Remember all of the complaining early in the season regarding the uninspiring play of the 49ers offense, even after their 2-0 start? At this point in the season, fans would take any win, even an ugly one. Last Sunday's game against the New Orleans Saints was a must win situation because it was an opportunity for the team to turn things around and be only one game under .500. This Sunday's game against the Atlanta Falcons was a must win situation because it was probably the best and last chance that the 49ers had or will have this season to show some signs of life against an opponent.
The Falcons owned a 1-6 record which ranked them second to last in the NFC. On offense, their NFL ranking was 20th in passing and 25th in rushing. On defense, they ranked 20th against the pass and 23rd against the rush. It was a great opportunity for the 49ers to steal a win and finally gain something that they have attempted to acquire since their loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers during week 3...some confidence.
Next week, the 49ers will play on Monday Night Football against the Seattle Seahawks. It will be an excellent opportunity for the 49ers to show the entire nation how very bad they are. At this point, there is little confidence that this team could beat anyone in the league. If not for two plays, the 49ers may be 0-8 right now. Despite high hopes by the players and fans that this was a team destined to make their return to the postseason, instead, they may be the worst team in the NFL. A great reward to the fans that suffered through the Dennis Erickson era and two and a half seasons of rebuilding by head coach Mike Nolan.
In the past, I would sit down after a game, review the game footage and maybe throw together an article breaking down some of the team's key mistakes, but why torture myself again by re-watching yet another poor performance? Week in and week out, it is the same issues with this team. The team is unprepared, the offensive line underperforms, the play calling is questionable, the quarterback's passes are way off target, the receivers drop balls, the cornerbacks falter and the pass rush is almost nonexistent. The only good things about this team are their punter and rookie linebacker who are playing with more passion than the entire team combined. And Patrick Willis, the linebacker just mentioned, broke a bone in his hand during the game in Atlanta. Despite having more talent on the team than previous seasons, the 49ers can't put it all together for a win and have dropped six straight.
In the past, some fans have defended Nolan and his franchise quarterback, Alex Smith. However, as this season has turned into such a disaster, it is becoming increasingly difficult to continue to do so.
Nolan is not making changes to improve this team nor is he aware of what the team's problems may be. With the season pretty much over for the 49ers, this is Nolan's opportunity to try some things that he normally would not. Take over some of the offensive play calling and be a little more aggressive, make a few changes along the offensive line, start receiver Ashley Lelie, give receiver Jason Hill some playing time, or give some of the other younger members of the team more opportunities. At this point in the season, it would not hurt and almost anything is worth a shot. The 49ers should not throw in the towel, but they should try to look toward next season and end this one on a high note.
As for Alex Smith, his issues are not entirely his fault. Sure, a lot of his throws are not on target, but some are and his receivers are just dropping the passes. That is not the worst of it. While he showed some toughness by playing through pain last week against the Saints, during most of his games this season, he has not shown much intensity or passion. In the NFL, the quarterbacks that show passion during wins and losses are typically the ones that become successful leaders and earn the respect of the players around them. Guys like Peyton Manning and Brett Favre show excitement during wins and are vocal on the sidelines during losses or even close games. Tom Brady shows his passion for the game when someone does something wrong and is there to make sure they are aware of their mistakes.
Alex Smith on the other hand looks like he is just going through the motions. He is there to play his role on the team and not there to try and win games by himself. This philosophy set by the coaching staff has made Smith very subdued. If someone makes a mistake on third down, he just pouts and and heads back to the sidelines. Smith is not one to get into other players' faces, something former 49er and Hall of Fame quarterback Steve Young would often do. Smith seems very unsure of himself and has never been given the opportunity to discover how good he could possibly be. He sometimes shows flashes of greatness with an occasional great play or gutsy move, but those instances are too few and far between. It would be nice to see him get into the faces of some of the receivers when they drop the ball. It certainly would make the players on the team respect him more and accept him as their leader. Smith has never matured from that wide eyed rookie playing in a game that was too fast and furious for him to keep up with.
During the offseason, Smith felt that the game had started to slow down a lot and his confidence grew. This showed during his first two preseason games against the Denver Broncos and Oakland Raiders when Smith would outshine the overhyped Jay Cutler and looked good against a solid Raiders starting pass defense. He looked like a gun slinger and excited fans with the possibilities that were ahead. Since then, he has gone back to being a role player rather than a threatening weapon and it has shown in his attitude and composure.
The 49ers' season is in dire need of rescue. While the playoffs are out of the picture, the need to begin to form an identity during these final games, the identity that the team started to form toward the end of last season, is very important. The team has a good core of young players to built upon.
And for those who want to keep telling themselves, "It is not the end of the world yet. There are no good teams in the NFC West. There is plenty of football to play this season," exactly what have you seen in these first nine weeks that makes you think that this team can begin to perform like winners? We must be watching different games.
After years of fans waiting and building hope, this team has come full circle and is once again the joke of the NFL. The 2007 49ers are done and there is plenty of blame to spread around. How much more pathetic play should the Faithful endure?
Date: November 12, 2007 at 8:23 PM
Comment: I've been a fan for most of my life but after losing to the Falcons and getting blow out to the Seahawks on Monday night football I'm ready to puke! This is complete crap! We don't even have our top 10 draft pick to look forward to during the off season! Our O line can't pass block or run block. Our D line has slow, overweight defensive ends. V. Davis is close to being a bust. Alex Smith is working on becoming a David Carr! Our coach is way to conservative with his O game plan. I would draft a QB in the 2nd or 3rd round to push Smith We might get lucky! Cut T Dilfer and get a younger back up, Draft Def end or receiver in round #1 and bring back the West Coast Offense
Date: November 12, 2007 at 12:04 AM
Comment: Poor coaching is the broad way of explaining our failures. But I want to go into more detail about why our team is horrible. 1st off, I would like to say that our defense solid. They would be ranked in the top 16 if our offense didn't always go 3 and out. And, when I say offense, I mean Frank Gore. 45% of our offensive yards last season were by him. This season, he has been unhealthy and Hostler is not getting him the ball. D-Jackson has been a disappointment, but I would have to blame it on his poor work ethics. That was the reason why the Hawks traded him for a 4th round pick (a steal for them). Alex Smith is inaccurate and seems to have a weak arm. To compensate for that, he needs to RUN WITH THE BALL more. He is a fast runner for a QB, and if he ran it more, the pass rush would be less effective and most importantly, we would be moving the chains. Look at Vince Young and how well his team is doing despite his QB rating. Lastly, PASS THE BALL TO V. DAVIS. No LB in the NFL can cover him tightly, so I am freaking shocked as to why he has not been dominating the league.
Date: November 9, 2007 at 9:45 PM
Comment: who is this guy? he sounds like a rams fan. i disagree with most of what he says.
Date: November 9, 2007 at 11:18 AM
Comment: When is someone going to come in and take charge of this team? Our coaching staff sucks. End of story. Our drafting is the amongst the worst in the league, save for Willis who is shinning. Nate was great pick up, but the rest of boys have underperformed. We need to bring in a coach who is respected by the players, a Bill Cower perhaps. We need to stop trading our first day draft picks for guys like Joe staley and we need to stop getting Wideouts that have a history of dropping balls. Is that too much to ask for???
Date: November 7, 2007 at 9:51 PM
Comment: Nice article David, the points you make are right on target. As a true fan we are not obligated to have faith in failure and poor play. This is the home of the 5ive time Superbowl Champs. As fans we should take pride in a winning tradition, and get off the jock of a Q.B. who will be a career back-up for another team in the near future, as well as a coach with a mind-set straight out of the 70's nfl. (The team is unprepared, the offensive line underperforms, the play calling is questionable, the quarterback's passes are way off target, the receivers drop balls, the cornerbacks falter and the pass rush is almost nonexistent), these are comments shared by anyone who realistically judges this teams performance. Alex is a nice guy with 20 million guaranteed in the bank, he will be okay.
Date: November 7, 2007 at 8:14 AM
Comment: As was mentioned months ago, Sam Wyche should be brought in as a consulatant immediately! He can coach qb's and has been the big game with the niners and his own teams. If he cant turn it around then we at least know its not the OC.( a d-coach picking a rookie OC for one of th lowest rated qb's ever?-clueless!) Maybe he can teach shotgun qb to read dropping back , though its never been done before. Either way he can tell the offensive coaches to get their behinds into gear- one wonders if Hostlers non Turner HOF_OC resume, does play a part in all this. If Wyche does better, then improve the ol and WR's next year. and NOlan stays one more year. ( and york saves money) IF not then make Jed the president , Mcloughlan the GM, hire Holmgren, Chow, Moore or Martz and start over.
By: James Carson
Date: November 6, 2007 at 1:02 PM
Comment: Im beggining to wonder if some of the position coach's are bitter because they didn't get the OC job. Mabey they don't like Nolans choice so much anymore after playing a few games...Anyway 49ers may be victims of their own circumstance. Nolan got hung out to dry a little by Norv's desision to leave for San Diego well after all the new coaching moves were made. What this team is missing right now is a Head coach quality offensive cordinator. I think Norv really had the respect of the coaching staff and the players, not to mention the opposing defenses. Im not so sure that Hostler does. Just my 2 cents
Date: November 5, 2007 at 9:36 PM
Comment: This isnt about being faithful. I've been a faithful since YE Title so bench the faithful lecture. This team frankly is poorly coached. and it is now showing.
Date: November 5, 2007 at 7:04 PM
Comment: That was owesome!!!!! rean u covered every ugly aspect of this horrible team. Thanks! I LOVE U MAN.
Date: November 5, 2007 at 5:31 PM
Comment: I share your frustration
Date: November 5, 2007 at 3:07 PM
Comment: I think one of the worst decisions Nolan made this year was starting Dilfer while Smith was hurt. During the preseason Shaun Hill showed some great qb abilities. Sure it was against a second and third string defense, but come on, it was obvious that Dilfer is now to slow and old to be a starting qb anywhere. When Nolan refused to play Hill, it seemed to me as though he was already throwing in the towel. I really like Alex Smith, but I think his biggest problem is the deep ball. He can't throw a deep ball, at least not accurately! He's an average qb for now, I think with an improved receiving core, and better accuracy when throwing deep, Smith can lead this team to more victories. But to be safe, the niners should draft a qb this upcoming draft.
Date: November 5, 2007 at 1:22 PM
Comment: Right on. I've been steadfast in my support of Nolan and Smith until this last week. No more excuses. And it's not even about the wins and losses-- it's about the kinds of mistakes we're seeing, the uninspired performances week after week. It has now infected the defense. Groan... looks like we're gonna have to rebuild again, starting with the coach and QB. Yeah, Singletary and a strong offensive coordinator might need to be the first hires of a new regime. And... what qb's are going to be available? It's time to start thinking about that, as our draft pick should be pretty high. Darn it.
Date: November 5, 2007 at 12:02 PM
Comment: Amen. You have managed to capture all of my frustrations and opinions in one article. I have been a 49er fan for 20 years and it is just gut wrenching to watch this team play. It is very reminiscent of the 2004 season, except that team hadn't spent millions upon millions of dollars "improving" themselves in the offseason. One thing missing from you article: the high draft pick that usually soothes the worst team's pain during the offseason isn't even ours. No, we gave that to New England, a team obviously needs our help (strong sarcasm here). Nolan made a joke after that draft trade that New England fans are probably hoping we'd lose every game. Well, they didn't need us to lose all of them, just enough to get them a top 5 pick, which is surely a lock at this point. I'm too loyal to jump ship; I will always be a 49er fan. However, it doesn't look like there is much to look forward to on that field anymore.
Date: November 5, 2007 at 11:33 AM
Comment: I agree 100% with your article! Your comments about A. Smith are right on target. I personally witnessed his lack of leadership at the Saints game. Myself and other fans noticed how he carried himself and showed no emotion. It's pretty obvious that he is just going thru the motions. I personally feel this has alot to do with Nolan's philosophy of "just don't screw it up kid!!" Well, Nolan, you have totally screwed up this team with your lack of knowledge on how to manage a a game, manage a team or motivate. Please, please, resign at season end and spare us faithful anymore embarrasment!!
Date: November 5, 2007 at 10:47 AM
Comment: anybody think a senior bowl team of the best players in college could be NE? Why not , thats alot of talent. Most of us agree that there needs to be some COACHING. Nolan cant coach period. He has no HC experience and no GM experience. His words are hollow attempts to cover up the fact he has no idea how to right this pitiful ship. Making little cliches like we work hard, need to execute means nothing when the product is inferior. Lets assume the rollers are right its the players fault not the coaching, i know what Belechek, Walsh, and Johnson would do, they would be ex-players. Since Nolan is the GM and HC he cannot hide behind the thought his players arent good enough because he chose them. Then of course there is Erickson. ERickson was fired, but he had Donahues trash. Donhaue was fired becasue he hired Erickson. Since both are gone who hired this inept GM and Coach? That person should be fired
Date: November 5, 2007 at 8:53 AM
Comment: Can we know? The players have given up, it seems, save for a few. People mention Lee and Willis. BY's still in there, too. But can you evaluate the players before the coach has been cashiered out of there? Put in Singletary. Tell Nolan - thanks for the memories. And let Singletary try some things that Nolan and his 'philosophy' would never dare. Let Singletary get these guys some actual practice and a gameplan for the upcoming game. It may be there are some who shouldn't be there. Maybe. But inspired coaching can also inspire players. They aren't even being encouraged, now. They need practice. Smith needs to run like he was encouraged to do in the second Seattle game, last year. That's a genuine confidence builder. These guys need to have fun, to want to play football, to know what the plays are and how they are supposed to work. Singletary! Not only can he quite literally not do worse, but he's being groomed to be head coach. Today, Monday, maybe this afternoon - York needs to make that announcement.
Date: November 5, 2007 at 7:11 AM
Comment: You've got no faith. This is an essential component as a fan. There are signs that this team could pull it together. As you mentioned, they have a talented core, show moments of good play and I would add, have a defense that could hold the line for successive victories. Saying the season is over given the NFC west to me is as defeatist a statement as anything that the Niners have shown thus far.