I just came back from seeing "How To Train Your Dragon" with my kids. It's a pretty great movie for parents and children, especially dads and sons, because the message I have been giving my high energy strong as a tank son all his life is that to be a great person you can't just be strong. You also have to be smart and courageous and kind. And the movie certainly brought that home.
Now what in the world does this have to do with our bellowed 49ers you might ask? Well, I was just thinking about the "punch mouth" draft we just had, and I was feeling pumped up about it for the most part, when suddenly something hit me. What hit me was Coach Sing is still a Chicago Bear. He and Ditka thought alike. Singletary still thinks that way.
On the opposite side of the spectrum was the ever cerebral Bill Walsh, who may at this very moment be spinning in his grave in a tight spiral. Because his West Coast offense beat the Bears when the chips were down, using great planning, great play calling, and wringing every bit of potential out of a wisp of a quarterback with more smarts and courage than anyone the Bears had ever seen. Brains beat braun.
Now to be fair, Ronnie Lott was as physical as you can get. Our defense had its hammers. Charles Haley was not exactly a chemistry professor. But the offense was all brains. Even the o-line was small, except for the ever weight gaining Bubba Paris, who battled with Walsh about his weight most of his career. But the other o-linmen were for the most part smaller and faster than their counter-parts and very smart. Randy Cross, Guy McIntire, Jesse Sapolu and Harris Barton, they were foxes in the foxhole. Not giants among men.
And of course, Montana, Rice, Craig, Russ Francis, John Taylor, Steve Young, Dwight Clark, these were speedsters and/or brainy tricksters of the highest order. Craig's legs kept churning but he was also the best in the business at finding holes to catch a pass if Joe was in trouble. Walsh built the team in his brainy image, and he was a dragon slayer. And a Bear slayer. He beat the Bears in the playoffs, in the ice, with sub-zero temperatures at Soldiers Field. Shut them out in fact. When we lost to the Giants in he playoffs and learned his lessons: even more brains, not trying to find an LT to match their braun. . . .then we destroyed big armed Elway in the Super Bowl a few years later. Walsh and the West Coast system dominated football like the Yankees dominated baseball for almost 10 years. They owned the '80's.
To me the perfect combination would be Crunching D but Finesse O. In fact, I'm not trying to be a copy cat, but look at the Saints last year against the Vikings and Farve and the Colts with Manning. The Saints had a brainy, fast offense with Drew Brees finding enough holes to win, and protecting the ball with very few INTs. But their defense was breaking Farve's ankle and scaring Manning into a game losing interception.
My long winded point, which I hope you can see past and forgive, is that our defense is definitely headed in the right direction. If we can get Clemens and Bly back and Tarrell Brown continues to grow we will be even better than last year. . . BUT the offense may be actually headed in the wrong direction because Coach Sing is thinking smash mouth rather than brains and speed and good ol' fashioned trickery.
I loved our first round draft picks. Not sexy but very effective. Brauny O-linemen were okay with me. Yet in the later rounds we never pulled the trigger on the COP that I think we still desperately needed -- a Sprowles / Spiller type. Nor did we even consider finding a truly great QB to wait in the wings in case Alex Smith doesn't come through this year, again.
Now I'm not saying the QB of the future even existed in this year's draft. Know one can know that. BUT I don't think Smith is our long term answer either. Because even though he is intellectually very smart he has not shown me enough football smarts -- a street-wise kind of cunning that Montana and Farve (damn him) and Brady, Manning and Rivers were maybe just born with, and Brees and Aikman and Bradshaw seemed to be able to learn.
Somehow they just seem to magically come up with a way to win far more often than coming up with a way to lose. I've seen Alex miss open receivers far too often on 3rd down, and in critical games, to think he's our guy. Please, may I be wrong, but I'd be amazed if he can learn to be the kind of QB that Brees, for instance, evolved into.
Without a doubt, the OC has had a lot to do with Alex not developing like Aaron Rodgers did. But then again our present OC is a smash mouth guy -- someone who's been around for a long time with no Super Bowl rings. Jimmy Raye is not going into the Hall of Fame. Sean Payton just might! As will Brady and Belichick. But Jimmy Raye was Sing's choice the instant they met.
My question to you is, do you think we can get to the Super Bowl smashing people in the mouth on offense as well as defense? Or will our offense have to find a great young QB with a brainy OC that together know how to make magic happen? And if you believe the latter, then how does Coach Sing fit in? Because the dude is always going to be a Bear.
Does he cause his own demise with his Bear-ish short-sightedness? I don't think he will ever get in touch with his West Coast Walsh-ian soul in this lifetime. Will he have to? Or can we win by just being bigger and faster more fierce than the other maulers on every other team out there?
If Alex and Jimmy Raye are the answer, can they smash their way to victory? Or are they going to have to line up receivers and TEs and RBs in formations that get them open more often, and develop screen passes and other counter-punches, thinking more like a chess player than a boxer. Are Raye and Smtih capable of executing that type of game plan, especially in critical games?
Braun couldn't defeat the dragons in the movie I saw with my son today. (Nor in most wars I've studied.) Only brains and courage could. We talk about a team identity. Who are we going to have to become to win our next Super Bowl?
Sorry this took so long, but I really wanted to get my thoughts across fully so you can respond to the central themes, and not just argue with a minor point here and there along the way.