(Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)
The Niners have disappointed again, losing right out of the gates. Quarterback play has been a real issue, rookie starters aren’t stepping up, the wide receivers are near absent, the coaches seem lost and the defense isn’t throwing their weight around…
So what else is new?
We Niners fans have been exposed to this for a long time now. It seems that every year since Mariucci was tossed away like an overused bathroom rug, the Niners have had one, or all of the problems mentioned above holding them back from greatness. Hell, those errors have held the Niners back from mediocrity. Since the 2003 season, and Dennis "What is West Coast Offense?" Erickson beginning to drive this team into the dirt, it has been disappointment after disappointment. Now, in 2010, we have the latest episode of "How the 49ers will drive me bat-[site decorum] crazy…"
"For [eight] years we’ve been tested and tried and each man here has proved his mettle a hundred times over… and a hundred times again! Punished we were, the lot of us, disproportionate to our crime!" – Captain Hector Barbosa
This season, the pain is a little different. We were finally "getting respect" with most major sports media blowing smoke up our butts, telling us how good our team was all off-season.
"NFC West Champs, no problem…" "A legitimate threat in the NFC…" "I see the Niners in the Super Bowl!"
Now we are face to face with the truth, and it couldn’t be farther from the expectations we, and many analysts had. The Niners, as they stand now, are no where even close to a playoff team. The perspective from the East coast is: so what else is new?
The response has been concentrated vitriol. Patrick Willis is the only man on the team that hasn’t had his head called for by fans and media alike (likely because the focus on the D was elsewhere). Gore has blame, Iupati has blame, Smith, Spikes, Singletary, Norris, York, Crabtree, Davis, Clements all have blame. Raye shouldered a lot of blame and, fair or not, he took the fall for it. Its simple pirate code; any man who falls behind, is left behind. Now, the whole team has fallen behind, and it’s hard to continue to toss the garbage off the sinking ship. This team is tied for worst in the NFL; everyone even tangentially involved with the team has blame.
So why bring all this up? Why continue to rub the salt in our massive headwounds?
Because we’ve been through this before, and we’re still here.
Yes, our expectations were incredibly high, and yes we haven’t won a game. But the way I see it from the East coast, this is par for the course for the 49ers. As sad as it may be, I almost expect disappointment every season. We have seen seven losing seasons since the dismissal of Steve Mariucci, are creeping up on our 8th one. I have seen very little evidence season after season that tells me my favorite team is a legitimate playoff threat. The last time I saw the Niners in the playoffs, we weren't at war with Iraq. Oof.
This early losing streak may be a blessing in disguise… We’ve recently been out of the playoff hunt by Week 13, this season we may just save ourselves some heartache down the line. We can play the spoiler role all season long! It all depends on whether you feel less pain from a blowout (Ex: Week 1 vs Seattle, Week 3 vs KC) or losing a close game (Ex: Week 2 vs Saints, Week 4 vs. Atlanta). Unfortunately, this season is shaping up to be a blowout...
To a certain extent, part of me just accepts this long string of ineptitude in this organization. There was a string of years where the Niners saw unparalleled success. The 49ers were the team to beat, and the team that all others measured themselves against. But to continue the long stretch of success, 49ers brass had to make some long-term sacrifices – i.e. long-term contracts with big money due years down the line. We all knew that hard times were coming, but we didn’t care. We were fine with mortgaging our future for 13 win seasons, and a legitimate threat to do damage in the playoffs year after year. But then it finally caught up to us, especially when T.O. and Jeff Garcia and Garrison Hearst were being paid by the Niners, even though they were on other teams! Combined with the whole DeBartolo drama, and the Yorks driving this train even further into the ground, we officially hit our lull, and it has been near impossible to come out of it.
This is why I’m somewhat complacent with what is taking place. Some fans have never gotten a chance at greatness. Many fans have never even sniffed a Super Bowl. I witnessed multiple Super Bowls, multiple 11+ win seasons, multiple Hall of Famers. I know when it comes time for my team to suck for a while (just like Colts and Patriots fans should be expecting this soon). Did I expect our string of crappy play to reach its 8th, and possibly most painful season? Maybe not, but part of me is still justifying this season, and the seven before it, for Ronnie Lott, Joe Montana, Steve Young, Jerry Rice, hell even Ken Norton Jr.
In my heart of hearts, I’m an eternal optimist. It is why I have been torn to shreds by each game this season; I continue to hope. As a resident of the "great" city of Philadelphia, I thought we had a real chance to turn this ship around against a down Eagles team. The Eagles came off a heartbreaking loss against a division rival, led by their former fearless leader, Donovan McNabb. The whole city couldn’t care less about them; sports fans here are focused on the Phillies and their playoff run. The people in this town think of the Eagles as a team without heart, "a bunch of lazy, whiner cry-babies" as one friend of mine described them. And this isn’t even getting into their personnel issues. The Eagles could not have been lower, and they beat us. Ouch.
Now I'm not saying that I've given up on this team. What I've tried to do here in the space that Fooch has given me is to coax people back from the ledge. This is not the worst thing to happen to us (Erikson's second season was). And EVEN THOUGH things look bleak, this team is talented and has the potential to turn it on and go on a hot streak.The struggles are obvious, but is this season over? Hell no, we still have five division games left, and if we sweep them all we’re on "easy street". We’re going to endure through this, like we have the past seven seasons. Our time will come, and soon.