In every season for every NFL team, there are forks in the road. There are inflection points where a team can either rise up and overcome adversity or shrink from the moment and slide into irrelevance. For the 49ers, that point may well prove to be the game against the Rams on Monday Night Football. With their backs against the wall, the 49ers (and particularly their defense) came out with an intensity not previously seen this season. Afterward, we found out that Jimmie Ward, Arik Armstead, and Fred Warner held a players-only meeting with the defense the day before the game. Why did that meeting happen? As explained on today’s Gold Standard Podcast, it’s pretty clearly because of us.
We realize you may find this claim dubious, so please allow us to offer the following incontrovertible proof.
First, the 49ers were coming off their worst defensive performance of the season, a humiliating 31-17 home loss to Colt McCoy and the Funky Bunch. On Tuesday of that week, Levin Black and I sat down with Kyle Juszczyk and asked him whether the team had any “grab you by the face mask” type of leaders in the locker room. Juice said they did not.
Five days later, the defensive captains of the 49ers called a players-only team meeting where they talked about working together and continuing to grind. Twenty-four hours after that, Jimmie Ward then proceeds to match his career total in interceptions in the first quarter, Fred Warner is a tackling machine, and the defense dominates one of the best teams in the conference.
Fast forward to Wednesday. When asked about the players-only meeting in his media availability yesterday, Kyle Shanahan said he was happy that the players were holding themselves accountable.
“It’s not the way that people wanted to see when they see someone grabbing someone by their face mask or yelling at someone on the sidelines. That’s usually just for other people. You want people who genuinely want to win and do it the right way. And when you have players who are around each other all the time, it goes a lot more than the coaches if those guys can get other people to pick each other up.”
Kyle Shanahan just happens to use the exact same phrase that we used in our interview mere days before the game? Of all the different combinations of words and phrases that could have come to his mind in that moment, our specific phrasing just randomly popped into his head? If that’s not proof positive that we here are Niners Nation singlehandedly saved the 49ers season in 2021, I don’t know what is.
Are we heroes? That’s for better people to judge than us.
What we can be sure of is if we hadn’t taken the time to sit down with Kyle Juszczyk and talk to him about the problems with this team, it’s abundantly clear that the Rams would have scored 60 points in the game and the 49ers’ season would be down the tubes.
Furthermore, that probably would have led to the firing of Kyle Shanahan and John Lynch, which would have led to a reboot of the franchise, the inevitable trade of Trey Lance, and pretty much complete disaster for the team.
Hopefully, you’ve guessed by now that this entire post is sarcastic. While we’re thrilled that the team played well Monday night, it obviously had nothing to do with anything we’ve been doing. That said, we hope you take a listen to today’s Gold Standard podcast anyway. You can find it everywhere, which now includes the Niners Nation Facebook page.
Topics covered in today’s episode
- How much of the new wrinkles we saw against the Rams will hold up in the future?
- Should Tartt and Greenlaw get their starting jobs back when they’re healthy?
- Reaction to Tim Kawakami’s latest article about the future of the QB position