Alright. So today, the 49ers team lost a very crucial game to the Eagles. As a result, the 49ers are now officially eliminated from playoff contention. In situations like this, there tends to be a lot of fans who angrily pass the blame onto people they personally believe were at fault. It is understandable that people should feel frustrated, especially since a great franchise like the 49ers, which revolutionized the National Football League in the opinions of many people, can't seem to get it together.
I am writing this fanpost as a reflection, as well as an open discussion regarding this lost season.
I think that the 49ers have come close to the playoffs but have once again fallen short not because of a problem in the head coach's philosophy, but because of certain "ailments" that continue to hamper the team's ability to succeed. For the past few seasons, it had seemed that everytime the 49ers' season was lost, it was always blamed on the current head coach. When that head coach was replaced, similar results were produced under the coach that followed. It would seem, however, that under this current head coach the 49ers have exhibited significant improvement, but have not been able to finish games or execute well enough to win the games that mattered most.
From my observation, the 49ers' have seen significant improvement under Mike Singletary at the helm this year, but have fallen short because of a number of factors that went unaddressed -- not by Singletary, but by the 49ers upper management. The 49ers went into this season very unsettled. While the team knew who the starting quarterback would be, the quarterback position remained very unsettled, due to Shaun Hill's lackluster performance in the pass play. But can it really be blamed on him when Alex Smith, despite having clearly the better arm, has also come up short on long passes and big plays that the current receiving core is clearly more than capable of making? What it comes down to is the offensive coordination, and the mediocrity in Jimmy Raye's apparently very predictable, run-first style offense. Despite the unsettled vibe at the quarterback position, the 49ers have also had a very deficient offensive line that has on too many occasions failed to protect its quarterback or buy him enough time to make a decisive pass to an open receiver. This has been the case regardless of who has lined up behind center, regardless of whether it was Shaun Hill or Alex Smith.
I believe that a hard lesson may have been learned by management this past season regarding the personnel. And it is my personal wish that the current offensive coordinator be released on the basis of irreconcilable differences with the team's will to win versus the philosophy of "hard-nosed football". It is a fact that sometimes you can play and fight hard, and still be the statistical loser.
If the 49ers can address some of these issues in the offseason, I believe the team could very well explode onto the 2010 scene as "the elite" team in the National Football League. It has shown the capacity to do so in its performance against teams such as the Colts, Texans, Packers, Cardinals, Vikings and arguably other teams it has faced in the regular season. Its capacity was clear in the fact that (a) the other teams, despite their "elite" status, had a difficult time and/or (b) the 49ers clearly almost won but fell short.
The game versus Philadelphia today was a game that the 49ers could have afforded to lose, had they won at least one of the games they clearly were supposed to win but fell short on.
My personal suggestion:
Continue to build on the 3-4 defense, but do not rely on it for the purpose of scoring points. The purpose of any defense is, objectively, to slow the other team's offense down and, if possible, force turnovers. Offensively, the 49ers need to get out of the spread offense and move back toward the West Coast offense, which was what had taken the 49ers to the next level in all of its championship years. Also make changes to the offensive line so that the strongest men are put at the front line to buy the quarterback enough time to make good decisions without being afflicted by the pass rush, man coverage or any other form of defensive pressure.
All in all, I am proud of what the 49ers have accomplished this season, despite entering it unsettled in so many areas, spanning from an unsettled quarterback position and a mediocre, get-you-by offensive coordination scheme to an unsigned go-to wide receiver.