productive season of his career. He played all 16 games for the first time, ran hard the entire season, scored one-third of the 49ers touchdowns in the red zone, gained a career-high 1,290 yards from scrimmage and caught a career-high 59 passes.
But he wasn’t explosive. He averaged only 3.9 yards per carry and only 5.9 yards per catch. His backup, undrafted rookie Matt Breida, averaged 4.4 yards per carry (half a yard per carry more than Hyde) and 8.6 yards per catch (almost 3 yards more per catch than Hyde).
Breida probably will be the starter next season. Hyde probably will start for another team.