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The 49ers are dreadful, but they aren’t as bad as the Browns




Pro Football Talk’s Zac Jackson joined The KJ podcast on Monday. Zac and I both covered the Cleveland Browns — he for several seasons — so we both consider analyzing bad football our wheelhouse.

Throw out the 0-14 and 1-13 records for a second: Jackson believes the 49ers are further along than the Browns heading into 2017, even though Cleveland’s last win did come against these very 49ers a year ago with Johnny Manziel.

A big difference between the two teams: Cleveland chose to blow out the entire roster because of busted draft picks and other serviceable players were set to hit free agency — Travis Benjamin, Mitchell Schwartz, Alex Mack. San Francisco (wrongly) chose to ride entirely with Trent Baalke’s draft picks, a decision that’ll almost certainly cost the GM his job.

While Baalke’s last four first round draft picks — Eric Reid, Jimmie Ward, Arik Armstead and DeForest Buckner — are not stars, they are at least decent contributors. None can be considered a busted draft pick. And that’s much more than Cleveland has in its cupboards.

“When (the Browns) started this revamp, rebuild — whatever it’s supposed to be — they didn’t leave one area of strength,” Jackson said. “There’s bad quarterback play, there’s bad offensive line play, there’s not much receiver play and the defense is young and unproven at all three levels. There’s not a building block or fall back to kind of keep you in games, compete and evaluate.

“The 49ers have some good young defensive players. That can be your building block. Then you can feel good about going forward with that.”

I harped on my point that the 49ers and Browns are in the position they’re in because they both incorrectly view free agency as the devil. San Francisco and Cleveland both lead the NFL in cap space — the 49ers thought their roster was better than it was; the Browns were intent on doing a total rebuild.

“You cannot build a proper culture in a locker room with a bunch of rookies and young players,” Jones said. “They will lose, they won’t take the losing as seriously because they are now getting paid. There needs to be enforcers in the locker room. You don’t really see teams tank in the NFL because you need veteran players. You need to (graduate) from 5-11, to 7-9, to the playoffs.”

Jackson agreed. A front office planning years down the road isn’t aware of the reality of the NFL.

“There’s no such thing as a five-year window in today’s NFL — there’s just not,” Jackson said. “So eventually, you have to go for it, you have to think in six months, in 18 months. If you start thinking three years from now — these players are going to be with us and healthy and we’ll turn things around — I’m just not sure you are going to be around to see it.”

Things the 49ers possess that the Browns don’t:

A) A very serviceable offensive line

B) A top 10 running back in Carlos Hyde

C) A group of young players on defense

Things the Browns possess that the 49ers don’t

A) Skill players to throw the ball to (Terrelle Pryor, Corey Coleman)

Things both teams share in common

A) No franchise quarterback

B) No pass rush or run defense

C) Severe fan unrest with ownership