Despite being 1-6, there are still those of us who believe that the 49ers are better than our record indicates. I agree with this statement, as we have lost some real heart breakers, but then there are also those of us (lead by Mike Singletary) who take it a step further and say that despite our horrendous start, the 49ers are "too good of a football team" not to win the NFC West and make the playoffs.
So I ask this: What makes anyone believe that we are a good football team? In what aspect of the game do the 49ers excel in?
This is one area that we all came in excited about this year. Last year, we were all thinking, "Ok, if our offense catches up with the defense, we'll have a real shot at the playoffs, or even more." Unfortunately, it's been more of the same.
Our offense comes in scoring a whopping 16.1 points a game, which is 2nd to last in the league. We still lack the ability to sustain drives. In fact, I'm pretty sure I can count on one hand how many scoring drives we've had of 70 or 80+ yards this year. This is not helped by the fact that we almost completely lack a big play threat, thanks to the quarterback's inability/hesitancy to throw the deep ball. This leads to a very predictable offense consisting of lot of Frank Gore runs up the gut, followed by some weak attempts at play action, the occasional screen, maybe a short dump off here or there, etc. A lot of our issues are due to coaching, but in terms of personnel performance, QB and OL play have been the biggest issues.
Alex Smith gets his own paragraph here because at this point I am just sick of him. How much longer are we going to give this guy to show that he can be the one to lead us to the playoffs? And before you give me that spiel about "Oh, he's never had enough time under one coordinator", to you I say bollocks. He is now in year 6, for most of which he has been the starter. I understand waiting on a young QB who comes into the league and sits on the bench for 3 years waiting for his turn to play. That guy gets maybe 2 years to show what he's got. But we've been waiting on Alex for 6 years now. 6 years! This is the absolute last year I'm willing to wait on him blossoming into a legit NFL starting QB, and the signs up to this point have not been good. Besides the Saints game, Smith has not performed when it matters, and is still making the same dumb mistakes he was making in his first and second years in the league. Right now, he is still far and away our best option at QB (words cannot describe the debacle that was David Carr last week), but if we keep losing games, I am all in favor of getting Nate Davis slowly acclimated into the running the offense.
We're supposed to be a smash-mouth power running football team, but we don't run the ball well on a consistent basis, nor do we run the ball well in situations where we need first down yardage to keep drives alive. This has to fall on the offensive line, because Frank Gore is definitely not the problem here. The man is one of the top 5 backs in football and he has 1 rushing TD through 7 games. That's just not getting it done. Having the 4th most penalties in the league (57) is also not getting it done. O-Line needs to step it up big time if we want to get back to being *at least* a respectable football team.
We also don't pass the ball well, period. Outside of Michael Crabtree, our receiving corps is below average. Josh Morgan has all the tools, but has yet to put it all together. Ginn has not had nearly the impact on offense or in the return game that we all had hoped for. VD is great, but we still haven't found a way to really maximize his unique talents. We have 2 pretty solid backup RBs, but neither qualify as a true COP back, and neither are really integrated into the offense. We also still have Moran Norris in on a good chunk of the offensive snaps. Norris sucks. Fact. It didn't help that when I was watching the Giants beat down the Cowboys, Bear Pascoe was playing some fullback and was doing a pretty damn good job at it. Great personnel decision, Niners.
Bottom line, we do not have a good offense.
Our bread & butter. 8 weeks ago, when the 49ers were very much an en-vogue pick as a dark horse team to make an extended run in the playoffs (Mike Greenberg picked us to go to the Superbowl...HA), our defense was being mentioned in the same breath as the defenses of the Jets, Ravens, and Steelers. I can now safely say that assessment was wrong, wrong, wrong.
My real complaint with the D is our inability to get big stops in the 4th quarter, especially in obvious passing situations. What good is it to play 3 quarters of good D when you continually fall apart in the 4th? This has happened to us on multiple occasions now (NO, ATL, CAR). A lot of this is Greg Manusky's fault (more on this later), but even basic things, like getting your head around to track the ball in the air, are not being done in these situations. These situations are tough since we are basically hanging our DBs out to dry with our lack of a pass rush, but we are 0/3 in these late game situations, which is unacceptable. And the way we are losing games is also very disconcerting. David Gettis was WIDE OPEN in the end zone last weekend and probably would have put the game away if he had just caught the ball. That shouldn't be happening on a 4th down with your opponent in the red zone, driving to score a potential game-winning TD.
In the end, maybe this defense was just too hyped up last year. Many times we relied on the big play to get a stop, resulting in a turnover and good field position for the offense. We won games last year with that tried and true formula, because even the Niners can't manage to screw up 100% of short field opportunities. This year we have not had so many of these big plays, which is probably a contributing factor to why our offense isn't scoring points, and also why we aren't winning games.
Special shoutout here goes to Dashon Goldson. You have been absolute poo this year. What happened to becoming the next up & coming ball-hawking playmaker you showed glimpses of being last year? That all disappeared real fast. Through 7 games, 40 tackles, no INTs, no sacks, no forced fumbles. The only time I've noticed you is when a receiver catches a ball over you, when you're committing some stupid penalty, or when you're going for the big hit on the ball carrier only to come up with air. Last year's modicum of success really got to you I see (he even signed with Drew Rosenhaus last off-season), but with the way you're playing, there's no way you're getting that big time pay raise you've been looking forward to oh so very much.
I don't have a whole lot to say here, as we have been neither exceptional nor abhorrent on STs. Ted Ginn Jr. has been solid as a return man, but has yet to break a big one. Our coverage teams seem to be doing fine; we bottled up the vaunted Chiefs returners pretty well. Joe the Toe is his usual self, and Andy Lee is a close second to Shane Lechler as the league's best punter.
This is the biggest problem for the 49ers, bar none. Whenever a talented team is underachieving, the coaching staff has to be examined for not getting the best out of them. This is definitely the case with the 49ers.
Coach Sing is not an X's & O's guy. We know this. His strength is supposed to be his ability to bring out the best in his players. Currently he is not doing a very job of this. But he does have the endorsement of Jed York, and I agree that we should let him stay on until the end of this year. Best case he rallies the troops and we miraculously make the post-season. Worst case we lose the rest of our games and get the number 1 pick, which doesn't sound all that bad a prospect at this point.
Mike Johnson has done a pretty decent job at running the offense in the last three games. He's finding ways to get the ball to VD & Crabs consistently, which Raye failed at doing. We seem to have more variety in the play-calling as well. It couldn't get worse than the O under Raye, so things are looking up with Johnson at the reins.
Greg Manusky has got to go. Our 4th quarter defense in close games has been shambolic, to say the least. He has our guys playing WAY too deep, and we are in essence allowing the other team to casually march down the field without even breaking a sweat. Last year our defense was winning us games. This year, they are finding ways to lose them. We should definitely be getting more out of this group of guys, which is why we need to fire Manusky.
- We run the ball well at times, but not consistently enough
- Our passing game is not exactly high powered, due to poor pass blocking and shoddy QB play
- Our run D is pretty solid for the most part
- Our D is predicated on the big play, but we haven't been getting enough big plays
- This has also affected the offense, who no longer have easy scoring opportunities on great field position
- Our OL, DBs, and WRs (except Crabtree) all suck
- We don't have a good pass rush which compounds our DB suckage
- This leads to problems with our 4th quarter D, which has almost sucked as much as the combined suckage of the last decade and a half of Warriors basketball
- Alex Smith is not a winner
- Greg Manusky needs to be fired immediately
- If we don't win the next 2 games, we should just tank, because the season will effectively be over. In this scenario, we should also insert Nate Davis into the lineup at some point, just to see if he's worth developing or not
Hopefully we can turn it all around and I'll eat my words for posting all this negativity about the Niners. COME ON SECOND WIN IN LONDON