San Francisco 49ers: An Autopsy of the 2015 NFL Season

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August 24, 2014; Santa Clara, CA, USA; San Francisco 49ers inside linebacker Patrick Willis (52) watches from the sideline during the third quarter against the San Diego Chargers at Levi’s Stadium. The 49ers defeated the Chargers 21-7. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Player Departures Galore

Almost as if numerous players from the 49ers’ 2014 roster knew what was happening, San Francisco suffered one of the worst player-attrition rates in recent NFL history following the team’s 8-8 finish that season.

Some were expected. Others weren’t. But the combination of each of these losses were simply too much for the 49ers to overcome in just one season.

Here’s a short list of San Francisco players who left after that season:

  • LB Patrick Willis (retired)
  • DE Justin Smith (retired)
  • LB Chris Borland (retired)
  • LB Aldon Smith (released)
  • CB Chris Culliver (free agency)
  • CB Perrish Cox (free agency)
  • LG Mike Iupati (free agency)
  • RT Anthony Davis (retired)
  • RB Frank Gore (free agency)
  • WR Michael Crabtree (free agency)

Those are some notable losses to put things bluntly. We’re looking at some of the heart that made up the successful 49ers franchises between 2011 and 2014 and, just like that, all of them left.

Consider two of San Francisco’s preeminent strengths during the aforementioned stretch: the defensive front seven and the offensive line. Four starters from the 2014 season were gone within the front seven, and two O-line starters also left the team for other ventures.

Do the current statistics reinforce the 49ers’ inability to overcome these losses?

You bet.

The departures forced a young coaching staff to place developing players into roles for which they weren’t quite ready. True, some of these players — like right tackle Trent Brown or cornerback Kenneth Acker — could develop into something nice down the road. But the calling simply happened too soon.

Next: Trent Baalke and the 2012 and 2013 NFL Drafts