by Daisy Barringer

After yesterday's 26-24 loss to the Washington team with the racist name, the San Francisco 49ers became the first team in NFL history to lose five straight games by three points or fewer. They are also the only team other than the Cleveland Browns to be 0-6 on the season.

While in years past those two statements may have been reason for 49ers fans to stay in bed on Monday morning, this season those somber facts are actually great news. The close scores mean that anyone who is still watching actually gets to enjoy decent (enough) games, while the losses help set the organization up for a high pick in next year’s draft.

Of course, yesterday’s close score would not have even happened had Brian Hoyer, who seriously should never had a job as a starting QB in the NFL in the first place, had not been replaced by rookie C.J. Beathard in the second quarter when the Niners were down 14-0.

I’ll admit that I was simultaneously pleased and furious that the third-round draft pick came into the game and started throwing passes that were being caught and putting together drives that were resulting in touchdowns. Did someone forget to tell him the plan? We’re not supposed to actually win games this year! We are sacrificing this season so that we can have better seasons in the coming years.

But there Beathard was, actually connecting with guys and putting together drives that resulted in points. If not for a desperate throw on fourth-and-20 in the final seconds of the game that resulted in an interception, his passer rating would have been above 90. As it stands, he finished 19-of-36 for 245 yards with 1 touchdown and 1 interception for a passer rating of 72.1.

Was it all super pretty? Absolutely not. There were tipped passes, near interceptions, and plenty of drops. But there was also a spark that I hadn’t seen in the previous five games. A feeling like this offense could actually make something happen. And truthfully, if not for a terrible offensive pass interference call on Pierre Garcon, the 49ers most likely would have won the game.

Thank god they didn’t. And while I totally mean that, I have to say, it did break my heart to see Pierre Garcon’s reaction after that call. Because it was clear that he really wanted the W and that it broke his heart to know that a shitty call by the refs meant he and his teammates weren’t going to get it.

That’s the hard thing about rooting for your team to lose. You have to put feelings aside and ignore the fact that the majority of these guys are going out there every single week and giving it their all. Yes, we’ve seen dumb penalties, dropped passes, and stupid mistakes like a delay of game after an injury time out, but ultimately, these guys want that feeling of victory. Even if it’s ultimately meaningless.
And I totally get that. So, for a second, when I saw Pierre Garcon’s reaction to the call… when, even without being able to see his eyes, his body language made it clear that he needed this win—really, really needed it—I felt terrible.

But not terrible enough to hope we’d come out victorious. I’ll save that for the end of the season if and when we’ve secured that first round pick. We can get as many moral victories as we want then. Which, yes, means that for the next 10 weeks, I’m a Browns fan and I’m a Giants fan. (Okay, I’m not really a Giants fan because: gross. But I do hope they win at least a few games.) Because, as I’ve said before, and I will keep saying for the rest of the season, while a win feels good in the moment, in the long run it’s a detriment to the future of this team. And in my old age, I am able to put aside immediate gratification for a better chance at happiness down the road. Or, at least I am when it comes to football anyway.

Before I let you return to real life and all of the disheartening things it has to offer, let me just dwell on one more depressing piece of football news: the release of veteran linebacker NaVorro Bowman.

Of course, Bowman’s release was incredibly upsetting news during a week in the world where it seemed like nothing was going right. But I understand that Bowman was frustrated with his current role, and I appreciate the 49ers cut him and gave him the chance to find his own team instead of trading him to the Saints.

It’s crystal clear that the 49ers plan for the future is to chase youth. (I mean, it’s America; that’s basically everyone’s plan. Sigh.) Part of me gets it. Young guys are much more cost effective than experienced veterans. But when a team gets rid of its veterans in lieu of guys who don’t make as much money and have more years left to play, they’re doing themselves a disservice. Everyone talks about how rookie Reuben Foster is just waiting in the wings behind Bowman. But do you know what would make Reuben Foster a much better player in the long run? Being on a team with Bowman. Being mentored by Bowman. Learning from Bowman.

The NFL has a huge problem as of late. Football just isn’t as fun to watch. The level of play isn’t what it used to be. And I’m pretty convinced that is largely in part to the fact that rookies are no longer allowed to sit on the bench during games and slowly develop over time. Just look at Steve Young. Though he says he didn’t enjoy it, he did have to sit on the bench behind Joe Montana for four years. Four years where he was certainly the best back-up in the league, but four years that also allowed him to mature and grow as a player.

Listen, in this day and age, I wouldn’t want any player as talented as Steve Young to sit on the bench for four years. But I do believe there is something to be gained by allowing players to learn the game instead of throwing them into the fire. Alas, that’s the exact opposite direction the NFL is going these days, and, as a result, NaVorro Bowman is no longer a San Francisco 49er. Except in my heart where he’ll always be one.

Next Week: The (0-6) 49ers return home after three weeks on the road to play the (2-3) Dallas Cowboys who are coming off of a bye week. I don’t see how I’m possibly going to root for the Niners to win because the Cowboys, and Jerry Jones in particular, can kiss my 49ers-loving, anthem-kneeling ass. So I actually hope we win. Except, I know we probably won’t.