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It is pretty pathetic when you sit back after watching a San Francisco 49ers game and are speechless to find a good thing to say about the team's performance. So it has been from the very beginning of the 2004 NFL season for us and continues to spiral down to the absolute bottomless pit of the NFL. Yes we do have the first overall pick in the 2005 NFL draft at this very moment but is that really something to celebrate?
I would have to disagree with that because observing marginal improvement in a team from week to week after sustaining horrific loss after horrific loss seems to be a priority in my playbook and coaches as well.
What have we honestly learned from our mistakes, senseless penalties, countless turnovers in fumbles and interceptions, improving our blocking and passing screen techniques, improvising maximum passing protection schemes and providing our quarterback a sense of security?
All of these things are more important than landing in the cellar of the NFL simply to elevate ourselves for the first overall draft pick, which by the way we really can't afford anyways.
The injuries and the lack of leadership via veteran players have decimated this team like no other in the league. We have been literally sacrificed like an animal in ancient history to the gods to appease us from all that is evil, by both the ownership and management of this franchise.
They have made no concessions otherwise admitting that this season would be a sacrificial season for us to reach salary cap healthiness no matter what the circumstances. By that statement, we have been the fans that have had to deal with the reality of where this beloved franchise has taken its course of new direction, which is relatively still in the unknown.
Looking back on the 35-3 loss at Tampa Bay, where we were a literal laughing stock of a team, one has to believe we have sunk to the uttermost depths of football depression. The entire team after losing to the lowly Carolina Panthers wanted to make a rebound for the better in defeating the Buccaneers under Jon Gruden.
This was one of the worst performances I have ever witnessed by the San Francisco 49ers as we were only able to complete two first downs in the entire first half and finished with 26 total yards, only 6 of which came by the passing game. Tim Rattay has been a quarterback that is literally running for his life every time he takes center stage behind this makeshift pathetic offensive line that we have.
Tim Rattay was sacked five times and turned the ball over twice in this one game alone. The Tampa Bay defense blitzed the 49er offensive line relentlessly because they knew they could, and caused Tim Rattay so many headaches that he was defeated mentally from the sounds of feet he heard coming toward him and behind him. His confidence has been shot and his trust in a line that can give him time is so far gone he may never recover it again in his career.
And as if this defeat in Tampa Bay was not enough, along came the Miami Dolphins, a (1-9) team in their own right battling for some distinct recognition in securing their second victory on the season. They came out early because of the Thanksgiving holiday and got adjusted to the Bay Area climate and practiced on a college campus in lieu of their meeting with the 49ers at Monster Park.
If there were a game we could win at home you'd believe it would be in the bag against a (1-9) team with no running game like the Miami Dolphins, a team in distress in so many ways like we have been all season long. But the Miami defense ranked seventh in the league, and of playoff caliber, was not to give in to the San Francisco faithful and their resounding prayers.
They brought it in the tune of eight total sacks and knocked Tim Rattay down another 14 times limiting him to completing 23-of-38 passes for 181 yards. Again Tim displayed happy feet in the pocket because he had no time to even check with his first option in a passing situation.
The offensive line melted like butter under a hot knife with so many pressure situations and blitzes, they even penetrated with three and four defensive linemen with absolutely no other help whatsoever.
This offensive line of ours is horrendous to say the least. I have to say I have always been an advocate for the offensive line on this team and continue to be one, because I believe a teams best chance at winning football games starts and ends with a great offensive line.
We have taken this line for granted folks, as fans, ownership, and management on this team certainly has as well. Only because of elite coaching has our offensive line been great over the years, manufactured by the great offensive line genius in Bob McKittrick. He was able to take an ordinary offensive lineman and transform them into something truly special.
After he died, Pat Morris took over under Steve Mariucci and continued that tradition and made it a trademark on the 49er offense to sustain it with his teachings and philosophies on techniques, schemes and assignments.
That my friends is suddenly gone. This offensive line is a shell of what it once was and it all starts with the top and works it's way down. This offensive line needs to deliver results and is the starting point of failure when we are unable to sustain drives and score points.
Bottom line is that our quarterback, Tim Rattay, should feel secure in dropping back on four or five-step drops and surveying his options for at least a few seconds before releasing the ball to an intended target. Yes Tim Rattay is at fault as well in that he has been observed hanging on to the ball too long and not securing it better while under pressure.
He has made mistakes as well. I will admit that he's shown his true inexperience as an NFL quarterback this season like never before, but his compounded injuries this season have affected him and are attributed to his current situation. His forearm is still tender and his grip on the ball is affected resulting in countless fumbles and his inability to get the ball off quickly.
Up front left tackle is a huge problem in that Kyle Kosier cannot get the job done and has replaced Kwame Harris for too long of an extended time. It has been determined in my view and I hope in all of yours as well that Kyle Kosier is not and never will be a legitimate force at left tackle, let alone at any position.
He's best as a reserve lineman period and is easily beaten on countless plays and manhandled in bull rushes and cannot maintain leverage against anyone. Kwame Harris on the other hand is just a mild improvement at best as well. He serves as a better right tackle than a left tackle as served in his college days. He has been a big disappointment as well in getting beaten and out distanced by premier defensive ends in this league.
We must make some decisions on these linemen, even veteran Scott Gragg has failed to live up to his own standards on the line as well in cohesion with rookie Justin Smiley as the running game has been nonexistent. This line needs a literal overhaul in both coaching and personnel and this is what should be addressed in this next and upcoming NFL draft, the evidence of the season is glaring.
At center, losing Jeremy Newberry was like a relentless nosebleed for this team, it would never stop bleeding. He was the cement to this offensive line and a very vocal leader, but he was replaced by a capable center in Brock Gutierrez who I will say has been a steady force but lacks the experience, savvy and tenacity that Newberry can only deliver.
In all, Kwame Harris must be given time to develop at left tackle for the rest of the season to see if he's really the answer. If not, we must draft one. Kyle Kosier is not the answer at this position and needs to be a reserve lineman only, along with...unfortunately...Justin Smiley who is not the kind of mauling run blocker Ron Stone was when he was with the 49ers.
Greg Smith, promoted from tight ends coach to offensive line coach after just one year there, is a bit of a stretch here folks. He was promoted there because he had served on Dennis Erickson's staffs for nearly two decades, and that in my eyes is the only real endorsement he deserves, we need a new offensive line coach regardless of his long time association with Dennis Erickson.
Even though a lot of this season may not be Dennis Erickson's fault, his assistants not being able to develop and maintain basic fundamentals, techniques and assignments have to be accountable somewhat to this season's woes. I feel Terry Donahue needs to identify these things and make Dennis Erickson force some changes on his staff. Obviously there are some select areas where coaching is lacking. The offensive line being one of them.
The San Francisco 49er running game under Garrison Hearst and even Kevan Barlow thrived on running at the right side of the line and accomplished its greatest yardage from the right side of the line. Here Scott Gragg and Justin Smiley have failed to converge blocking assignments designed to open up running lanes for either Kevan Barlow or new back-up Maurice Hicks.
This leaves little doubt as to where the San Francisco 49ers need the most help and that is the offensive line via a new coach or through the draft with new talent. I believe it should start with a new coach and then draft a few good men. We need a line that will adapt to a pocket passer as a quarterback and allow him time to make his reads and throw the ball.
At the same time the quarterback we have in Tim Rattay must not hang on to the ball too long and secure it when pressure is upon him or throw it away. Experience is sorely lacking in this area as well.
All success in this game starts and ends with the offensive line. Every quarterback and every running back will tell you just that. If we must look at a high priced free agent maybe that is something to consider, but with a salary cap as severe as ours the draft may be the only avenue we have, but addressing it somehow will be the key.
The defense is a total different package in this game as it stepped up big time. We applied consistent pressure on Miami Dolphin quarterback A.J. Feeley all day but sacked him only once. What is even more remarkable was the way he came back after being knocked down with a dislocated finger and on the very next play threw a touchdown pass to wide receiver Chris Chambers.
Our only lone touchdown came from the defense after linebacker Derek Smith picked up a Travis Minor fumble and sprinted downfield 46-yards for a touchdown to open the fourth quarter. What happened after that in the fourth quarter was just more of the same we can come to expect from the San Francisco 49ers. A fumble by Maurice Hicks and one by Tim Rattay in which he is famous for, extended Miami's lead over us in this game.
What is even more sickening is that we have so far on the season fumbled the ball 25 times and 13 have gone in the opposition's favor. What was once a team noted for its turnover margins is all but vanished in it for we are clearly on the other side of the coin.
This team is the worst in the NFL; we all know that by now after clearly being defeated by the (1-9) Miami Dolphins. I have a hard time with that conception and Lord knows I know of many 49er fans that do too. We have sunk to a new low that I thought we'd never see in our lifetime as a franchise, ravaged by inconsistency, youth, injuries, inexperience and leadership.
Ex-49er players look at us now and comment on the state of our plight and feel utter sorrow for our condition. Many point fingers at ownership, mismanagement and lack of direction and caring. Many predict that this is but a small window of agony that will open a larger window to glory.
I am with that last promise and want better things for our beloved franchise. I want to stand up tall and hold my head up high again when the mere mention of the San Francisco 49ers is on the agenda for discussion. Right now the media and our worst critics have us by the throat and are squeezing us of life.
This franchise has lost some fans already. The stands at Monster Park tell the story. The resounding boo's and dissatisfaction with all that they see is evident. Someone has to be held accountable and ownership and management have to look at us in the eye and admit that. Results in 2005 need to come or heads should roll or a for sale sign should be stuck in the ground in front of the Santa Clara headquarters of the San Francisco 49ers.