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The San Francisco 49ers of 2007 are no more. There is nothing good to write or say about them anymore on this season. We have self-destructed by our own accord with the help of a coaching staff stuck in neutral with their feet on the accelerator still trying to figure out why we aren't going anywhere. Falling 24-0 to the Seattle Seahawks, who we soundly defeated twice in 2006, was like witnessing a serial killer gloating over the same message he has been trying to tell us all right from the very beginning. Your offense is dead because you have failed to identify and rectify the preliminary signs that made it so vulnerable in the first place.
All I can think of when I reflect back on the season, now in its third quarter and coming to an end sooner than we think, is the devastating tsunami that destroyed and maimed tens of thousands of human lives when it hit the Indonesian Islands and beyond. As 49er fans we have been utterly surprised and are still in shock from this tsunami of depression that has manifested itself right from the first game of the season on down with offensive coordinator Jim Hostler at the helm and Alex Smith under center.
We all have literally drowned a thousand times over as one game to the next the statistical data being cultivated from these games has been so overwhelmingly devastating in every offensive category that is feasibly monitored that even the Miami Dolphins look like a Super Bowl Champion offensively in comparison to us. This is the worst I've ever seen from an organization built on the fundamental principles of having the best attacking offense in the NFL under our legendary Bill Walsh.
Mike Nolan has tested my patience by way of taking it one day at a time and saying over and over again how it is simply a measure of "not executing." Even under Dennis Erickson, the San Francisco 49er offense was far more productive and statistically competitive when being compared to the rest of the league. But now we look, as we are the virtual laughing stocks of every conceivable defensive meeting in the NFL that has the discussion on "how do we stop the 49er offense?" Well it seems simple enough and often enough we have seen the same results.
In my opinion, it is now crystal clear that our 2005 first round draft pick in quarterback Alex Smith was a bust. Some are likely to disagree and rise to his defense but the statistics are clearly indicating that his development and learning curve should be far more advanced then what it is right now. Arguments can be raised due to the fact that he has had three different offensive coordinators in three seasons and that injuries have taken a toll on his ability to rebound and get back in rhythm.
However, the statistical data that we have on Alex Smith soundly suggests that he'll never be better than he already is because he has failed to correct mechanical and technical flaws in his physical approach to delivering a throw to his mental anguish and blockage of ever getting into a rhythm where he can make simple plays happen on a consistent basis with any form of consistency and longevity.
ESPN's Ron Jaworski made some interesting tidbits out of the Alex Smith story year to date thus far while conducting analysis of the Monday Night Game in Seattle in which we recorded only six first downs and simply one in the first half of this game that the Seahawks flew away with including the division title.
Alex Smith was as ineffective as one player could possibly be in a game with so much at stake on the line. At (2-6) this was a "must win," game for us to stay competitive with Arizona in competing for the division. Alex Smith was 12-for-28 for 114 total yards and was sacked three times for a loss of 20 total yards with a quarterback rating of 54.8. It was as raw and as depressing as one could conceivably witness as he under-threw and over-threw receivers and misread the routes receivers were taking along with recognizing and understanding blitz formations and adjusting to pressure that was clearly taking different angles at him.
He doesn't have the intelligence or physical abilities to diagnose and react to what is right in front of him. Regardless of how intelligent he is academically as far as being able to adapt to the NFL from the University of Utah that has largely not happened to any kind of positive degree. Jim Hostler, his personal coach for two years and now his new offensive coordinator, has done nothing to help him overcome his college day jitters.
New 49er quarterback coach Frank Cignetti is also as soundly responsible for Alex Smith's present day demise. Former offensive coordinator Norv Turner left right after the 2006 season in which he clearly made some strong impressions on Smith to the point of him establishing some form of confidence. At his passing to San Diego and Jim Hostler being nominated to resume the offensive helm as the new coordinator, Smith's confidence plunged faster then a black day on the New York Stock Exchange.
On the National Stage on Monday Night Football, the entire world now is at a convincing understanding that the San Francisco 49ers of 2007 are no better then the 49ers of 2005. The actual regression that has taken place has been damaging and malicious in a gradual sort of context. Nothing really stood right out at you until Alex Smith was subjected to a painful shoulder injury that some including him is making the focal point for his inability to clear his developmental hurdle on this season.
The third down efficiency was as appalling as the first down percentage in that we converted but only one third down for an 8% overall efficiency compared to the Seattle Seahawks that converted six for 43%. Matt Hasselback, quarterback of the Seattle Seahawks, carried this game largely on his shoulders due to the fact that running back superstar Shawn Alexander stood on the sidelines along with leading wide receiver Deion Branch. He orchestrated one successful drive after another for 380 total yards completing 27-of-40 passes for 278 passing yards with two touchdowns and one interception.
Everything about the game stunk offensively as we went in and came out three and out like a song being played over and over again. Penalty flags fell like confetti at Times Square following the renewal of yet another New Year. We incurred 10 total penalties for 53 total yards.
Some of the most aggravating of penalties were on tight end Delanie Walker for pass interference in the first quarter followed directly by two false start penalties on tight end Vernon Davis and left tackle Adam Snyder to boot. And then you had the two Alex Smith fumbles as a result of multiple identity theft problems with not recognizing protection coverage and blitz alignments as was his uncanny ability to just hold the ball too long that led to two costly turnovers.
Although the offensive line showed promise in some areas it lacked sorely in others. Penalties robbed it of its own identity and slaughtered the quarterback they were sworn to protect and open new accounts for running back Frank Gore. It still struggled in the trenches with the Seattle Seahawk defense setting the tone for this game right from the very beginning inside the trenches. In the first half alone the Seahawks dominated time of possession 19:59 to the 49ers 10:01, which was utterly pathetic. The pure inaccuracy of Alex Smith's throws cannot be overestimated in this game. He continues to breakdown on an ever-reoccurring basis to the point that all of us as fans vehemently stress that a change be made from one week to the next.
There is no question that Alex Smith is playing with some pain. He has had it since coming back from his injury and is now complaining of it as it lingers in his shoulder and forearm as we speak. He hasn't been on the same page with Mike Nolan with his injuries regardless of what anyone thinks and the medical staff hasn't been forthright with Nolan enough to suggest sitting him on the bench for a while to heal properly.
There is some certainty that the communication between Mike Nolan and Alex Smith is sorely lacking in many aspects, so much so that Frank Cignetti should be fired for this all too important avenue of consultation. Every head coach should have direct knowledge as to the state of the union with their quarterback. If they don't have to get that first hand knowledge, then they've failed to make the offense a calculated priority in its ability to be led efficiently.
I still believe that Jim Hostler is the wrong man in the booth for this offense. I am also suggesting that George Warhop be censored and even let go at the end of this season should the line not mesh into a collective ferocity that manufactures more yardage and/or points on the season as a whole. Offensively, we need an immediate makeover like the show "Extreme Makeover" on television that builds new homes to make people's dreams come true. This line needs to be rebuilt from the center on down and a new mandate set in stone on what those expectations are and need to be attached with consequences.
Wide receivers that continue to drop balls, at what has been diagnosed that 12% to 15% of all the balls Alex Smith has thrown have been dropped by his counterparts, needs to stop. If it continues, it should be tracked effectively and that player is made to sit and watch for an allocated amount of time.
Alex Smith's confidence is at an all-time low. He is credited by some of his players as being a warrior and a strong competitor but my question is how can a quarterback in obvious physical pain not realize that his limited faculties to carry his position with complete effectiveness continue to insist on playing? He puts the game in the opponent's hands right from the start in my opinion? To me that is a selfish act that accomplishes the goal of self-destructing the team and yourself.
A rotation of Trent Dilfer and Shaun Hill should have been the order following Alex Smith's September 30th, shoulder injury. As Trent Dilfer fell on his face I think the rush to get Alex Smith back was evident based upon Trent's complete failure to manufacture any sort of profound offensive difference in comparison to the student he was entrusted to tutor. Alex Smith was rushed back to fix the ailments that were already there and still remain with him hurting yet again.
Trent Dilfer, despite the horror episodes he has already starred in, is probably the best option we have back at home in Monster Pak against the St. Louis Rams. Yet I wouldn't hesitate to inject Shaun Hill into the starting role should Dilfer clearly struggle. I mean, it's long overdue for the quarterbacks to be on a very short leash until we find the right chemistry and rhythm necessary to be successful.
I wouldn't be against seeing even Michael Robinson take a few snaps after being a well respected quarterback with his days at Penn State. Certainly there have to be options we can take in order to spark the offense into a new fighting unit capable of showing improvement?
Mike Nolan needs to listen to what the war drums have been sounding for so long. He is in a crisis and he cannot continue to insist he is not worried about job security. He should see that as an offense changes are in line and need to be made sooner rather than later. Everything and anything should be considered including saying good bye first to Jim Hostler and allowing someone fully qualified from within such as tight ends coach Pete Hoener and or even wide receivers coach Jerry Sullivan take over.
If it still doesn't work look to revamp from the outside and/or bring in a qualified offensive consultant that can pinpoint what is going on and bring a blueprint on how to fix it. Mike Nolan must concede to the inevitable and make some changes come forth sooner rather than later if he is to reclaim his position as the respected leader of this proud franchise.
Sources of Information: Mercury News.com, SF Gate.com, Inside Bay Area.com, NFL.com and my own personal analysis and opinion.