It’s looking like San Francisco 49ers tight end George Kittle will not be playing against the Seattle Seahawks on Monday Night Football. Niner Noise tries to explain why that may actually help the team.
Before I even begin, it’s critical to note I’m not arguing the San Francisco 49ers would be better off without tight end George Kittle in their Week 10 Monday Night Football bout against the visiting Seattle Seahawks. That’s illogical and incorrect. Kittle has been the most consistent option for these Niners and one of the primary reasons they are undefeated heading into this divisional affair.
That said, multiple reports have stated Kittle will likely not play this Monday after he has been ruled doubtful, and coach Kyle Shanahan said, “If it was any other player, I would probably say he’s out” (h/t Niners Wire). Against the Seahawks, a team the 49ers can never disregard, that potential loss may be huge.
The official, official ruling will be made when Shanahan announces his Week 10 inactives just over an hour before game time.
However, there is a silver lining, although it might not make much sense at first glance. The Seahawks have won seven games this year on the back of MVP front-runner Russell Wilson, not their defense. Per Football Outsiders’ DVOA, the Seahawks defense ranks 27th at first glance.
This is not the “Legion of Boom.” It’s not even close.
As the Niner Noise game preview explained, the Niners are 6.5-point favorites over the Seahawks. That doesn’t solely come from one player. The overall viewpoint is that the 49ers are simply a better team than the Seahawks.
So, we’ve established that the 49ers may be better overall than the Seahawks, and the Seahawks defense, by metrics, hasn’t been very good.
Here’s why not having Kittle might help the team in the long term.
Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo has a tendency to target Kittle all the time. For good reason too, because Kittle gets open often. But it goes beyond that. Garoppolo will key in on Kittle long before the play develops, making it easy for defenses to react and for him to miss wide-open reads.
Wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders has offered a way to get around that issue. But by and large, Jimmy G still focuses on Kittle. Without Kittle in a big spot, it’ll force Garoppolo to adjust.
Without his primary option on the field, Garoppolo could now be “forced” to actually scan the field and look for all his open reads. If the Seahawks defense was anything like it was six years ago, this is a terrible idea because those guys would dominate. But it isn’t. This is a game the 49ers don’t need Kittle for to win.
Now, if it works out that way, when Kittle returns next week or the week after, the 49ers passing attack would be even better because Garoppolo wouldn’t be over-dependent on one player in the system. It would be a short-term sacrifice for a long-term gain.
Plus, letting Kittle rest for the stretch run is a necessity. The Monday night game against the Seahawks may be more painful than wanted, but it’s a game the 49ers should win with or without Kittle, and as a result, it’s an opportunity for growth.
Though if Kittle plays, I wouldn’t be mad at all.