This is not about the fairness or the morality of the NFL suspending Aldon Smith nine games without pay. Fairness and morality are beside the point. This is about reality.
No one on the 49ers objects to the suspension. Just after the news broke Friday afternoon, Trent Baalke released a written statement saying, “It’s time to put this matter behind us and focus on the season ahead.”
Even Aldon Smith doesn’t object. He released his own statement in which he apologized for getting suspended and said, “I have learned a lot and I’m working hard to grow from my experiences.”
I’m sure he has learned a lot — specifically, if he screws up again the NFL probably will suspend him for an entire season. And then who will want him? He already has gotten in trouble four times — arrested twice for DUI, once for owning and shooting illegal fire arms and once for making a bomb threat at LAX. No fifth chance for him.
Where do the 49ers stand without Smith? That is the only relevant question. The 49ers have three backups — Dan Skuta, Corey Lemonier and Aaron Lynch. Skuta is a run defender, not a pass rusher. Lemonier and Lynch are pass rushers. Last week, defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said Lemonier has “rushed the passer pretty good” in the preseason, and Fangio said Lynch has “decent athletic ability.”
In the UCLA English Department, professors taught us freshmen to circle key words. What were the key words in Fangio’s quote? If you circled “pretty good” and “decent,” you get a check-plus.
The 49ers have a one-two punch of “pretty good” and “decent” trying to replace a freak, one of the best pass rushers in football. Yikes.
Let’s go game-by-game and figure out exactly how much Aldon Smith’s nine-game suspension will affect the 49ers.
Week 1: In Dallas. The Cowboys have one of the best left tackles in football, Tyron Smith. He gave up just one sack last season. He probably won’t get beaten by Lemonier or Lynch, and that means the Cowboys will score a lot. They have an excellent offense that scored 27.4 points per game last season and they could score more than 30 against the Niners Week 1.
But the Niners could score 40. Dallas has the worst defense in football. Four of their best defenders are gone. Sean Lee tore his ACL and meniscus during OTAs, DeMarcus Ware signed with the Broncos, Jason Hatcher signed with the Redskins and Orlando Scandrick is suspended for the first four games of the season. The 49ers’ offense should look better than ever and the 49ers should win.
Week 2: The Bears. Another game the 49ers should win without Aldon Smith. The Bears scored 27.8 points per game last season, but their quarterback is Jay Cutler. He always throws critical interceptions because he is Jay Cutler — it’s in his DNA.
Like the Cowboys, the Bears have an awful defense. They gave up 30 points per game last season. You couldn’t even call them a defense — they were an adjunct offense for the opposing team, aiding and abetting their quest to score points. The 49ers should start the season 2-0.
Week 3: In Arizona. A game the 49ers probably would win with Aldon Smith. Last season, the 49ers barely beat the Cardinals in Arizona and Aldon Smith played in that game. It took a last-second field goal for the 49ers to win. Without Smith, this game won’t be so close. The Cardinals signed Jared Veldheer this offseason, a very good left tackle who should have no trouble blocking Lemonier or Lynch. The Cardinals should win this game.