Mediocre may be proper description for Niners

Art Spander

Nick Mullens was better. The 49ers were not. You take the triumphs where you can. Especially in a season full of defeats. One of those — another of those — coming on Sunday.

That the Niners couldn’t beat the Seahawks, especially at Seattle, especially turning the ball over twice — two interceptions by the star-crossed guy Mullens replaced, Jimmy Garoppolo — was not exactly headline stuff.

The Seahawks have one of the best quarterbacks in the game — yes, Patrick Mahomes is included — and a great quarterback makes a difference. Some would add, “Along with a strong defense,” although until Sunday, when they beat the 49ers, 37-27, the Seahawks had a mediocre defense, ranking 24th of the 32 teams.

Mediocre also may be the proper listing for the Niners. They are 4-4 halfway through a season that, because of injuries and errors both in judgment and commission, appears destined to end up in a manner that fans fear.

We’ll find out more in four days. On Thursday night at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, San Francisco gets another considerable test, the Green Bay Packers.

The Pack lost Sunday to Minnesota, another franchise in America’s cold country. But in Aaron Rodgers, he of the State Farm commercials, and no less a Cal alumnus, Green Bay has what the 49ers lack, stability at QB.

No, you can’t do much about injuries, particularly in the salary cap era. Is anyone old enough to remember when the Niners of Eddie D, Bill Walsh and Carmen Policy signed everyone and anyone? These days, you just have to hope the next men up are talented.

San Francisco has used three different quarterbacks this short stretch, QB roulette, if you will, because Garoppolo incurred a high ankle sprain the second game of the season.

On came Mullens, who did so well some observers thought he should be the permanent starter — until two weeks later when Mullens was, well, ineffective is the the gentle way of phrasing it, and was replaced by C.J. Beathard.

Asked what happened that day against the Philadelphia Eagles, Mullens said, “I wish I knew.” Since then we do know, Garoppolo, gutting it out but restricted by his ailing ankle, returned until Sunday Mullens returned.

Mullens directed the 49ers to a mini-comeback in the second half. He completed 18 of 25 for 238 yards and led touchdown drives of 80, 79 and 61 yards.

Presumably he’ll be the starter Thursday, and presumably he’ll be better than the last start. He certainly knows the proper things to say.

“I think what I learned,” he said, “is how tough the NFL is. The thing that creates energy is making plays. And I feel on the both sides of the ball (Sunday) we obviously didn’t do that well enough.”

The Niners were missing wideout Deebo Samuel, who is as much a part of the running game — which is the Niners’ offense — as the passing game. San Francisco must play from ahead, get the ball and grinding away yards and time off the clock. When they fall behind, as they did on Sunday, well, they stay behind.

All this affects the tactics of Niners fourth-year coach Kyle Shanahan, whose philosophy is built on powerful backs and ball control.

Drawing x’s and o’s on paper can be fascinating, but as what has befallen the supposedly unconquerable Bill Belichick this month — the Patriots lost their fourth in a row on Sunday — you must have the players.

Misery may love company, but football takes no relief if others are stumbling along with themselves.

“I was frustrated with the whole offense,” Shanahan said about the way his team played, “starting with myself. We were trying to hit some big plays. We didn’t get much from the run game (52 yards).

“We tried to get it going. Eventually, we had to get away from it and start throwing.”

Giving Nick Mullens another chance.

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