The 49ers have three games remaining in the season, and -- believe it or not -- there is plenty at stake.
They certainly did not play like much was on the line last week in Cleveland. After the criticism the coaching staff and players earned from their weak performances a week ago, the 49ers (4-9) will be under a lot of scrutiny on Sunday at Levi’s Stadium against the Cincinnati Bengals.
You have questions. We have answers. Let’s open the 49ers Mailbag and see what’s on your minds:
Assuming the same front office is around at draft time, are you under the impression the Niners have their QB, or is he in the draft? (Jeff Tankersley)
The one quarterback we know will be on the 49ers’ roster next season is Blaine Gabbert. It’s difficult to come up with a scenario in which Colin Kaepernick and the 49ers agree to maintain their union in 2016.
Therefore, Gabbert is the most-likely quarterback to open the 2016 as the starter. Of course, he will not be handed anything. The 49ers will almost certainly draft a quarterback (we’ve said that before and were wrong), but that does not mean they are going to spend a first-round pick on the position.
The 49ers have enough needs in other spots, so they should take the best player on their draft board with their first selection. If they’re not sold on underclassmen Paxton Lynch or Jared Goff, they might like what they see in more pro-ready senior Connor Cook.
Remember, Gabbert is just 26. He has not been great. He has not been bad. At the very least, Gabbert has shown the team can function with him. Then, it’s a matter of keeping him in that spot until someone else proves he’s a better option -- or until he proves he is clearly the best option.
Why is it so hard for York or Baalke to come out and address the fan base with what their actual plans are? (Arnold E Erazo)
This is nothing new. And it’s certainly not unique to the 49ers, as Dan Brown of the Mercury News pointed out this week. Brown took an informal survey of writers who cover each of the 32 teams in the league, and he found that only four team owners were described as "generally available" for interviews during the season.
A year ago when Trent Baalke and Jed York met with the media following the departure of Jim Harbaugh, they were asked about Harbaugh being the sole voice of the organization during the tumultuous season. Both men said organizational philosophy would not change under the next head coach.
Said Baalke, “Jim (Harbaugh) and I, we were going to make decisions together. And during the season, Jim was going to be the voice of the football team. That's how we operated. All of the decisions that we made, we made collectively, and made collectively from the start of Jim's tenure to the finish of Jim's tenure. He was always involved and, rightfully so, was the voice of the football team and the organization during the season. And that's how it was designed when we started four years ago."
York added, “And I don't believe that is going to change with our next head coach. Our next head coach, the head coach deals with the team and the media on almost a daily basis. I don't think you see CEOs doing daily or weekly media interviews and conferences."
York said recently he will make himself available to answer questions at the conclusion of the regular season.
Afterthought: Of course, York has tweeted during the season, including his notable apology following the 49ers' loss on Thanksgiving night when Harbaugh's team lost to the Seattle Seahawks. Following the loss to Pittsburgh, he tweeted "Tough loss," and after the victory over Chicago, he posted, "Very fun win."
With all the cap space next season do the 49ers change course and make a splash in free agency? (Jeff Vargason)
The 49ers could have $60 million in cap space to open the 2016 league year. Yes, they can be active in free agency with some front-loaded contracts. They can also look ahead and begin extending some players whose contracts are set to expire after the 2016 season – players such as Gabbert, Eric Reid, Quinton Dial, Andrew Tiller, L.J. McCray and Vance McDonald.
But, remember, the instances in which teams spend wildly in free agency and it pays off with a large increase in victories are rare. That’s simply not how successful rosters are built.