49ers must bench Josh Norman now after poor outing vs. Cardinals

San Francisco 49ers cornerback Josh Norman (26) is restrained by NFL side judge Gary Cavaletto (60) against Arizona Cardinals offensive tackle D.J. Humphries (74) Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
San Francisco 49ers cornerback Josh Norman (26) is restrained by NFL side judge Gary Cavaletto (60) against Arizona Cardinals offensive tackle D.J. Humphries (74) Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports /

The 49ers have tried to make things work with cornerback Josh Norman in 2021, but his latest outburst versus the Cardinals is grounds for a demotion.

The San Francisco 49ers shouldn’t have a need for veteran cornerback Josh Norman. And if they do decide to have a need for him, it should be as nothing more than a back-end-of-the-roster player to guard against injury attrition.

Just injury attrition. Not even poor play from other corners.

Perhaps Norman will be off the roster by the time this article goes live. After all, the Niners benched him after halftime following their 31-17 debacle of a loss to the Arizona Cardinals at home in Week 9, falling to a shorthanded Cardinals squad led by backup quarterback Colt McCoy instead of Kyler Murray.

Even though San Francisco had all kinds of trouble defending McCoy and Arizona’s offense, which just so happened to net 437 yards of total offense, it was Norman’s actions late in the second half that ultimately are going to highlight the 49ers’ frustrations.

The Niners had just stopped the Cardinals on third down, setting up what would have been a field-goal try after a 3rd-and-18 play resulted in a 2-yard loss. But Norman got into it with a number of Arizona players, as well as Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury, resulting in a 15-yard unsportsmanlike-conduct penalty.

Interestingly enough, Kingsbury was called for the same, although the officials first enforced Norman’s penalty, ultimately giving Arizona a first down before enforcing the additional yards on Kingsbury’s flag.

The Cardinals scored a field goal nevertheless, so that might not have altered anything. But Norman was subsequently benched in favor of veteran corner Dre Kirkpatrick for the rest of the game.

49ers have no need to start Josh Norman after Week 9

Kirkpatrick wasn’t particularly effective as a replacement, and he’s been underwhelming since joining San Francisco as a midseason free-agent add.

After the game, though, head coach Kyle Shanahan told reporters he didn’t make the decision to bench Norman but was nevertheless OK with it anyway. That’s revealing, as the 49ers are lacking veteran leadership, and the fact Norman reacted the way he did shows the leadership is still lacking anyway.

Prior to Week 9, Norman had been targeted 22 times and surrendered 16 receptions for 184 yards, four touchdowns with an interception for an opponents’ passer rating of 118.2, according to Pro Football Focus. Including the 15-yard penalty against the Cardinals, Norman has now been flagged a team-high eight times, two of them declined, with six of those being for either pass interference or defensive holding.

Clearly, Norman is more of a liability than a bonus.

49ers would be better off playing Deommodore Lenoir or Ambry Thomas

With the Niners now 3-5 on the season and watching their already-slim playoff hopes take yet another huge hit, the focus for Shanahan and Co. needs to be on 2022 and beyond.

One of the big themes for Shanahan this season has been relegating his two rookie cornerbacks, Ambry Thomas and Deommodore Lenoir, for the bulk of the year. While Thomas’ early struggles have made sense of this decision to a point, Lenoir’s early successes over the first two weeks of the season don’t help explain why he’s been inactive in recent weeks.

Related Story: Josh Norman is proving not to be the answer for 49ers

If anything, putting Lenoir on the field instead of Norman would allow the rookie to gain some much-needed on-field experience.

And the same could be said of Thomas, too, upon whom San Francisco used a third-round NFL Draft pick.

Simply put, if the 49ers are going to continue having problems within their secondary, it might as well be with players who intend to be long-term figures on the roster instead of someone like Norman, who is playing himself off of it.

Next. 5 chilling stats from 49ers' debacle of a loss to Cardinals. dark