Hope everyone is enjoying their Turkey-Day thus far. Don't let it go by without truly thinking of what you're thankful in life. Even if the 49ers suck, we have plenty of other things to be thankful for. I always think of it like this: what things would you not want to disappear from your life? OK, I'd say you're thankful for those.
This marks half-a-dozen weekly editions of the 49ers Tweet-Bag - the feature where Twitter asks, and then we all try to act smart. Lately after watching the efforts being put forth by our "beloved" team...it's getting harder and harder to act like we have any clue what's going on with what I like to call "The Circus".
But fear not mein Tvittah freunz! At least we can say that this week...this very week...the Tweet-Bag has a Super Bowl Champion, former member of the San Francisco 49ers...you know, back when they were good! Is your breath baited? If not, get some hooks and fish-heads...this is gonna be good.
If this is your first Tweet-Bag, let me give you the history lesson as well as the operator's manual:
Twitter is great because people can pose short, blunt questions about all things 49ers. However the 140 character limit can make effectively responding to those questions a challenge. Hence the 49ers Tweet-Bag was born.
I encourage anyone on Twitter to come up with questions, opinions, bold statements, whatever...and tag them with #49ersTweetBag so I can easily find them. Using "hashtags", that is, preceding something with the pound sign - or hash - catalogs tweets together by that hashtag. For instance you would send your tweet like this:
Why do you think Singletary always wants to "look at the film"? #49ersTweetBag
(The trending idea is that it's actually the first time he's seen the game they just played...because in-game coaching seems to be non-existent, suggesting perhaps they're all asleep!)
If you're not on Twitter, you probably have a good reason...like cutting the sleeves off of your HyperColor shirts or shopping for Hammer Pants. But hey, you could multi-task and open up your laptop and sign up for a Twitter account - FREE, and then just submit some questions!
Ok, now that we're all up to speed on what the Tweet-Bag is and how to submit questions, let's get to know the participants in this week's piece. Join me after the jump for a quick bio on each of them, beginning with our prestigious special guest.
Randy Cross, @RandyCrossFB, is an NFL game analyst for CBS Sports who also does broadcasts of Navy football and the CBS College Sports weekly highlight show Inside College Football. He is also the analyst for Westwood One’s Thursday Night NFL broadcasts, a host on Sirius NFL Radio, and on top of all that...he writes a weekly column for National Football Post (read it HERE). A 13-year NFL veteran selected in the second-round of the 1976 NFL Draft by San Francisco, Cross was a 5-time All-Pro and 3-time Pro Bowl center and guard for the 49ers who helped lead the team to three Super Bowl championships. A two-time All-American at UCLA, he was recently named to the 2010 class for the College Football Hall of Fame. Cross was born April 25, 1954, in New York and grew up in Southern California. He lives in Alpharetta, GA, with his wife, Patrice, and their three children, daughters Kelly (25), Crystal (22) and son Brendan (19).
Matt Maiocco, @MaioccoCSN on Twitter, has been covering the 49ers for more than a decade. He is currently the NFL insider for CSN Bay Area (blog HERE) after previously covering the beat for the Santa Rosa Press Democrat. Matt received his degree in Journalism from Humboldt State University in Arcata, CA. He's a huge San Francisco fan as well, earning him a place in most of our hearts (unless you're an Athletics' fan, in which case you don't have a heart...OR a 2010 Championship).
Bay Area Sports Guy, @BASportsGuy on Twitter, started his blog back in 2008 with a goal of providing Bay Area news to those fed-up with the East Coast bias of national media. His writing is from a Bay Area fan's perspective, in terms that a true Bay Area fan really understand. Yeah, there's a lot of "Bay Area"'s in there. You can find the blog HERE and do check it out. Incidentally, "Steve" was the only part of his name I know...Now I know his last name is "Berman". That makes him the brother of...ok, not really.
Samuel Lam, @SLam49ers on Twitter, has been a member of our very own beloved Niners Nation for over two years now. He is the only beat writer who is open about being a true fan of the 49ers (I say "open about" because we all know they have a soft-spot for the 9ers...the others just wont admit it). On top of being a fan and long-time member of NN though, Sam is also the 49ers blogger at Examiner.com. Unfortunately he is also one of those heartless Oakland A's fans I mentioned above though, so temper your expectations accordingly. You can find Sam's blog HERE.
As usual, if you click on the writer's picture you will also be taken to their blog. To the right of their picture you'll notice their Twitter handle. Clicking on this will take you to their Twitter home page where you can then follow them. On to the questions!
@ZeroIndulgence: Will this latest loss give the management [or Singletary] an excuse to force Alex Smith down our throats again?
@RandyCrossFB: I start with that fact that at 3-7 the 49ers aren't out of the West race for the lone playoff spot. Having said that I don't think an organization forces a player down fans throats, that may be the perception when they guess wrong on a QB, in this case they've guessed wrong a few times on Alex Smith. Troy Smith is far from perfect, as you saw yesterday, but unless you've seen 1st hand how a player prepares, especially a QB, it's difficult to assess.
@MaioccoCSN: No, at least not Monday night against the Cardinals. It sure appears as if Alex Smith's time is running out with the 49ers. And, of course, he's not the only one. It's always interesting when a team collapses and there's nothing left to gain from the current season. In this case, we don't know who will be back next year in those decision-making roles.
@BASportsGuy: I'm afraid it does. That's part of what Singletary's now infamous refrain "check the film" means. It means that if they check the film and determine that Troy Smith "isn't quite at the level we are looking for, moving forward" or some other nonsensical coach-speak kind of analysis that we've become numb to from Singletary, they'll make a change back to Alex. This coaching staff doesn't know what they want to do from play to play, let alone game to game. I doubt Singletary has any idea which Smith he wants to start as I write this on Monday morning.
@SLam49ers: It could but if you look at the team, Troy Smith is the team's best option at quarterback. Trying to bring back Alex Smith only clouds up his future with the team. What's the point in bringing back in a guy that has little success with the team? The team has already made it clear that they want to move in a new direction.
Tre9er: Well obviously this question was asked on Monday, before Singletary decided to give Troy Smith another crack at it. Still, I was unsure which Smith the head ball coach would choose to be honest with you. It's just the kind of strange situation that we've come to learn has no predictable answer...when it comes to this organization. I felt that Troy was under-protected and his coaches did not prepare or adjust well enough to put him in good situations. I realize he also held the ball too long at times and was probably still looking for those "chunk plays" down the field rather than taking what a Tampa 2 defense gives you. There were lots of holes in the zone but he would need to anticipate them rather than wait for them. So I guess what I'm saying is that I (ME) felt that Troy should get another shot...but I was very uncertain what Singletary and Co. would decide.
@rossd95355: entire coaching staff goes [fired] with Sing?
@RandyCrossFB: I personally don't expect anything to happen regarding Mike and his staff until after the season is evaluated in a calm environment. If in the next 6 weeks you see the team perform like the Cowboys or Vikings did on a big stage, all bets are off.
@MaioccoCSN: I don't expect Singletary to be fired during the season -- but that can change with another showing like the Tampa Bay debacle. I outlined where I think things stand with Singletary and the 49ers in this recent column.
There are several assistant coaches who are very good and will be options to bring back next season if there's, indeed, a coaching change. Manusky is certainly an option. If the 49ers hire an offensive coach, I don't foresee Mike Johnson being retained. Jim Tomsula is a good coach. Mike Solari has a solid reputation. Tom Rathman, Pete Hoener and Jason Tarver will certainly be strong candidates to retain their jobs.
@BASportsGuy: The TB loss showed this team isn't just at a disadvantage strategically, they also don't play hard all the time. So, the idea that the 49ers will suddenly start dominating the NFL during the second half of this season is ridiculous. Singletary has lost this team, and will be fired after the regular season. He's become an embarrassment to the franchise with his inability to quickly make decisions or adjustments during games or explain what went wrong after them. The crowd was sparse and apathetic on Sunday as well, which meant nobody bought concessions and the team is getting closer to blackout mode.
None of the assistants should stay with the team, as the 49ers already made the mistake of hiring an inexperienced head coach and saddling him with assistants he didn't choose. He doesn't need to be a huge name, but the 49ers need to hire a guy who has a modern, detailed plan and is allowed to choose his own coaching staff. But that's more expensive, so I wouldn't be surprised if the Niners end up hiring the cheapest famous coach's son (Brian Schottenheimer, Kyle Shanahan, etc.) who agrees to keep every assistant the 49ers are already obligated to pay in 2011.
@SLam49ers: The team will stick with him for the rest of the year. Firing him midseason doesn't help out since there are no good interim coaches available. I do think that at season's end, he will be fired. The new coach, whomever it may be, will make the decision on who he wants on staff. It might be an entire new staff, or a few stay over. It all depends on who the coach is.
@Tre9er: This all depends on who is brought in as the next coach (we're talking off-season firing here, otherwise you can't fire everyone...there'd be no coaches for the rest of the games). Some guys might come in and want only their own guys...feeling like maybe some of the existing coaches are part of the old regime and may resent them for taking over. Or maybe they just like working with coaches they know and have worked with a bit in the past. Still I suppose it's conceivable that a coach could come in and make some educated assessments of the staff and decide to retain some guys. I personally am hoping for this scenario as it would lend at least SOME continuity (I know, you hate that word). While we're sorta in the basement right now, I don't want a guarantee that it'll take 2 years for guys to really understand the plays, audibles, etc. There is room to fire some of our coaches though...sure most of us agree on that much.
@yougomango: Is our OL that bad or was it a letdown that caused them to give up 6 sacks to what was the 3rd worst pass rush in the league?
@RandyCrossFB: I believe the 49ers have a very talented offensive line but Sundays display was terrible, to be nice. These days no one lines up with 1 or 2 TE's and a FB and crams the ball down a defenses throats. With the "skill" weapons on this roster, combined with this O-Line they should NEVER be held to 11 1st downs, much less shut out.
@MaioccoCSN: Yes, the offensive line was bad against the Bucs. Sure, the 49ers were sacked six times, but the line's run-blocking was worse than its pass protection. Troy Smith should've gotten rid of the football at least three times on those sacks. Also, three sacks occurred after the 49ers had fallen behind 21-0. The 49ers' line seemed to be thoroughly confused with all the stunts and movement the Bucs did with their front seven. The right side of the line, in particular, guard Chilo Rachal and Anthony Davis, did not work well together. The line was beaten tactically and individually in one-on-one situations.
@BASportsGuy: The offensive line was terrible, but it's hard to expect them to play well with two rookie starters and their best two lineman (Heitmann and now Staley) out of action. The line has been dealing with personnel, quarterback and coaching changes all season, and the margin of error is just too small to survive all that. However, these are still professionals, and two valuable draft picks were used on starters in the unit, so 6 sacks allowed and a meager rushing performance against the team that was previously 31st in the league against the run can't be tolerated. When Singletary "checks the film," he'll see that the OL played in the same uninspiring way that the entire team did against the Bucs. That was the most lethargic performance from the 49ers at home since they lost 41-7 to the Bills in 2004 to go 2-13 (they finished 2-14) under Dennis Erickson.
@SLam49ers: It's pretty obvious that the O-Line isn't that strong. Without starters Joe Staley and Eric Heitmann, the 49ers are throwing out a patchwork line. A struggling right guard Chilo Rachal along with two rookies really doesn't make things a lot easier for the quarterback. I don't see it as a setback rather a team still trying to figure out what they can do. With the offensive line playing at such a low level, it was bound that their struggles would be exposed.
Running back Frank Gore couldn't get the running game in motion and it showed that the offensive line was just overmatched on Sunday.
@Tre9er: The O-Line had another of their "down" games. You can point to Staley being out for sure because Barry Sims did not have a good game, despite what Singletary said. I saw him beaten soundly at least three times on plays that resulted in a sack in the pocket. As Maiocco points out though, the run blocking was even worse. I don't remember a performance this poor in run blocking since the Arizona game on opening day of 2009 when Gore (from memory) had like 30 yards on 20 carries...something like that. They are not picking up stunts, blitzers, etc. It seemed like another case of being unprepared for what they saw on Sunday. Add to that Tampa defenders later said they could easily tell if it was a run or pass by cues the offensive linemen (and Frank Gore) were giving. This whole thing stinks of bad coaching.
@NinerChip: Why don't our corners jam @ the LOS? They get burned anyway.
@RandyCrossFB: I'm a big believer in being challenging receivers, forcing them to get back on their routes or making them guess on coverage just as much as the QB.
Character and work ethic, or lack of one or both, separates occasional winning players + teams from the habitual ones. This week would be one last chance for a "self check" on those traits for this football team
@MaioccoCSN: It seems to me that Shawntae Spencer crowds the line of scrimmage more than Nate Clements. A lot of that probably has to do with the fact Clements takes the slot receiver, who is more apt to be off the line of scrimmage and going in motion. I doubt the 49ers corners play in "off" coverage with significant lymore frequency than any other team. Like every team, the 49ers don't want the ball to get behind their secondary. That is why the 49ers had a quick hook with Taylor Mays at safety. Generally speaking, the underneath route might be an annoyance but it's not going to lose a game. The defense called will dictate where the corner plays. A corner is not going to be in press coverage when he has no over-the-top help. And, of course, the corner can afford to play more press coverage if he knows the pass rush is going to quickly get to the quarterback.
@BASportsGuy: Coaches who don't trust any of their safeties just aren't programmed to feel comfortable gambling with their corners, especially when their ability to rush the passer is average at best. Also, this team would rather lose 21-0 than 42-0.
@SLam49ers: Like I said last week, they don't want to force the safeties to try to cover receivers deep. Bumping on the line may work on a few occasions, but the team doesn't have the talent at the safety position to complement the cornerbacks. It just seems that the 49ers don't want to give up the big plays, which is why they don't jam at the line.
@Tre9er: I know we had this question last week but the people still are perplexed by our soft shell coverage. I'm softening on this a little because the defense did it's best to hold Tampa to very few points for a good part of the game vs. Tampa, but it seems that even when it makes perfect sense to play press coverage, we don't. You can say "they don't trust their safeties" and rightly so...but you can't play scared defense. Take a calculated risk here and there and live with the consequences. I'd argue that not pressuring certain QB's is worse than not covering the receivers at all (exaggeration). Give a guy time to find an open receiver and the good ones will.
I asked Randy Cross to clarify something for me after receiving his responses on Monday...I asked him: "Can I just ask for a tad bit of clarity on something? Do you think (as many of us fans do) that the play calling had a big part in the offensive woes? Seems like what you're suggesting in your answer to the O-Line question"
I'd say playcalling and in game adjustments both were questionable.
I think most of us would agree with that, but hey...we're not Super Bowl Champs...so I thought it was worth noting.
Thanks so much to Randy Cross, Matt Maiocco, Steve Berman, and Samuel Lam for participating in the Tweet-Bag with me this week. Please be sure to check out the participants' blogs as well as follow them on Twitter. Again, clicking on their picture in the upper left-hand corner of any one of their responses will take you to their blog. Clicking their Twitter handle in a response will take you to their twitter page where you can follow them.