From a distance, things look fine.
At the midway point, the 49ers are six-and-two, two games up in a division that's quickly come back to earth. Their defense is ranked #1, and their offense, so often the source of so much dismay, is ranked a respectable #11. And as for #11 himself? No need to worry; he's ranked #4.
So no, the issues aren't visible from a distance. Stand back far enough, and you'd swear that the Niners are Super Bowl locks. But as with most things, the devil's in the details. Look a bit closer, and you might just see that the Niners are running barely ahead of the Football Fates, who are so fiercely determined to punish them for the chance they squandered in 2011.
The question for the second half is whether the Fates will finally catch up.
Individually or as a group, these four men will provide the answer.
1. Alex Smith (of course)
As I'd predicted, he put up a gaudy stat-line in Arizona (though I'd predicted 350—only half-jokingly—not 18 of 19). I'm tempted to point out his throws' generally low degree of difficulty, with his receivers gaining most of his yards by running past corners unwilling to tackle. But I'm not looking for another exhausting debate. By now, I get it: when Smith is great, it's because he's great; and when Smith is awful, it's because of someone or something else. It's all there in the Smitheists' bible—read it at Alex 3:16.
Let's just agree on a larger point. Last year, Smith was steadily good; his rating was below 85 in only 5 of 18 games. This year, Smith has already had four
such games. Indeed, in the last six weeks, he's exceeded that rating only twice; in each of those games he went over 150, and it's those two outlandish showings that are largely driving his fourth-place ranking. So obviously, there's a deeper issue. Despite the offseason commitment to consistent explosiveness—or maybe even because of it—Smith has gone from steadily good to wildly inconsistent. Call that what you like, but I call it regression.
In the second half, one of two things will happen. Either Smith will remain inconsistent, or he'll once again be steadily good. If it's the latter, the Super Bowl will be a distinct possibility (though not as distinct as it'd be if he could somehow summon that consistent explosiveness). But if the inconsistency remains, a playoff defense will surely exploit it. There isn't any doubt about that.
2. Aldon Smith
Let's ignore the disturbing fact that he can't seem to go two weeks without landing himself in some kind of trouble. Let's stay on the field, where the Niners' pass-rush has been spotty at best: after notching 42 sacks last year, it's now on pace for only 30. The issue isn't with Smith's production—his 7½ sacks are tied for fourth. Yet the teamwide drop is attributable to Smith, or specifically the way he's used. Last year, when he was almost exclusively a part-time pass-rushing defensive end, he was such a disruptive force that usually he either got the sack or opened up opportunities for his linemates. This year, he's a full-time rush/coverage outside linebacker. So now, by and large, either he's getting the sack or there's no sack at all.
When Smith was drafted, my concern was that he'd be much more effective as the 4-3 DE that he was in college than the 3-4 'backer the Niners envisioned. Nothing since has changed my mind. I know it'd be easier to put Smith back on the line if Parys Haralson were around to play 'backer. But it might be the only way to inject some life back into the rush, which obviously is vital. The Niners' coverage has been amazing, but if their rush stays like this, a playoff QB will surely exploit it. There isn't any doubt about that.
3. David Akers
As great as he was last year, no one wanted to see him kick 44 field goals again. So though this year he's on pace to drop all the way to 28, there's nothing inherently wrong with that. What's more disturbing is his drop in accuracy. After missing only eight times last year, this year he's already missed five. Accordingly, his percentage has plunged from 85 to 74. And shockingly, only three kickers are worse.
Akers was so automatic last year, it's easy to forget why he was driven out of Philly. In a playoff game against the Packers, he missed on tries from 41 and 34, and the Eagles ended up losing by five. And that was after a good
season, with a percentage of 84.
Though we're not as much a field-goal O, we're still not quite a touchdown O. There will be a playoff game where Akers must make a crucial kick. And unless he comes up with a huge
second half, we will be nervous. There isn't any doubt about that.
4. Jim Harbaugh
Though he remains the perfect coach for this team, his season's been a bit choppy so far. Whereas last season's magic was such that it never seemed like the Niners would lose—and they never did lose by more than 10—here they've already been blown out twice. That the Niners could ever look so lifeless—much less twice in the span of a month—put a serious dent in Harbaugh's motivational mojo.
Meanwhile, his tactical maneuvering hasn't been as smooth either. After loss one, when it was obvious that his O was still lacking that explosive dimension, he started using Colin Kaepernick. But then, when our offensive implosion during loss two was widely pinned on Kaepernick's appearances—see again Alex 3:16—Harbaugh retreated, in a surprising concession to popular belief.
Yet strangely there's even a bigger concern: whether Harbaugh is losing his mind.
It's no secret that there's a very fine line between genius and insanity, and Harbaugh seems to be dancing on it. In the preseason, he embarrassed himself by denying his interest in Peyton Manning, incoherently. While defending the honor of A.J. Jenkins—who still hasn't played, it must be observed—he almost challenged the press to a fight. And once the games began to count, things only got worse. He literally foamed at the mouth in Green Bay. Before the Giants game, he unloaded on Kevin Gilbride for publicly trying to influence the refs, yet the very next week, he himself did exactly that. Despite his constant chiding of those who use stats to evaluate players—as Justin Smith put it, "stats are for losers"—he asked the league, baselessly, to award Alex a meaningless record. And last but not least, he gave us "gobble gobble gobble turkey from jive turkey gobblers," which will live forever as the craziest thing a coach ever said.
Some of this is coachspeak, and some of it is gamesmanship. But none of it bodes particularly well for Harbaugh's long-term stability, and thus his long-term effectiveness.
As we begin a second half that threatens to test him like never before, there isn't any doubt about that.
Date: November 13, 2012 at 3:23 PM
Comment: Lots of people think Kap looked good. Kinda reminds me of Roethlisberger, showed great instincts on when to run and pass. He could be the guy to fix the problem. Why continue to overwork and abuse the defense. Our offense has some real talented players, lets use them.
Date: November 13, 2012 at 11:27 AM
Comment: You commented that Harbaugh would be "foolish" not to throw more if we could extrapolate Smith's stats if he threw more. Harbaugh has always, ALWAYS, preached a balanced attack. The running game controls the clock. A good running game wears down the opponent. A good running game is essential to be a balanced football team. Frank Gore is averaging almost 6 yards a carry. Using your own logic, Harbaugh would be "foolish" not to run the ball more. Like it or not the point is that they have achieved the balance they are striving for.
By: Terry B.
Date: November 12, 2012 at 11:40 AM
Comment: Don't get me wrong--I have no problem with AJ's disclaimer on its face. What I DO have a problem with is AJ putting the disclaimer on his column but then creating alternative identities so that he doesn't have to live by his own rules. (See the fake Terry B. comments below.) If AJ shows an ability to live by the same rules he prescribes for others, I will have no problem complying either. Until that time, however, I will have to emphatically disagree with your belief that AJ is attempting to "clean up the mess around here."
By: Terry B.
Date: November 12, 2012 at 8:39 AM
Comment: If everyone wants a giant laugh, check out this new disclaimer that AJ puts on his column: "We enjoy your comments, however please be advised that personally attacking people instead of their point of view will not be tolerated." So, in other words, AJ just creates alternate identities so he doesn't have to play by his own rules. Nice, AJ. Real nice. And, pray tell, what do your wife's thoughts on your penis have to do with your "point of view"? That doesn't seem especially on topic. And doesn't AJ allow his mom to attack other people? We'll see how long AJ can play by his own rules. Judging by the comment below, my guess is not very long.
By: Terry B.
Date: November 12, 2012 at 8:20 AM
Comment: You fools all need to step aside and let daddy do the talking. I'm not impressed by all you imposters. Lets face it, the 49ers showed their true colors yesterday as did the Saints. If you want to see some real football stop watching the Jim Harbaugh - Alex Smith clown show and tune in to some Cajun style butt whooping. Those guys know what they're being paid to do. The 49ers have become nothing but a bunch of big mouth punks as far as I'm concerned. I'm embarrassed for this team and you homer fans.
Date: November 12, 2012 at 8:19 AM
Comment: And the fake Terry B. turns out to be...drum roll please...AJ Bolino! Was there ever any doubt? Sad. Very sad. The person who creates alternate IDs to trash fellow columnists and has his wife post comments about how much she likes his penis is now arguing that other people lack integrity. Pathetic.
By: Terry B.
Date: November 11, 2012 at 9:19 PM
Comment: Hey guys...in case you haven't figured it out, I'm actually Jeff. I use this identity (or one of my others...Ken, Barry T., etc) to talk trash about people I don't like so that I can maintain a veneer of integrity. Just thought you should know. I have to go rub one out while fantasizing about a season without Alex Smith. Remember, winning is nowhere near as important as arguing the negative in perpetuity until the law of averages makes me right...even if its just for a little while.
By: Terry B.
Date: November 11, 2012 at 6:40 PM
Comment: That splashing sound you hear? The sound of AJ Bolino officially jumping the shark. If AJ had even a shred of credibility left after slobbering all over Mike Singletary's coaching genius and Alex Smith's quarterbacking ability, having his wife post comments about how much she likes his penis, and having his mom post comments defending him, surely it is now gone for good. It is beyond me how anyone could pay attention to a word AJ says.
By: AJ Bolino
Date: November 11, 2012 at 6:24 PM
Comment: On the contrary, Jeff...I believe that Smith gives the 49ers the best chance to win, and I have continually maintained that, regardless of your claims to the contrary. Smith is not perfect...but he's been good enough to win instead of just good enough not to win. Kaep is a better athlete, has a stronger arm, and plays "street ball" better than Smith. But Kaep was given about 10 plays to run today...and when it really mattered, he couldn't move the team (or wasn't trusted to move the team). Make no mistake...Kaep is not ready to be a starter in this league (not if you want to win, anyway). Smith represents the best chance to win, "game manager" or no. Refusing to see that is the apex of obstinance. The offense was non-existent when it mattered, and Kaep missed a MOUNTAIN of opportunities today. Will he get better? Probably. Is he good enough to win week over week against the better teams in the league? No way.
By: AJ Bolino
Date: November 11, 2012 at 3:37 PM
Comment: Congratulations, Jeff. You got your wish. Here comes Kaep. And there goes our chance of a win today. Maybe after this epically awful offensive effort (easily the worst we've had since 2005), you'll come to understand why Smith gives us the best chance to win.
Date: November 9, 2012 at 8:59 AM
Comment: From Jeff's comments on a reader's comment:
"Smith either sees the open man and overthrows him, sees the open man and doesn't pull the trigger, or doesn't see the open man at all. That's not the WCO I was advocating for."
This was written at the same time Alex Smith leads the NFL in completion percentage and is 4th in yards per attempt.
The only thing wrong with Alex Smith in terms of the statistics fans like you want him to have is that he does not throw enough passes per game.
Date: November 8, 2012 at 4:05 PM
Comment: Shaun Hill was 5-2 with all the same circumstances as A.S. Then he was given the hook. What excuses did he have. 7 years is a long time to develop to a top flight q.b. Some things about this picture are clearly wrong and as in the past there will be a price to pay. I hope not. Will there be more excuses?
Date: November 7, 2012 at 12:31 PM
Comment: Jeff you were a strong advocate of the WCO. The philosophy of the WCO is a strong running game and high percentage passes. Alex is doing that just fine so what is the problem? Aldon on the other hand needs someone from the team to mentor him. Hopefully that happens real soon as it seems trouble finds him. Akers is in a slump, so be it, it happens. After 10 years of crap, and Harbaugh has this team winning, you have the gall to unleash your tantrum on him. If you look back, Gilbride did his thing before the game and Harbaugh did his after. Big difference there. Bring back Nolan or Sing, would that make you happy? I understand the Niners are not perfect but they are a lot better then they were two years ago. I think a much better complaint would be Roman and his play calling and how slow he is to make adjustments. I think youre a little harsh on Alex and Harbaugh but keep being critical it is needed. gobble gobble gobble turkey from jive turkey gobblers.
Date: November 7, 2012 at 6:50 AM
Comment: I am always amazed at how much anger and negativity gets thrown at Kaplan for being honest and insightful in his personal evaluations. I have been a 49er fan since watching the 9ers at Kezar as a kid and I find no offense in Jeff's critical assessments. I find it healthy and informative - a goad to ever greater achievement. If you are unable to see the flaws or weaknesses, you can never correct them. The niners are a good team, but they aren't great yet. The postseason will reveal how good and until then they need to improve in a number of areas. I laud Jeff for calling it like it is and still being a huge fan!
Date: November 6, 2012 at 3:53 PM
Comment: Should the 49ers have to face the inevitable of colliding against the Giants again in the Playoffs, all facets of our TEAM (Offense, Defense & Special Teams) need to bring their A Game. Because anything less, our Championship hopes go in the toilet again. How important is it for Alex Smith to carry this team should our Defense falter against Eli & the G-Men? HUGE, because we've thrown pretty much everything but the kitchen sink against Eli and he seems to have our number just like Favre in the 90's. He has potent receivers (whom he trusts dearly) and doesn't get easily rattled. Eli takes his game to another level when it comes to the playoffs, backed by his reliable Defense. So going back to Candlestick park isn't really an advantage anymore for us. This is where I feel Alex Smith should play the best game of his life. There's nothing much in the AFC that worries me, facing the G-Men deep in the playoffs to me is our ultimate test if we truly deserve to be crowned as the Superbowl Champs.
Date: November 6, 2012 at 2:12 AM
Comment: Jeff I have to say that you can't be more wrong about Arizona.
Are they an awful team? Or are they just bad in one or two areas? Their Line is patchwork right now. Can't get much worse for them in that regard than having 3 Starters down. The same guys that kept Warner clean in the pocket are now sitting on the Sideline. All teams have this happen at one time or another. I don't care who their QB is. If he can't stay standing longer than 2.5 seconds he's gonna look like Caca. Fitzgerald is a BEAST but Doucet doesn't help take the coverage off him like Boldin did. Not that it matters much because the Line can't keep anyone upright.
Don't dismiss the Win as a Lock based on the level of competitiveness. Cause Arizona is much tougher than you give them credit for. In fact as I pointed out earlier if Roman hadn't gotten cute with the play calling in Minnesota and at the Home Game against the Smurfs this team could be 7-1 or 8-0 right now.
Game plan is very important in this league. Either you stick to your identity and give yourself a chance to Win or you abandon it completely and increase the chance of a Loss. This is what happened so while I will not hate on you, I'm not buyin.
Date: November 5, 2012 at 8:09 PM
Comment: I don't agree with everything Jeff (or anyone else) says, but I absolutely agree that 49er fans should be judging the 49ers as relates to the Super Bowl. The only way to get there is to decide that's where you're going. The NFL is full of teams that never really get close, and I'll bet that their fans are so used to not being there that they have a different tier of satisfaction. I'm sure that Harbaugh has only one indicator of success, and it's winning the Super Bowl.
There is no way to diminish the loss to the Giants. The coaching stunk and the play on the field stunk because the players could sense the plan wasn't organic to their strengths. Top tier teams have bad/off days but that home loss was truly an embarrassment. The offensive game plan was an insult to a team as good as the 49ers. When you have a really good team you don't need a game plan full of tricks.
Hopefully the 49ers will see the Giants again this year.
Date: November 5, 2012 at 5:02 PM
Comment: Jim Harbaugh took a 10 yr losing team that so-called experts said had little talent and went 13-3 with them and got them two fumbles away from a Super Bowl berth and has them 6-2 in his 2nd year. Youre reaching with the comments on him burning himself out, if you followed Harbaugh before the Niners got him he's the same guy wherever he's been. The comments and concerns about Alex are justified but to call this year a regression, that's out of bounds no pun intended. Last year was basically Alex's first year with an actual pro coaching staff so they started him from scratch and know he's taking a few more chances and with that will come mistakes but also good throws like the one he made to Crabtree. The 2nd half and playoffs will determine whether Alex will be back next year. As for your comment about Harbaugh retreating on Colin it wasn't retreating it was common sense, it wasn't working, it was smart, there isn't any doubt about that.
By: M. Horner
Date: November 5, 2012 at 12:22 PM
Comment: Let's look at this in relation to Norv Turner. Question: has Norv Turner been a successful coach in San Diego? My guess is that many of the commenters below would say yes. In his first five years, he posted a 49-31 record and had three first-place finishes and two second-place finishes. My guess is that Jeff would say no. He lost in the playoffs whenever he made them, and he failed to reach--let alone win--a Super Bowl. Neither answer is correct. They just represent two different ways of looking at the same thing.
Date: November 5, 2012 at 12:05 PM
Comment: Phil, I don't think you have to worry about that. Say what you want about Jeff's stuff, but he does respond to his critics on the merits. Contrast that with AJ, who, when he can't respond to your point, will either (a) have his wife post about how much she likes AJ's manhood; or (b) have his mom tell you to stop criticizing her son.
Date: November 5, 2012 at 11:59 AM
Comment: I get you, Jeff, and improvement is always important. However, perfection is not required for a Superbowl win. All of the recent Superbowl winners were flawed teams that won because they were able to compensate for the flaws. I think you are being presumptuous when you say something like "the 49ers can't win a Superbowl unless they fix X, Y, and Z" because you really have no way of knowing that. It may very well be that SF does A, B, and C so well that X, Y, and Z are not as important as you think.
In my opinion, the only major pitfall the 49ers need to look out for is Freddie P. Soft. If you are looking for someone to blame for SF's 2 losses this season, Freddie is it. Otherwise I think the 49ers have everything they need to win a Superbowl. They just have to work hard, be humble, and stay focused.
By: Terry B.
Date: November 5, 2012 at 11:56 AM
Comment: As a follow up to what Jeff just wrote, I would point out that there are other columnists here (who shall remain nameless) who will provide you with all the meaningless cheerleading and homerism you could possibly want. Now, some would say they lost all credibility during the Mike Singletary era, but if that doesn't bother you, just confine yourself to their stuff. But don't try to ruin things for the rest of us who don't just want to read "Arrow Up!" because we beat the Cardinals and got our asses kicked by the Giants.
Date: November 5, 2012 at 9:38 AM
Comment: I don't think you are a hater, like some here, but you are obviously a pessimist. I actually feel sorry for you.
If you are looking for perfection, good luck! There are no flawless teams in the NFL and there is no such thing as a Superbowl lock. Tom Brady and Eli Manning have bad games and throw picks in bunches just like Alex does. Every NFL kicker misses field goals and every defense has lapses. Every coach feels the stress of the job and says silly things sometimes.
There is no need to wear rose colored glasses and try to whitewash the flaws, but I also see very little point in wasting energy handwringing about problems that may or may not prevent the team from reaching its potential down the road.
The 49ers are a very good team with as good a shot at the Superbowl as any other team. That's something to be excited about. If they had no flaws there wouldn't be much drama, would there? Half the fun is watching to see if they can overcome their imperfections.
Date: November 5, 2012 at 9:15 AM
Comment: One issue I have with this commentary (Or the biggest issue, I should say): You have it wrong about Alex. The real perception out there is when the 9ers are good it's because of the defense and when the 9ers are bad it's because of Alex. Look it up. Read the commentary. I love our defense but as a result of their reputation and Alex' reputation it always defaults to the defense winning games and Alex losing them which, more often than not, is not an entirely true perception.
Date: November 5, 2012 at 9:15 AM
Comment: How can you downplay a loss by no more than ten last year as staying competitive but we lose by eleven to the Vikings and you consider that a blowout loss? Come on dude, give me a break.
Date: November 5, 2012 at 6:28 AM
Comment: I got to the line about Alex Smith being great when he's great and other people being to blame when he's not (delivered with patent sarcasm) and you lost me. No need to read any more. You lost your journalistic credibility at that moment and I didn't need to know anything else you might have to say.
Date: November 5, 2012 at 5:44 AM
Comment: Typical negative article from Kaplan. All you seem to be is a soapbox for reinforcing all of your own negative opinions. You arent a sports writer...youre just a biased anti-fan who shows up when the chips are down to yell I told you so for anyone who will listen.
By: TURKEY MAN 3002
Date: November 5, 2012 at 5:41 AM
Comment: Allow me to translate, 'cause I speak the language.
Alex Smith: GOBBLE GOBBLE JIVE TURKEY
By: Joe Montana
Date: November 4, 2012 at 9:42 PM
Comment: Why do you write articles? I don't get it. You seemed to be whining more than making good points.
There are a lot of examples of good sports writing, maybe we can study them first before writing again.
Do you have an editor? If not, you should get one.
Date: November 4, 2012 at 8:34 PM
Comment: I hope you're better at your day job than you are at sports writing. But just to be safe, I'll be sure that I never retain you for any reason...I would be better off representing myself than having you and your skewed point of view represent me in any courtroom.
By: Jerry Z
Date: November 4, 2012 at 6:52 PM
Comment: What a ridiculous article. Your bias is affecting your thought process. Do you realize that in addition to the no. 4 passer rating, Alex also has the no. 1 completion percentage, and is no. 5 in yards per pass attempt. Of course his stats are inconsistent. There is always another team on the other side of the line. Sometimes it is the Giants and sometimes it is the Jets. Get a grip.
Your comments on the pass rush make no sense at all. It appears you just pick a weak stat and try to come up with an explanation. Stick to something you know.
The harbaugh comments were just plain idiotic.
Date: November 4, 2012 at 6:10 PM
Comment: Wow not a good piece of work, alex will be fine, as for the blowouts it happens to every good team, its just the way it goes, kap not ur best work buddy.
By: Nick S.
Date: November 4, 2012 at 4:56 PM
Comment: The 3 paragraphs you wrote on Jim Harbaugh is the worst bit of writing you have ever done on this site. Absolutely terrible, Cohn-esque... just plain bad.
By: Lucky Phil
Date: November 4, 2012 at 3:39 PM
Comment: Jesus Christ Ken! Thanks for reminding us about AJ's penis. If someone starts talking about Jeff Kaplan's penis, I'm really gonna get pissed. As a general rule. 1) No one talks about another guy's penis on the comment board. 2) I'm the only one that talks about Singleberry's ballsack. 3) Christ, why aren't the niners playing today? I'm losing my marble!
Date: November 4, 2012 at 12:32 PM
Comment: Remember when AJ had no answer for Terry B.'s comments, so he had his wife post a comment about how much she liked AJ's penis? That was really mature and professional.
By: Mrs. Kaplan
Date: November 4, 2012 at 12:31 PM
Comment: This is Jeff's mom. You all stop being mean to my boy! I know the comments are for expressing your thoughts about the column, but you are only allowed to post positive thoughts here. If you say anything bad about my boy's column, I will get very angry!
Date: November 4, 2012 at 12:12 PM
Comment: While our pass rush has been lacking this year, you fail to take into account the fact that we have used the dime, nickel, and dollar packages much more this year. It also seems like we are seeing much more play action and quick-drop throws from other teams to counter our rush.
Date: November 4, 2012 at 11:46 AM
Comment: Kaplan is an idiot! And so are any of the sheep that read and see any credibility in his articles. Learn how to analyze football for yourself and stop buying into idiots like kaplan who can't buy a clue!
Date: November 4, 2012 at 10:06 AM
Comment: Hey Kaplan, You are right, alex smith does suck! But this is nothing new, same old alex. IF all the pieces arent in place for him to succeed he won't. You are wrong about harbaugh, hes nuts yes but he will have more sb's than bill walsh when he is done. He needs to cut ties with Smith for this to start happening tho.
By: Lucky Phil
Date: November 4, 2012 at 9:02 AM
Comment: Jeff, Don't take my last comment as a criticism. I was making a little fun of your fans on the comment board. I always enjoy a kaplan article. And I always have a laugh reading the comment section. It's like going to the zoo and watching the monkeys throw their own s#@$ at the walls. Entertaining! But you can't make much sense of it.
Date: November 4, 2012 at 8:52 AM
Comment: I love this site for many of its great features that aren't available at other sites. However, this guy is a hater and I don't like to hate on my team when they're finally doing well after a decade of being nothing in the NFL.
By: Chris P
Date: November 4, 2012 at 8:34 AM
Comment: Terry B, just because some of us disagree with Kaplan on most things does not make us homers. Kaplan is not a visionary, lol, he's Skip Bayless with a pen. And you can blindly agree with whatever he wants to write. The Niners and their "team of losers" has constantly proven Kaplan wrong on just about everything he's written over the last year and a half which gives Kaplan no credibility in my eyes.
Date: November 4, 2012 at 7:59 AM
Comment: You make a few good points but implode completely when talking about Harbaugh. Youre looking for something, anything to justify a baseless attack on Harbaugh. I trust Harbaugh over ANY over-rated, over-paid, Columbia School of Indoctrination graduate. EVER... JournOlism is NOT Journalism.
Date: November 4, 2012 at 5:53 AM
Comment: Blogging adds and subtracts from enjoyment of sports.
It also manipulates readers to get hits. Your content is not worthy of comment. Enjoy your hit.
Date: November 4, 2012 at 5:44 AM
Comment: 1.) You make a good point about Alex Smith thus far this season: He's been wildly inconsistent game to game. The reasons for this are unclear, and I don't think I'd label it "regression" just yet, but we certainly need to see him settle down before the playoffs. 2.) Aldon's individual impact has diminished but the defense as a whole is playing better. It appears that Vic Fangio has found a winning formula right now and he's sticking to it. If opposing offenses find a counter to his strategy, Fangio will change. But as of right now, it's working. I'm less concerned with individual effectiveness than I am with team effectiveness. A good defense is not a simple assembly of individuals playing well; it's the result of everyone playing together. Right now, the 49ers defense is playing so well that it's hard to single out any one individual. This is a good thing. 3.) Yes, it's true, there's a reason that Philly let Akers go. But after watching his 2011 season, wouldn't you agree that perhaps Philly gave up on Akers a little too soon? Isn't it possible that you're doing the same thing now? 4.) Jim Harbaugh is not going crazy; he was born crazy. I don't see any change on the horizon.
Date: November 4, 2012 at 5:35 AM
Comment: I've been waiting for your article after the Cards game! I read all your articles Jeff with interest.
Alex Smith - "By now, I get it: when Smith is great, it's because he's great; and when Smith is awful, it's because of someone or something else."
Yes on the last drive against the Saints in the playoffs. My heart had sunk, I thought we were goners. Lovely checkdowns to Gore, taking what the defense was giving and understanding clock management.
The "perfect" pass to Swain on the fly route that perhaps Moss would have caught and took to the house with his extra speed....if the CB wouldn't have backed off more...
Then the "easy" slant to Mr Davis, catching it in stride and taking us to field goal range. I remember Montana throwing lots of slants. Lovely.
The TD pass looked a bit risky to me but well...wow!
What I disagree with Jeff is that when Smith is bad its someone else's fault. He had a bad game against the Giants. Period. I don't think anyone was laying the blame elsewhere. Well I wasn't, he clearly had a bad game.
So yes Smith is great and bad sometimes, lets just hope he can be great in the playoffs. Certainly not beyond the realm of possibility :-)
Aldon Smith - good point about the rush Jeff. I am not worried about his off the field activities.
David Akers - totally agree. Worrying misses this year and it does make you recall how he left the Eagles indeed!
Jim Harbaugh - agree with almost all this Jeff. Putting the Niners first is all he is doing. Moan about penalties, stats, etc when we could gain from it. And then state they mean nothing when it doesn't suit us. Sounds fair to me, its only a game after all :-) I'd say it does bode well, he will always be looking for the next advantage.
Date: November 4, 2012 at 4:14 AM
Comment: Best webzone article I've ever read. good job.
Date: November 4, 2012 at 1:24 AM
Comment: As fans, we all love the resurgence the Niners are enjoying under Harbaugh. So sometimes Jeff's comments seem a little negative, but he does have some very valid insights and I think he sees it as his place to highlight whatever weak points are currently on display. Could be he's like me: negative so that when they win, it feels great and when they lose, it doesn't seem as big a letdown. Like when I bet my wife 100 to 1 that the Giants couldn't go back to Cincy and win 3. One thing tho Jeff. Harbaugh at his craziest makes way more sense than some of the stuff Singletary said.
By: Terry B.
Date: November 4, 2012 at 12:56 AM
Comment: Come on people, you have to realize what a visionary Jeff is and stop giving him crap. Let's face it, everyone who thinks the 49ers are any better than a second rate football team are homers. Jeff has it right. The team is stacked with losers. Alex Smith isn't going to get this team anywhere except a front row seat to the playoffs on their couch. Last season was a fluke.
Date: November 4, 2012 at 12:18 AM
Comment: Love the Article Brudda!
Jeff don't listen to all the hate...Sometimes the truth hurts...and Jeff Kaplan keeps it real...
The formula in which we play is perfectly suited to win in the regular season but once the playoffs get here, The main question is Harbaugh, does he think that we instantly become explosive when we need to with the ultra conservative playcalling due to the very limited qb smith? Not sure because while those other teams are builing offensive cohesion...we are midway in the season with no real identity on offense...and if its short dinks and dunks...well we saw where that got us last year in playoffs against Giants (1-13 on third downs)...thanks alex smith our 8 year development franchise qb.