Here's a look at the first half of the season for the San Francisco 49ers and a preview of what to expect in the second half:
First-half snapshot: Realistically, this was always going to be the first season in what figures to be a multi-year rebuild for coach Kyle Shanahan and general manager John Lynch. Still, even the most pessimistic of fans probably didn't think the Niners would be winless through the first nine games. After a record-setting run of five consecutive games in which they lost by three or fewer points, the 49ers seemed to take a bit of a step back in blowout losses to Philadelphia and Dallas. Wins and losses aren't the primary barometer of improvement the Niners are using this year, but anytime you go without a victory for more than half a season, there's really no way to view it as anything but a failure. Grade: Bring on 2018
Midseason MVP: The standard statistics don't jump off the page for DeForest Buckner, but he has had a breakout season that has thrust him into the conversation as one of the league's best interior defenders. Buckner has Pro Football Focus' fifth-highest pass-rushing grade among interior linemen and has been one of their highest-graded defensive players regardless of position for most of the season. He hasn't gotten home for as many sacks as he would have liked, but he is a consistently dominant presence in the middle of the Niners' line and someone to build around on a team in need of cornerstones.
Best moment: Strange to say about something that didn't happen on the field and involves a player with so little NFL experience, but the easy choice here is the Niners' trade with the New England Patriots for quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. The lack of memorable on-field moments contributes to that, but put "best moment" in the context of what this team is trying to build for the long term, and coming up with an answer for the most important question facing the franchise more than qualifies. With Garoppolo in place, the Niners now have the ability to focus their copious draft and free-agent resources on ways to help him.
Worst moment: Take your pick from the deciding moments in the Niners' streak of five straight losses by three points or less and they would qualify. We're going with the offensive pass interference called on wide receiver Pierre Garcon late in the 26-24 loss to Washington. It was the second questionable offensive pass interference at a critical juncture that prevented the Niners from a potential comeback victory this season. This one had to hurt the most, though, because the call was clearly incorrect, it came in a game where rookie quarterback C.J. Beathard had valiantly led a comeback, and Shanahan was attempting to beat his former team on its home field. The call pushed the 49ers out of field-goal range, and Beathard's desperation heave was intercepted a few plays later to cement the defeat.
Second-half outlook: If nothing else, the 49ers have found a way to give their fans a reason to watch over the season's final weeks. Trading for Garoppolo is equivalent to trading for hope, and although he's being thrust into a situation that's far from ideal, the Niners and Shanahan can at least begin getting him acclimated to his new surroundings and evaluating what they need to put around him to help him succeed. Plus, there's always the race against the Cleveland Browns for the No. 1 overall pick. Losing isn't fun for any 49er or their fans, but auctioning off that top pick to a quarterback-needy team sure would be.