I mentioned last week that we'd hold off quarterly reviews until this week since the team has a bye and it's close enough to the quarter point. Things changed rather dramatically with the on-field product, and even for those who view it as just one game, it's still a very tough pill to swallow. Nonetheless we will power through with a first quarter review of the 2009 San Francisco 49ers.
I think it's safe to say the biggest issue at this point for the team is the offensive line. That's one reason we're referring to it as the LOLffensive LOLine (LOL for short - thanks to Florida Danny and others for rolling that one out, and I think we can stick with that as our OL's nickname). There are obviously plenty of other concerns, particularly on the offensive side of the ball. However, an improved offensive line would likely help mitigate some of these problems. The 49ers may not have the best QB in the world, but how good can he be when he's only getting a second to make decisions on passing plays? Glen Coffee may be struggling as a rookie, but without holes it's hard to gain confidence on an every down basis. Again, the offensive line is not the only problem on this team, but I would argue it is the biggest problem.
Over the course of the season we've had a variety of comments about the o-line ranging from we're screwed because of bad drafting to bench Chilo to fire OL coach Chris Foerster. In today's Mike Singletary approval rating thread a few folks were discussing the issue in terms of who should be on the line and who should be benched. What I wanted to do at this point was bring all the discussion into a single thread so we can sort through the mass of ideas out there.
In the Singletary thread, Florida Danny pointed to a pair of plays (check out the comment here) that I pulled up on my DVR. The first one is a rush play (11:08 left in the first quarter) and as Danny points out, Rachal ends the play blocking nobody and falling face first. The linebacker comes through untouched and stops Coffee. I was listening just after the play and Tony Siragusa talks about how it was such a great play by Atlanta considering they were rolling 5 DBs and had six men in the box. They certainly took advantage of the situation, but I'd say the 49ers provided them a great opportunity with the poor blocking.
The second play Danny pointed out was the pass play with 14:18 left in the second quarter. The offensive line issues came into play because Rachal let through the nickel linebacker. Hill got the throw off but the trajectory was definitely messed up by the blitzing LB. As Danny pointed out, Pashos went to defend the defensive end and released the LB for Rachal to block. Rachal instead decided to move up and to his left, once again guarding nobody as the LB burst through. If you get a chance to review the game tape, I strongly encourage you to check these two plays out.
In his press conference yesterday, Mike Singletary was asked if right guard was his biggest concern and he said: "Quite possible. Quite possible." Singletary explained the lack of preparation, but in the end the players also have to execute. Chilo Rachal has struggled in his execution this year. Does that mean it's time to go with Tony Wragge at right guard? Wragge is no superstar, but he has proven himself to be a solid competitor, which this offensive line just might need.
We continue on after the jump...
While the line as a whole is struggling, the second main issue with it is at right tackle. The team has bounced between Adam Snyder and Tony Pashos and does not seem to be any closer to a resolution of the matter. In previous press conferences Mike Singletary indicated that Adam Snyder had pulled ahead in the position battle. Then this Sunday he went down with a left thigh contusion. We don't have an update on his injury yet, so I'm not really sure what the immediate future holds at right tackle. Should the team stick with Pashos at right tackle? Someone suggested moving Barry Sims there, but I personally think Pashos deserves a complete game (or more) of action at right tackle before the team considers something drastic like letting Barry Sims on the field of play.
The other potential change is of course to fire Chris Foerster. In most any sports, but particularly in baseball and football, when a team is struggling in a particular area of the game, that particular assistant coach is often the one who gets canned. When a baseball team isn't hitting, adios batting coach. Chris Foerster was actually a beneficiary of such a change last October. Mike Nolan fired OL coach George Walthrop and promoted Chris Foerster in his place. Of course, that transaction occurred the same day as the team fired Mike Nolan and promoted Mike Singletary. So it's hard to assess the returns through the end of 2008.
So given that the team has some limited roster options (basically Wragge), is there any reason to think a new offensive line coach could make much of a difference for this line? Would they be able to better prepare the individuals on the line and put them in a position to succeed? Or is the OL in a position to succeed, but they're just not executing? Or maybe it's a combination of both. Either way, something needs to be done.