ESPN the Magazine's Ultimate Standings: 49ers Fans' Opinions Wanted

The fine folks of ESPN the Magazine contacted me late last week to inquire about fan attitudes regarding the 49ers organization.  ESPN the Magazine runs something call their "Ultimate Standings," where they rank all the teams from the four major sports.  If you've missed the rankings before, here are last year's results and their methodology.  Over the last few years, the 49ers have ranked rather poorly in their perception of the franchise (the categories are explained in last year's results above):

Year RNK BNG FRL OWN AFF STD PLA CCH TTR Prev Season Standing
2008 102 94 98 112 103 118 99 97 35 2007: 5-11
2007 100 112 88 110 92 119 67 26 30 2006: 7-9
2006 81 90 79 79 70 80 79 56 24 2005: 4-12
2005 89 70 88 90 89 90 88 91 28 2004: 2-14
2004 72 31 95 72 83 104 63 101 17 2003: 7-9
2003 31 31 50 38 47 87 29 67 13 2002: 10-6

It's certainly not surprising the rankings have gone in the tank as each season has passed.  I consider myself an optimistic realist and while I think ownership is improving, I can see why people have a problem with them.

So, the folks at ESPN sent along some questions for me to answer, but I thought it'd be just as useful to get some answers from you guys.  Answer as many of them as you want.  It's entirely possible they'll publish some of these comments if they succinctly capture the point.  Also, if there is something you want to address that's not in the questions, feel free to do so.

1) How much does the stadium issue impact fan feelings about the team?  I've been to Candlestick, but not with people in it (just there for a story and inside the empty stadium).  Obviously it's not new, and there's something that looks like moss growing on it, but how's the experience inside/outside on game day?  Do fans want a new building, or just for the conversation about it to stop?

2) How hard will it be for Jed York to undo the damage of his dad?

3) You mentioned that fans are bitter.  Are there specific things they're bitter about?  Policies the team has adopted, players they've kept/cut?

4) People seemed hopeful about Mike Nolan, and that didn't work out.  The same sort of optimism seems to be there with Singletary... how are fans reacting to him?

I've posted my own answers after the jump.

1) How much does the stadium issue impact fan feelings about the team?  I've been to Candlestick, but not with people in it (just there for a story and inside the empty stadium).  Obviously it's not new, and there's something that looks like moss growing on it, but how's the experience inside/outside on game day?  Do fans want a new building, or just for the conversation about it to stop?

People definitely want a new stadium, but I think people really care more about the on-field product at this point.  As long as the team isn't moved out of the Bay Area, I'm starting to think people aren't as concerned about the stadium as one might expect.  I think the folks who are not happy with ownership view the stadium issue as just an extension of the problems they've had with organization as a whole.  The economic concerns and lack of money in the NFL's G3 only makes more folks resigned on the stadium issue.  It wouldn't surprise me if the franchise ended up just renovating Candlestick, like the Chiefs are doing at Arrowhead.

As far as the game day experience, it's definitely a tough place to watch a game.  I personally prefer watching NFL games on tv.  However, there's a distinct difference in watching a game at candlestick versus a newer place like Fedex Field.

2) How hard will it be for Jed York to undo the damage of his dad?

I guarantee you people will disagree with me, but I think the damage was already being undone.  As they were slowly working Jed into the picture, John and Denise York were already stepping back on the football operations matters.  There have been question marks about the people running football ops, but people can't complain about the team not spending money on quality players.  it's one thing to spend cap money just because you have it.  However, in bringing in the likes of Justin Smith and Nate Clements, I believe the team has shown a commitment to improving the on-field product, whatever the cost.

3) You mentioned that fans are bitter.  Are there specific things they're bitter about?  Policies the team has adopted, players they've kept/cut?

Many fans view the organization as not having any vision from the top all the way down to the coaching staff.  The example going around is the attempt to sign Kurt Warner.  Coach Singletary indicated he wanted a power running team and Kurt Warner would seem to go against that.  Although I think a good QB is a good QB, I can see how people would view it that way.  It comes across as though Coach Singletary doesn't really know what he wants.  As a optimistic realist (or realistic optimist, maybe?) I don't quite view it that way.  I view it as going after the proverbial "best player available" to improve the team.  Maybe Warner doesn't quite fit the philosophy you're building around, but he's a good QB nonetheless.

4) People seemed hopeful about Mike Nolan, and that didn't work out.  The same sort of optimism seems to be there with Singletary... how are fans reacting to him?

The optimists are extremely excited for the Singletary era.  There's nothing that can be said that will shake their confidence.  Other folks are probably more curious than anything else.  They acknowledge he could succeed, but also don't think it's time to start printing playoff tickets.  I think I sit in the middle.  I recognize that Mike Singletary really doesn't have a whole ton of coaching experience.  Accordingly, I won't get myself amped up to the point of thinking he's the second coming of Bill Walsh.  At the same time, I think he showed the team and the fans something in closing out the second half of last season.  I'm optimistic going forward.

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