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What is the one thing the Raiders have that the 49ers don't? No, it's not a social security fund - it's attitude. Granted it is the kind of attitude that will get you thrown in jail, but nevertheless, it is an attitude that follows the Raiders team.
Regardless of whom the coach is, of whom the players are, the aura surrounds them. That smash-mouth, angry, penalty-ridden, attitude seems to dictate who the Raiders sign to their roster. Regardless of the year, we know exactly what we can expect from the "coalition of geriatric choke artists."
Its attitude that makes you think you're going to win games. When you walk on the field and make people respect you based on the way you look, based on your swagger; that's attitude. And it's something that the 49ers lack.
When was the last time someone stepped up like Ken Norton Jr. to punch out the goal post after an interception? When did we last see someone like Deon prance into the end zone? When has anyone done something as loco as Merton Hank's broken neck dance? These were all vets that knew it took something more than just making plays in order to win championships. It takes getting into opponent's heads.
The top teams in the NFL all have an attitude: The Bucs, The Eagles, The Titans, and yes, even the "Coalition of Geriatric Choke Artists." Sapp, Romo, Schulters, and Vincent are all players that back up their game with some trash talking in order to get into opponent's heads.
Trash talking isn't the only way to get into opponents heads, though. The Niners got into the Giants heads in the last season's Wildcard comeback. Julian Peterson knocked around Jeremy Shockey to the point where he threw a cup of ice into the stands. In the second half it seemed as though every time the 49ers had the ball, it wasn't a possibility that the 49ers were going to score - it was a certainty. Garcia was pumping his fists, Owens was showing his pearly whites, Streets has his hands in the air; the team was showing its swagger.
The only player that exudes this swagger is Terrell Owens. And for all of his attitude, he is treated like he hides horns under his helmet, a tail in his pants, and a pitchfork in his sock. (Maybe that's why the NFL instituted its "no foreign object on the field" rule).
The fact is, that no one is scared of the 49ers anymore. Even though the team has an underrated quarterback that shreds defenses like a red-headed hyperactive child tears up presents on Christmas; even though T.O. is a super-human robot sent from the future to "terminate" defensive backs; even though the 49er linebacking corps reacts to plays like muscles under electric shock treatment; opposing teams just look at them, shrug their shoulders, and know that the Niners will fold.
It's not due to the 49ers record. The 49ers are one of the most prolific NFL teams in history. They own the most Lombardi trophies, 17 NFC West titles, have appeared in the playoffs 4 times since 1997 (trailing only Miami and Tampa Bay), and have had more than 10 wins 18 of the last 21 years. With a resume like that, it's a wonder why the Niners don't step on the field with an attitude.
The future looks bright, though. Mariucci was responsible for keeping the restrictor plates on the offense, but Dennis Erickson is going to let the offense loose. His propensity for 3 and 4 wide receiver sets will open up the offense keeping Jeff Garcia and Terrell Owens, the linchpins of the offense, happy. Garcia and Owens reiterated time and time again that they wanted to open up the offense and now they have what they wanted.
The real attitude, however, will come from the defense. A healthy Jaime Winborn, Zack Bronson, and Ahmmed Plummer will drastically improve the defense. The growth of Andre Carter and Julian Peterson will again, only improve the defense. What needs to happen is that the young players have to step up and own the field, they have to shed their young skins, and start playing like the vets that they are. Life has to be infused into the defense: players have to celebrate, they have to infuse life, and they have to provide a spark for the crowd. Perhaps the team needs to have a meeting with T.O. in order to organize some celebrations. Then maybe, the "curse" that people call T.O.'s celebrations could be turned into something positive. The team can get a swagger back; it can step onto the field and have other teams know that they are going to be in for a battle. Without the attitude, without the belief that they can beat anyone on any day, the Niners will remain a young timid team that steals wins and lucks its way into the playoffs. The level of attitude on the field next season will show everyone exactly what the San Francisco 49ers are made of.