I was going to open this morning with some preview stuff about the Seahawks. However, on my way into school today I saw the cover of the San Francisco Chronicle and an an article by Nancy Gay titled, "On the NFL: Give the 49ers' and Raiders' owners an earful."
So, when I got to school I check out the article at sfgate.com and it left me with mixed emotions:
If you are sincerely disgusted with the state of your once-mighty franchise, be it the 49ers or the Raiders, then take action . . . Do something about it. Make the owners, whose teams opened the 2008 season with maddeningly predictable results, explain themselves to you.
First off, I don't think five ugly turnovers is the most predictable result, but I realize the point she is making. The 49ers struggled in their opener, although they certainly weren't embarrassed quite like the Raiders on national tv.
Demand that John, Jed and Denise York get microphones, take hard questions and give honest answers about their football product, a 49ers team filled with high draft picks and big-money free agents who consistently fail to deliver . . .
[T]he Yorks turned over a football dynasty to a carnival barker, Terry Donahue, and a Stanford MBA with zero football background, Paraag Marathe. When it became obvious that Donahue had to go, the Yorks made an even more catastrophic mistake.
They turned over their football operation to one man, Mike Nolan, who had not been an NFL head coach and had zero front-office experience. When Nolan showed he was in over his head, the Yorks refused to fire him as head coach. Then they promoted Nolan's right-hand man and a college scout, Scot McCloughan, to general manager.
I don't think anybody will disagree that Terry Donahue was a joke. As far as Mike Nolan is concerned, my thoughts are pretty simple. He showed improvement from year 1 to year 2 as Alex Smith appeared to be moving in the right direction. Ownership was willing to invest in a big time free agent like Nate Clements and hopes were high going into 2007.
That season was obviously a disaster and I won't try and color it any other way. Alex Smith regressed due to injury (and whatever other reasons), the offensive line was a mess and there some big communication problems. However, I think ownership was correct in not firing Nolan. He'd shown improvement the year before so I have absolutely no problem with him being back in 2008. If the team starts off 0-5 or 0-6 or whatever, then it would certainly be reasonable to fire him.
As for the lack of firepower in this draft, I'm not 100% sure what to think yet. There were guys like Quentin Groves and Limas Sweed the team might have been able to grab who might have been more immediate impact players. However, even though this team struggled, I believe that many of the players in place after free agency and before the draft were not guys you'd expect to get beat out by rookies.
A guy like Aubrayo Franklin certainly could have been and I really would have liked a huge nose tackle, as opposed to an apparent tweener type in Kentwan Balmer. Outside linebacker was another spot for competition, but I think the team was high enough on Parys Haralson that they didn't want to grab a guy like Groves. It's only been one game but Haralson has certainly stepped up so far.
So what do you think of what Nancy Gay has to say? The Raiders are clearly a train wreck with Al Davis running things. They've had coaching issues even after a decent first step by Lane Kiffin. It's pretty easy to point out issues with the Raiders. However, with the 49ers it's not quite as clear. Stadium-issues aside, the Yorks have invested in personnel. In reality I think is more a referendum on Mike Nolan than on the personnel side. I think she's incorrect in her assessments of the 49ers draft picks. The 49ers situation is not black and white, even with their struggles last year.
Nonetheless, I'd imagine with this topic people are strongly in one camp or another.