Reconstructing the House That York Built
January 14, 2004 at 12:00 AM
Sure, we can all agree that these aren't your Grandfather's 49ers. Maybe even that these aren't your Dad's 49ers. Hell, these aren't even your "Playoff-Bound" 49ers. With a revolving door ushering out players and coaches alike, these 49ers might just be that: 49ers. No dynasties, no mystique – and "Winning with Class?" The first half of that equation seems as elusive as a naked Barry Sanders slathered in butter.
Now, next season will not only look different on the field with players like Ahmed Plummer, Julian Peterson, Tai Streets and Terrell Owens scheduled for unrestricted free agency but the sidelines will also be revamped. Jim Mora and Gregg Knapp both left for Atlanta. Pat Morris followed Mariucci one year after Mooch was canned.
So where does that leave the 49ers? Rebuilding once again. Who is supposed to rebuild the storied franchise: John York and Terry Donahue. That's like asking a paraplegic midget to build the brick wall that prevents the 49ers from becoming the next incarnation of the Bungles.
Lest take a small trip in my DeLorean to see what the 49ers were: The 49ers had an initiative placed on the ballot to get some much-needed money for a new stadium. They had a quick two-year turnaround where they went from 4-12 to 12-4. People were talking about the new "blueprint" for rebuilding a franchise. Terrell Owens, Julian Peterson and Jeff Garcia were at the top of their respective positions.
Peterson, Owens, and Garcia may not be wearing Cardinal Red next season. The 49ers went from a 10-6 record and a berth in the NFC divisional playoffs to 7-9 and barely saving themselves from an 0-fer season on the road. Erickson, the new coach, could have stayed in the locker room during games since he was as involved as that guy who runs in to take the kicking tee of the field.
Oh and that stadium? IF the 49ers get one, chances are they will be the Los Angeles 49ers.
THIS is the house that York built. This is why fans boo him at every single opportunity. This is why York is not fit to run a franchise.
Lets jump back into my DeLorean and force York to keep Mooch for the final year of his contract. Mora and Knapp still would have left their respective coordinator positions. The Lions would not have pulled out 5 wins. The 49ers would be in the playoffs, (since under Mooch the team managed to actually DO the little things to win close ones) and had one more shot at that sixth Lombardi.
This scenario would be great because 1) the coach's pool was thin last season. The only big name was Dennis Green, and York wasn't about to invest in a quality coach that would whip the team into shape. 2) All of Mooch's assistants could have left with him at the end of this year, including Knapp and Mora. With 7 former Mooch assistants on Erickson's sidelines, it was more like a de facto Mooch team so why not keep the guy on for one last run? It was all of Mariucci's cronies that ran the team this season. Same Jim "Moron," same Gregg "Take A" Knapp. With York canning Mariucci when he did, he assured that there would be no one to keep the "coordinators gone wild" on a short leash. Even Erickson admitted that he wasn't as involved as he would like. He was a proverbial East Coaster on the West Coat team. The resident offensive genius left out of the offensive play calling...hmm...seems logical to me. I guess York got what he paid for this season.
Next season, York may finally get a return on his measly 2-mil-a-year investment. Ted Tollner, the quarterbacks coach, was promoted to offensive coordinator, while the search for the defensive coordinator is just getting started. Gregg Smith will replace the Detroit-bound Pat Morris as the offensive line coach, Rich Olson will replace Tollner and Dan Cozzeto will coach the 49er tight ends. Both Cozzeto and Olson have strong Erickson ties. Smith has coached with Erickson since 1982, and is a friend of Morris. The two used to share game film when Smith coached at Miami and Morris at Michigan State. As a result, the blocking techniques that have made the 49er rushing attack so prolific in recent history should continue.
Maybe now Erickson will fulfill what seem like empty campaign promises from last year about the vertical game. The fact that the 49ers had the best offense over the last quarter of the season certainly has many people as giddy as a bald man in a hair clinic.
One thing is for certain: The house that York built is definitely on a weak foundation. Only the 5 Super Bowls that "The Other Guy" won hold it up. They can only do it for so long.
Erickson has to step out of the "aww shucks" mold and present a leader for the team. He has to have a hand in what he does best. He has to show the Bay Area that maybe Terry "Dunno-ahue" made the right choice by letting Denny Green slip away. But he has to do it his way. He has to grow a pair and make this team his own. Erickson has to be the guy to lead this team back to the Promised Land, because contrary to T.O. it's not heart this team lacks, its leadership. He has to reconstruct the shack that York built with the team that Erickson built.
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