Dear Coach Singletary:
Hey there, Coach. It's me again. No, don't worry; I'm not writing to criticize you. I'm not even writing to tell you to put your arms down. (Heh heh. That was a GOOD one, though, wasn't it?)
No, Coach, actually I'm just writing to wish you good luck. After all, this is a big year for you. Last year, your boss promised us an end to our playoff drought, and you didn't deliver. THIS year, I'm sure you've noticed, you're the near-unanimous choice to win the NFC West. Indeed, among ESPN's gaggle of boo-yahs, you ARE the unanimous choice. One guy even says you'll take us to the Super Bowl and be Coach of the Year. (No word on whether he's breathing pure oxygen, but hey, sounds good to me.)
The point is, the pressure's on. In TWO ways. First, of course, we've reached the end of our patience. But second, our division rivals are simply atrocious. The Rams are building from zero. The Cards are replacing Kurt Warner with a guy who couldn't play for the Browns. And the Seahawks have little else but Pete Carroll's smile and a bunch of your castoffs.
Really, Coach. If you can't win THIS division, something's seriously wrong with you.
So yeah, there's some pressure there.
But here's the scary part. By and large, what's driving your bandwagon isn't any perceived greatness of YOUR team, but rather the obvious weakness of theirs. In ANY other division, the title wouldn't be yours to lose. Of course, things could be worse than having three dregs between you and the playoffs. (That was the case throughout much of our dynasty.) But you've still got this pressure to win a division with a team that's less than truly great. No matter how weak the division is, that's still no gimme.
What I'm saying is, no matter how bad your opponents are, you're not good enough to just show up. You still need to prepare better. You still need to execute better.
You still need to go out and win.
As you know, we've been 'round the block more than once on the topic of your offensive philosophy. We've already beaten last year's corpse, so I'll spare you another trip through the details. All you need to remember is this. Before last season, you announced your "traditional" approach of running to set up the pass. So you ran early, but also predictably: 71 percent of your running plays went straight up the gut. No team ran up the middle more often, yet only three did worse on those plays. And having failed to make gains on those early downs, you led the league in third-and-long's, which you converted more than just ONE other team. Put it together, and it's easy to see why you led the league in ANOTHER dubious category. Punts.
I know: your offensive line was the league's worst, and your quarterback was feeling his way. And I understand: both those issues should be off the table now. But winning football isn't just about execution; you've also gotta keep the defense off balance. If the D knows what's coming, it's got the edge, no matter how well you execute. You've simply gotta change it up.
Let me put it this way. Everyone on this planet thinks your first play in Seattle is gonna be Frank Gore up the middle. If you're really serious about winning this thing, you've gotta prove 'em wrong.
Or, better yet, pass.
The fact that winning teams are passing teams has been proven a hundred different ways. The easiest, though, is to just count wins. Last year, the five teams with the most passing yards went 59 and 21; four of 'em won their divisions, and two of 'em played in the Super Bowl. Meanwhile, the five teams with the most RUSHING yards went 41 and 39. Peter King said it best: "The running game is not quite ancient history, but it's yesterday's football." Amen.
But maybe you've learned your lesson, Coach. In that same article, King closed with a vignette about how the Niners, who last year were "a classic two-back, two-receiver team in the image of [their] conservative, Ditka-disciple coach," were now convinced that "the spread was the right scheme." "We've evolved," Alex Smith told King. "We can play three wides, get guys in space, throw it all over the field, and we think we can win playing that way."
Intriguing. We saw the spread last year, of course, and it looked pretty good even then. The problem was, generally speaking, you'd use it only after your "classic" scheme had dug yourself a hole of two or three scores. Does "evolved" mean it's the "right scheme" even on first down, in the first quarter, of the first game?
We'll see, Coach. But I hope so. 'Cause if it does, and if Smith has improved as much as we've heard, then it's really quite simple.
And that's all I want, Coach. Believe it or not, I've got nothing against you. Do I think last year you were stubborn as a mule? Sure. Do I wish you were part of the Walsh tree? Yeah. Do I ask too many rhetorical questions? Maybe. But all I want is for you to do what must be done for us to win. As long as you do, you're fine by me. (Though if Nate Davis never becomes a Pro Bowler somewhere else, that'd be good too.)
See, I'm a Niner fan, straight to the core. Looking back, it's all so clear. Missing The Catch because I was in my room, hopelessly weeping. Getting that issue of Time with Joe on the cover ("Super Dreams," remember?) and putting the pictures all over my walls. Finding the team's address in an almanac and writing a fan-letter in pencil, offering congrats for Supe XVI and begging for a photo of Joe. Being shocked when the team actually SENDS that photo of Joe. Drawing SF logos, badly, on all my school notebooks. Watching the '83 NFC title game in a roller rink and trying to stay upright as the refs steal it away. High-stepping in my family room like Roger in XIX. Watching in horror as Joe gets pummeled by Taylor, Burt, Doleman, Marshall. Remembering how I'd lost hope when Joe got the ball on the 11, and being rewarded for staying when Joe gets the ball on the 8. Joe sending the Broncos into oblivion, and sending ME off to college. Pretending that after the '90 NFC title game I'm not dying inside. Saying goodbye to Joe, and learning to love Steve. Wondering, as I go off to law school, if there's any way we'll ever beat Dallas. Finally, beating Dallas. Absorbing annual poundings from Favre and, strangely, MISSING Dallas. Shrieking about The Catch II like I would've about The Catch I, even though now I'm a grown-up and, worse, a lawyer. And dragging the wife and kid down to Santa Clara, seeing those trophies, and even spending a minute in Walsh's spot.
We're Niner fans, and this team's in the margins of every page of our conscious lives. We've experienced amazing highs and depressing lows. But we like the highs better, and as this year dawns, we're more ready than ever to see 'em again.
Good luck, Coach. The pressure's on.
Date: July 16, 2011 at 11:04 PM
Comment: Many many quality points there.
Date: September 14, 2010 at 8:23 AM
Comment: Terry that was worse than I could've imagined. I'm glad there's a fire under their behinds, but Alex didn't look very good. It's one out of 16 games, so I'm not going to throw away my hat or anything. I hope you guys didn't take that one loss too hard.
By: Dallas Niner Fan
Date: September 13, 2010 at 4:29 PM
Comment: I can't tell you how mad I am about the Niners' opening game. They looked lost and had no clue. I thought Sing was supposed to be a motivator????? Well Pete Carroll out-motivated him big time. The Niners just looked totally lost. The coaching staff had no clue and just think Jeff as you have talked about before, this all comes from the top, if Niner management had a clue we would have had Mike Shanahan as a coach and Donovan McNabb as a qb.
Date: September 13, 2010 at 8:00 AM
Comment: This was actually the first thing I read this morning.... enjoyed it thoroughly.... another putrid sideline performance.... sure glad we stuck with the Nolan coaching tree.... after they finally figure out that this doesn't work (2 years).... they will probably can Mike and hire Vance....
By: Big T
Date: September 13, 2010 at 7:53 AM
Comment: Wow, Pure Artwork! Best honest article about the Niners yet, thank you! I thought that most fans drank the Sing and York "Jim Jones" Kool-Aid about this team. The decision to go with Alex for another year, the stubbornness of the running game, the unimaginative playcalling is killing my spirit. I love this team. I was just in Canton watching Jerry take his rightful place among his fellow greats. It's a shame what the Yorks have let this great franchise become. Keep writing Jeff because your article is the medicine we as fans need to swallow. True fans like you and I who are not mindless idiots and who have a pair of eyes and a memory of what 49er football is really about deserve better from a franchise we love so much. This debacle is in the past and I'm sure there will be lessons learned, but when? Before or after the season? But the biggest question I have is, after a decade of mediocrity, why are we here? Everything has a cycle and why haven't we come full circle yet? I'm sure all Niner fans are asking that question today. Time for "Real Changes" folks. Miss you Eddie! Big T Thanks again Jeff, Hats off!
By: Da Niners
Date: September 13, 2010 at 7:44 AM
Comment: Don't agree with a lot of your opinions, but this one is spot on. The Niners will continue to be mired in mediocrity until we get new ownership. This ownership continues to make poor decisions involving personnel. Singletary is severely overmatched on gameday and training camp does not win you anything. Baalke is a keeper, but the fact that the Niners took this long to recognize his abilities is sad. We as fans should DEMAND the team be sold by the Dorks and unless they do, there is no stadium. Let them go to LA and suck. Maybe Eddie could bring the real 49ers back to the Bay Area. Maybe that is extreme, but that is how pissed I am with this whole debacle of a team. The fact that fans think it is ok to go 6-10, or 7-9 and win a division is a joke. This is the 49ers for god sake. For nearly 20 years we missed the playoffs like once. We expected to be in the SB every year. People talk about how great the Colts and Pats are...they were nothing compared to our dominance in the 80's and early 90's. Nothing close. Stand up and be loud...this train of pain needs to be derailed quickly.
By: Terry B.
Date: September 13, 2010 at 5:39 AM
Comment: Dan, I just don't understand how you can feel happy and proud after a game like this. I wish I knew your secret.
By: STL Niner Fan
Date: September 12, 2010 at 7:39 PM
Comment: OMG, we didn't learn a thing from last year nor have we improved upon anything. All our glaring weaknesses from last year reared their ugly heads again in week one. A lot of this blame falls squarely on the shoulders of Singletary. The team quite simply wasn't prepared to play today and the Niners got outcoached by some college retread. Unbelievable with all the wasted timeouts, the general look of "WTF am I supposed to do again?" on the faces of the players - most notably Smith.....grrr....Smith. I was so ready to believe in this kid this year but he looked the worst of anyone today. All his passes were high or too hard, he got rattled easy, and worst of all, after all this talk of leadership he looked like his old ho-hum self on the sideline. No fire in this kid at all. God I'd like to punch McCloughan and Nolan in the mouth for picking Smith over Rodgers....The playcalling is still boring and predictable. Can we PLEASE throw a pass longer than 15 yards BEFORE we are forced to play catchup? One thing is certain from today's game - this team will not compete for anything meaningful again this year. If only SB's could be won with offseason expectations.
By: Shannon Pratt
Date: September 12, 2010 at 4:18 PM
Comment: Dear Mike, I have been a huge 9er fan for almost thirty years.... This is our year baby but you have to put Nate in.... If in fact he is still on the roster. The 49ers need a fresh look.... let's go baby! Feel free to email me regarding any other players. Shannon
Date: September 11, 2010 at 11:00 PM
Comment: Great article. But it's not all Singletary's fault. As long as Jed refuses to bring in successful, experienced football management people the 49ers will never see another championship. There's no one there and Jed likes it that way. So does Singletary. They were made for each other. They both can't live with their decisions being questioned by people who have the status to challenge them. No GM? No problem. High-powered GMs complicate the party and get too much credit for the deals they pull off. Brilliant, innovative Offensive Coordinator? Don't need one. We're tough. Talented, star QB? They're overrated and grab all the glory from the coach. Great wide receiver? He's a diva, so we'll make his stay here miserable and eventually force him out. Get the picture?
Date: September 10, 2010 at 5:18 PM
Comment: Jeff you're right, run on first down all the time isn't the way to go, I just felt that people seem to think that you can't win with a run game. When you run at a defense and they can't stop you then the spirit of the opposing team is destroyed. There is greatness in destroying the other team. I am not saying the Niners can run the ball, I am just saying a team can win with a running attack. Here's the deal - we have to accept the team we are given and that is what a fan is all about but accepting the team doesn't mean you have to like the team. Fans, it is important to critique anything, that is how you get better, right Jeff?
Date: September 10, 2010 at 3:29 PM
Comment: @Terry: You have managed to use just about every fallacy there is so don't try to accuse me of straw man. I'm also not debating you. I have pretty much been doing nothing but giving my opinion and countering your misrepresentations. It's too one-sided on your part to be any kind of "debate." What exactly did you think we were debating? Whether or not I was a Homer? If you guys are Debbie Downers? How is this a legitimate debate? Pointless, yes. Debate, not even close. I didn't even ask for your input in the first place, you just started calling me a homer and I called you a Drew Brees, Sean Payton groupie. Besides that it's been just a bunch of baseless attacks and not a scrap of meaningful debate in about fifty posts. I'm not even trying to engage in any kind of debate with you as you're an agitator and an instigator. There won't be an adios from you because if I'm right you will always want the last word. Otherwise I win because I don't have to hear from you.
By: Terry B.
Date: September 10, 2010 at 7:56 AM
Comment: Dan, unless and until you are ready to start: (1) thinking critically, and (2) responding to arguments that are actually made instead of inventing silly straw men to knock down, I agree with you that it is pointless for us to debate. So, adios for now. In the meantime, look up the word "values" in the dictionary. Your usage of that word is as far off as your usage of "plagiarism."
Date: September 10, 2010 at 1:29 AM
Comment: Jeff your article is a thing of beauty, well put my friend. Unfortunately we have a head coach stuck in what I call the "Halas, Ditka, M. Nolan offensive triangle." Wasn't it Westbrook upon first seeing the team's running plays, saying out loud, that these were plays that he ran in High School? My nickname for coach is "Dingy," because he is so confused about what an NFL offense should be. The 49ers' offense is a "Thing of Monotony." So another season of wins against teams that manage to beat themselves and our beloved 49ers will be lucky to match last year's output of 8 wins. As a dyed-in-the-wool 49ers fan since 1956, I desperately want another Superbowl trophy for the red and gold before I cash in my chips. We finally have some talent on this team and "Dingy's" philosophy is holding them back. Walsh was relentless at attacking other teams' weaknesses by using a diverse offense. So "Dingy," get your head out of the sand, give this offense a chance by being smart and creative with your playcalling. Use a little deception so other teams don't always know what's coming. You won't have any excuses left if this year's team fails to win more than 8 games.
Date: September 10, 2010 at 12:17 AM
Comment: Because I can't leave well enough alone, I want to make sure I express myself clearly. There are some people who are stating that the running game is archaic or not as relevant in today's game as it was say twenty years ago. There is also some notion that I, or better yet coach Singletary, is trying to create the 1985 Bears. Let me please explain to you why the running game is not archaic, why our formula is tried and true, and why your arguments against it go against the personnel that the 49ers currently have on their roster. First and foremost let me mention some teams that have won with a strong defense and a great running game. The 60's Packers, the 70's Steelers, the 80's and 90's Redskins, the 90's Cowboys, John Elway's two Super Bowl winning Bronco teams, and a number of different teams in the last decade including the Giants, Ravens, and Steelers. So, that should pretty much end my argument right there. I don't know how much more proof I can give you, but hell since I'm already writing why not take it home for you. Out of the four teams in the Championship round of the playoffs last year, 3 of those 4 teams were in the top 13 in rushing. The Jets who made it all the way to the championship game were...*gasp* the best running team and the best defensive team in football. The O' so popular Saints who throw the ball all over the field were 6th in rushing last year. Hell in 2008, the top 7 rushing teams all made the playoffs, so please dispense with this nonsense that says running the ball is not important. I'm sure I can find one or two articles from the past twenty years that say rushing isn't as important as passing. I'd be willing to say I could find about 10,000 that claim it's the most important aspect of football today. The fact remains that in the playoffs, when the weather is bad, rushing teams usually hold a distinct advantage over teams that like to air it out. Are there exceptions? Of course there are, there are always going to be exceptions. However, the exception doesn't suddenly make the rule invalid! Let me be the first to say that if we had a top five Quarterback in this league I would advocate throwing the ball a lot more than we do, but we don't have a top five QB. We do have a top 5 defense and a top 5 running back. So run the ball, run traps, counters, stretches, ISO, dives, and every other running play we can find. Run it early and often, and run it right down their throats. Set up play action, mix the pass in there, but for God's sake understand that our team is not a spread passing team. One of the posters said our spread looked unstoppable at times last year, I must have missed those games completely. The only time we looked dominant in the pass game was when we were down by twenty and the other team was playing a cover two shell, or a soft prevent. I wouldn't use the word dominant for anything we did on offense last year. However, times are changing and we will be able to run the ball this year behind the revamped line. Frank will rush for at least 1,500 yards this season, and we will be in the playoffs. Not because our division is terrible, not because the "Amazing" Kurt Warner retired, and not because we play a soft schedule. They will be in the playoffs this year because they are a talented bunch that will execute the plays they run, well, in all three phases of the game. They will do this because they are a well coached, disciplined team, and because they have all bought into what the head coach is selling. Again, if you don't appreciate that...then you just don't appreciate football. Also, Mr. Kaplan thank you for allowing me to state my opinion. Whether you disagree or agree, it's nice to be allowed the venue to make my point. In the end we all want the same thing, and that's for our beloved Niners to return to their throne as NFL Royalty.
Date: September 9, 2010 at 9:39 PM
Comment: Despite what Jeff and Terry have to say - yes you can win with a running attack. Nothing prettier than a good running game. Was great fun to watch Roger Craig and Wendell Tyler running for the Niners. Three things have to be right to win with a run. First you have to be able to run the ball. I am not sure that we can. Second you have to have an elite defense. Once again I am not sure we do. Third you have to be able to pass the ball when you need to pass the ball. And again I am not sure that we can. I truly hope that Singletary can pull it off. This is the first time in many years that we fans have something that might be pretty special.
Date: September 9, 2010 at 9:13 PM
Comment: Great article Jeff, it's refreshing to see an article that is about the here and now and not a homer-filled rant about how great Alex Smith and Singletary is or is gonna be. Jeff i have one question for you. Where the hell did these obnoxious 49er homers come from? They honestly act like the Raider fans used to back in the day before Al Davis wore them down, you remember them. Everything Al did was great and every offseason they were gonna be great the upcoming season and half of them didn't even know who the hell the Head Coach was...I know u saw it here on the "Zone." They post polls on who's better Ronnie Lott or Patrick Willis and Willis wins by a landslide. Soon after the draft they're giving late round draftees and free agents nicknames and talking about how great they are gonna be, people saying Alex Smith would be as good as Joe Montana if he had the same players as Joe did. All types of crazy stuff and they will jump all over you for not saying Alex is a good QB. Honestly these fans act more like cheerleaders than fans and are a embarrassment....Tell me Jeff where did these guys come from?
Date: September 9, 2010 at 2:32 PM
Comment: Separate post from below: To be completely honest, not once have I stated my opinion or has anyone bothered to ask my opinion before just assigning me a label, a personality, and expectations. I actually slightly agree with you guys on one point. I think your approach and judgment is wrong but I do agree that we should use the passing attack more this season. I think the coaches did not use it as much last season due to Alex coming in late and the blocking being inconsistent. It's harder to use our amazing running back Frank Gore without giving him a lead blocker, and he doesn't produce as much running outside the tackles. We have to run and pass so the spread may not be the fix. Two-tight end formations are perfect with Delanie and Vernon out there. There are actually a lot of weapons and we have plays to utilize them to their maximum potential, in my opinion. You may disagree and I won't fault you. A lot of this is just a matter of opinion, so it should be argued as such. I'm really looking forward to this season more than I have in a long time so I would prefer some urine-free cheerios this season Jeff. Terry you just back off man it's no use. I disagree with your methods.
Date: September 9, 2010 at 2:09 PM
Comment: @Terry: Well there you have it. False reasoning #1: Most teams have more success with the pass than the run, therefore if we run we do not give ourselves a chance to win. There are plenty of scenarios where a strong running game will HELP us win. False reasoning #2: Dan stated that he will be happy this season no matter what happens, therefore Dan would be happy if the 49ers went 0 - 16, he is a homer. This does not take into account I may have different values than the person who is twisting this statement. My values are that this is a great team working as a team, with an emphasis on winning as a team. The only way we are going 0 - 16 besides a complete meltdown which as a reasonable person I completely ruled out due to my faith in the coach, is multiple injuries that equate with disaster on an apocolyptic scale. I just don't know how to lend that twist any credibility Terry. What you are doing is wrong Terry. Admit it. You use slimy underhanded tactics to try to discredit people. You might as well run for some political office or sell cars. Or even WORSE, be a LAWYER. OK low blow I know and I jest Jeff, but it's not right using this space to just unjustly attack people's credibility.
By: Terry B.
Date: September 9, 2010 at 12:11 PM
Comment: Dan, I really should know better than to respond. You see, I'm starting to think you're not a real person, and that "Dan" is just a pseudonym for someone posing as an outlandish homer to see if people will believe he's legitimate. Anyway, against my better judgment, I will try once again to explain what's so obvious it shouldn't need to be explained. Dan, the history, the facts, and the stats are squarely against you. Establishing the pass is strongly correlated with winning. The list of the best passing teams in history is a list of some of the greatest teams in history, while the greatest rushing teams in history were decidedly average. Smart teams play the percentages. Also, the 49ers themselves look better running a wide-open pass-first offense than they do pounding it up the middle. Your beloved coach doesn't do what gives the team the best chance to win. Did you really argue that not every single team that passes a lot is great? Did you really say that Dan? Did you really argue that we have a QB and that we pass sometimes? Do you see now why you are the king of the straw men? As for your accusation that I'm a plagiarist, I can only assume that you don't know what the word means. A plagiarist is someone who takes someone else's words and represents them as his own. Dan, you must believe me when I say that the last thing I would ever do is represent your words as my own. The problem is not that I'm plagiarizing you. Rather, the problem is that you seem unable to grasp the most basic logic. Let me see if I can spell it out for you. If you say that "I'm just going to be happy and proud this season NO MATTER WHAT HAPPENS," it means just what it says. Is going 0-16 something that could happen? Of course. It's not likely, but it could happen. That necessarily means that you would be happy and proud if we finish 0-16. You did not say, for instance, "I will be happy and proud if we win at least four games." You said that you would be happy and proud NO MATTER WHAT HAPPENS. I'm not twisting your words at all; you're just embarrassed that you uttered them. Next, if Singletary is committed, why isn't he doing what gives the team the best chance to win? And where else should I post my comments if not on a 49ers fan blog? Again, this is a fan site, not a homer site, and being a fan means that sometimes you disagree with what the team is doing. I agree that my comments would be out of place on a homer site--a site that is dedicated to saying that everything the 49ers do is always great, right, and perfect, but I was under the impression that webzone was more of a marketplace of ideas for 49er fans. Finally, I have no campaign against Mike Singletary. My only campaign is for the 49ers to win, and at the moment I harbor grave doubts as to whether Singletary's plan gives them the best chance to do so. Singletary seems like a good guy whose heart is in the right place, and I would like to see him succeed. History shows, however, that he's chosen the path that leads to failure. As for whether doubting Singletary puts me in an exclusive group, how many teams do you think would be lining up to give him a head-coaching gig if we fired him today?
Date: September 9, 2010 at 9:49 AM
Comment: @ Terry and Jeff once again, So you guys just don't agree with the coach's methods. You would rather watch a high flying passing bonanza like the Montana - Rice show. The Falcons and the Texans have great passing games and neither of them made the playoffs last year either. Just because you install a passing game doesn't mean you're going to win a Super Bowl. Dan Marino could never get it done. You just make the assumption if we pass we will win. Then you pound this assumption up the middle over and over again until it becomes predictable. I don't want Singletary fired, I think he's the best thing to happen to the 49ers in a long time. You guys obviously do. Instead of an open letter to Mike Singletary, this should be titled "a call for Mike Singletary's resignation before he can put together a winning season." You guys set up a ridiculous standard too. You won't even be happy until the 49ers are returned to the greatness we enjoyed under Bill Walsh. I have news for you, that happens to maybe one team every other decade so don't be disappointed when it doesn't happen right away. Your argument that more teams win with passing games has a fatal flaw... More teams pass, of course if more teams are passing, more teams that are passing are going to win. We can go around in circles with this all day so don't bother. The run game can win too. We do have a passing game. Alex Smith is the quarterback, AND captain. Which I assure you means more passing this year, because he has the respect of the coaches - who made him earn it. Also an NFL football team is not a corporation. They are part of the NFL and compete as a unit in the business world. Running an NFL team does not always mean trying to win games so be happy you have an owner and a coach that are committed to winning. If you disagree with their methods that's fine...but it is poor form to get on a so-called 49er fan blog and use it to attack the coaches' credibility without telling both sides of the story. You have been acting as if running the ball could not possibly help us win, the coach never passes the ball, and under the assumption that if he did it would succeed. I think this year it will succeed and last year we just didn't have enough pieces in place to do that - by the way, Terry you added words to my comment back there. I consider that type of thing a form of plagiarism. I never said I would be happy if the 49ers went 0 - 16, you added that on to my words. That's exactly what I mean when I say you twist the meanings of people's statements and then attack the new meaning. It isn't credible so don't bother. It's also antagonistic. I don't want to attack you personally because it's bad form but I also want to point this out so you can try not to do it again. Good luck with your anti-Singletary campaign, you are a pretty exclusive group.
By: Terry B.
Date: September 9, 2010 at 8:19 AM
Comment: Dan, I'll do the best I can to answer your question, but I speak only for myself. If Jeff has anything to add, I hope he does so. To answer your question, of course I'm not saying that the Super Bowl cannot be won with a great ground attack and an elite defense. Obviously, if you look at the entire history of the Super Bowl, it has been won different ways. Instead, my argument is exactly what you suggest it is: it's far easier to become an elite team by establishing a great passing attack. We don't have that yet, but the team looked far better operating the spread pass attack than it did pounding the ball last year. There were times last year when our spread was simply unstoppable. What coach wouldn't stick with it? Plus, the defenses you cite weren't just good, they were historically elite defenses. The 2000 Ravens weren't just good against the run, they were good against everything: they surrendered a meager 10.3 PPG, making them the stingiest defense of the Live Ball Era (1978-present). Surely as you know from watching Peyton Manning operate against our first string, we are far from being an elite pass defense. Moreover, it is worth noting that the teams you cite were one and done, whereas the elite passing teams often enjoy years of sustained excellence. And that's no surprise because becoming a top run-first offense leads to sustained mediocrity. Indeed, just two of the 31 best running teams of all time won more than 11 games: the 1998 49ers, who lost in the divisional playoffs, and the 1934 Bears. So it obviously makes far more sense to strive to become an elite passing team than an elite running team. The only reason for a coach to want to become a top run-first team is if he wants to be fired after a few seasons. Now let's look at your view of the situation. You wrote: "In my opinion, the real argument is that it is TOUGHER to get to and win the Super Bowl without an elite passing game. So if you guys are upset that the 49ers aren't taking the easy way then I can't sympathize with you. You see, personally I haven't had everything handed to me the easy way so I can respect a hardworking team probably more than you." Dan, with all due respect, this is simply inane. (Please note, this is not an attack on you, but an attack on your argument.) If you don't want Singletary to be fired, then you'd better pray that he doesn't follow your advice. In your opinion, instead of following the proven path to success, the path that has been shown to work over and over again, and often leads to sustained excellence, the 49ers should try to duplicate the very rare exception to the rule. Rather than try to build an elite passing attack, they should try to duplicate one of the stingiest defenses of all time and win with the running game, even though the two teams that accomplished this were one and done. Dan, that's just crazy. Pretend that you're on the board of directors of a corporation, and you're looking to hire a new CEO. One applicant presents his vision to you: "There is a proven path I can follow to take this company to the top. If it succeeds yet again, we can expect years of sustained excellence and growth. However, instead of following this path, I'm going to try to do something that has worked only once or twice in history and usually leads to mediocrity. If it works, the rewards will be no greater than if I had followed the smart path. Moreover, the rewards will be very short lived, and history suggests that long term mediocrity results from this path." Would you recommend hiring this fool to run your company? But this is the exact blueprint you want the 49ers to follow. And, of course, Dan, I do respect and admire hard work. I think NFL QB is one of the most difficult positions to play in all of sports, and it takes much hard work and dedication to establish an elite passing attack. Neither Joe Montana nor Peyton Manning were the most gifted QBs of their generations from a talent standpoint, but they got where they were by outstudying and outworking everyone else. THAT's hard work. By contrast, RB is often cited as one of the easiest positions to learn, and it's not uncommon for a running back to hold out for all of training camp and then step right in with the first string. I really don't see a lot of hard work going into planning the Jimmy Raye offense. At a minimum, a coach must do what his players are best at and put them in the best position to win. We saw last year that the spread is our best look, but Singletary is fighting it rather than embracing it. The Onion was not too far off the mark in its season preview when it listed as the 49ers' weakness: "whatever head coach Mike Singletary is thinking at any given moment." That's all.
Date: September 8, 2010 at 8:30 PM
Comment: Wow, awesome piece! I appreciate how brutally honest you are. And yes, the pressure is going to be extreme this season. Go Niners!!!
By: Mike McFeely
Date: September 8, 2010 at 6:42 PM
Comment: Everybody shut up and let the season begin. We will soon know how far our warriors have progressed. My guess is that we will have 11 wins this season. And with a STUDLY offensive line and a repeat O coordinator, A Smith will SHINE! MARK MY WORDS! I still have a piece of the north endzone where DWIGHT Caught it in Jan of 82. Dig That! Enjoy the playoffs!
Date: September 8, 2010 at 4:22 PM
Comment: you're an idiot, you would rather put your hate for SING in front of your love for the 9ers. you would rather the 9ers lose just to say "see I told you HE was no good." p.s. you're an idiot.
Date: September 8, 2010 at 1:46 PM
Comment: @Terry and Jeff: Just to be clear - you guys aren't actually saying the superbowl CAN'T be won by a running team are you? Let's go back in time a little to the 1990's. That's not too far back for you to remember, right? Two super bowl MVP's are running backs. Let's go to 2001 and look at the Ravens' win over the Giants, 33 rushing attempts, 12 completed passes and a monster defense. We can even win with defense, the Ravens and Buccaneers did. The Ravens that year allowed the least rushing yards AND the fewest points. Not unlike our defense last year I must point out, just a bit better. We'll get there. In 2003 when Tampa Bay destroyed the Raiders, Tampa Bay rushed a whopping 42 attempts. They then proceeded to destroy the Raiders with 3 defensive touchdowns and held the Raiders to 19 rushing yards. 5 of the 18 passes completed by Brad Johnson were to the fullback, Alstott, who was part of the running corps. You guys look at football in a simple way and say hey look at all these winning quarterbacks but you don't seem to look at the whole picture. The fact is that the Super Bowl itself CAN be won by running the ball well AND playing excellent defense. We do both. If you guys are saying that the Super Bowl is easier to reach and win with an elite passing game, that's fine. We don't have that yet do we? Or do we? Time will tell, Crabtree is pretty impressive as is Davis. The fact is, it's nearly impossible to win the Super Bowl without a good running game though. So consider that in your argument. In my opinion, the real argument is that it is TOUGHER to get to and win the Super Bowl without an elite passing game. So if you guys are upset that the 49ers aren't taking the easy way then I can't sympathize with you. You see, personally I haven't had everything handed to me the easy way so I can respect a hardworking team probably more than you. I don't know where you guys come from, but you seem to act entitled, not to get too personal, which would explain the dissatisfaction with coach Singletary's command. I personally live for the fight, so the tougher the road, the sweeter the victory.
Date: September 8, 2010 at 1:37 PM
Comment: rx- It's simple really, run a sweep, run off tackle, call a screen, use some play-action. The numbers are what they are. There is a reason why some offensive coords make big bucks and why some guys (like Raye) are left on the street. I wld say that Norv Turner did much more with the same amount of talent or less than Hostler or Raye. Martz i would argue is also too unbalanced which is why he hasn't had any success since he lost Warner. i wish i had 2009 49er game film so i cld break down the games but i don't. but the numbers don't lie. Read terry's post, it says it all. also 71% of runs up the middle. 80% of first downs are runs. too predictable, first in punts, first in 3rd and longs, these are all things we have pointed to. It's Sing's stubbornness that is underutilizing our talent. We ran more two-back two-tight end sets than any other team in the league. we have zero 4-WR sets. last year got so crazy the only time we passed was out of the gun. These are all coaching issues. These are all things that cost you games. the pressure is on sing just like it wld be on anyone else with this much talent in a weak division. I just feel there was more than enough talent to throw the ball last year.
Date: September 8, 2010 at 9:27 AM
Comment: @Terry B. Thank you for joining my fan club, you are a very welcome member. I'll be here all season so feel free to drop a line any time. If the 49ers go 0-16 I'll eat my hat. My favorite 49ers ball cap. I will be happy no matter what but that's just who I am. As far as proud, I know I'm going to have something to be proud of while I wear my favorite cap, because my team can play some seriously good football. We have the kind of players other coaches would sell their babies for. I don't subscribe to the theory that only three or four quarterbacks in the NFL can be in the Superbowl. C'mon, Rex Grossman, Rich Gannon, Jake Delhomme, Trent Dilfer, Kerry Collins and Brad Johnson are hardly elite quarterbacks. Every team has a chance to get there, and we are one of those teams. You have to give them a chance to succeed man. About Alex, you see some quarterbacks that have good and bad years. This could be his good one, you never know. About me, I am not remotely worried that the 49ers won't have a winning season this year, that's why I'm going to be proud no matter what happens. As far as I can see, they've already built the team they need to win, and they will only get better subsequently.
By: Terry B.
Date: September 8, 2010 at 8:43 AM
Comment: Jeff, I have no intention of cluttering up another of your columns with a back-and-forth with Dan. (In fact, I will make only this one Dan-related comment.) However, I would be remiss if I did not point out the following quote from Dan, which I believe really gets us to the crux of the disagreement I have with fans of his ilk. Dan wrote (and I quote so there will be no misunderstanding): "I'm just going to be happy and proud this season NO MATTER WHAT HAPPENS." (Emphasis mine.) In other words, Dan would be happy and proud if the 49ers went 0-16. I just do not understand how someone can call himself a fan and make statements like this. I would be angry, ashamed, and disgusted if the 49ers went 0-16. The day I'm happy and proud about 0-16 is the day I stop calling myself a fan. Anyway, I think this quote allows us to see exactly where Dan is coming from when he posts these comments. And that's all I have to say.
By: Terry B.
Date: September 8, 2010 at 8:23 AM
Comment: Tyler, unfortunately the comments do not allow the posting of links, but here are some quotes from an article about how meaningless the running game is. "Take a look at the 10 best running teams of the Super Bowl Era. Notice anything unusual about them? Here's a hint: Few of the best running teams in modern NFL history were any good. In fact, only three of the best running teams in modern history even reached the playoffs." "The 10 best running teams of the Super Bowl Era combined for a perfectly mediocre 79-79 record (.500). In other words, you could pick any 10 teams throughout history at random, and they'd be just as good on average as the best running teams ever." "Now take a look at the best passing teams of the Super Bowl Era. Notice anything unusual about these teams? Almost all were great teams. The top nine all reached the playoffs, and three made it to the Super Bowl. They include some of the best teams, the best quarterbacks and best offenses we've ever seen." "The 10 best passing teams of the Super Bowl Era combined to go 110-36-1 (.752)." "There is probably no factor in football, maybe even in sports, that correlates so closely with winning as passing the ball well." So, yes, Frank Gore may be a better RB than Alex Smith is a QB, but building an offense around Frank Gore up the middle is a one-way ticket to mediocrity. Look at the 2007 Vikings who dominated the ground with Adrian Peterson. "Led by rookie phenom Adrian Peterson, Minnesota fielded one of the most explosive ground games the NFL has ever seen, with an average of 5.33 yards per attempt (YPA). Only five teams in the entire history of the league have exceeded that average of 5.33 YPA. Minnesota, in other words, dominated on the ground that year like few teams ever have. Yet the 2007 Vikings went 8-8, five games behind division champ Green Bay, a team that struggled to run the ball effectively for much of the season." If an Adrian Peterson based offense is a ticket to mediocrity, why would we assume that a Frank Gore based offense is a ticket to greatness?
Date: September 8, 2010 at 6:19 AM
Comment: shane - "the talent must be there and play well but the coaches' job is to maximize the talent that is on the field." Please tell us what more Sing can do to maximize the talent on the team. At worst, Sing has been stubborn in his playcalling - still this could be explained since our talent has not always been there. I just do not see how people can say "the pressure is on Sing this year," unless you can provide more (any) evidence Sing's coaching has lost games.
By: Tyler Martin
Date: September 7, 2010 at 11:52 PM
Comment: There was a time when I truly felt that being a 49ers fan was a privilege that the likes of most other NFL fans would never understand. Yet, it's articles like this that seriously hurt my opinion of our supposed faithful. After one full season as a head coach you are ready to shout down Coach Singletary's entire approach to football. You are so quick to ridicule Frank up the middle, or state that we need to throw the ball more often. You even spew complete nonsense, and basically blaspheme against every football coach who ever coached, when you state...and I quote "winning football isn't just about execution." I'm sorry but there is a fairly famous trophy, named after a man who won a couple of very important games, who might disagree with you. Just in case you're not following me I'm talking about VINCE LOMBARDI! Who ran the same six plays over and over again because nobody could stop his team from running those six plays. FOOTBALL IS 100% ABOUT EXECUTION...ONE MORE TIME...FOOTBALL IS 100% ABOUT EXECUTION. If you have Bill Walsh draw up the 100 best plays of all time, and his team can't execute them properly, then you will fail each and every time! To say otherwise is the most ridiculous statement ever made about the sport I cherish. Did the 49ers run up the middle a lot last year? Is Frank Gore the best player on our offense? Did we have the blockers to open holes for him last year, or give our quarterback time to throw? Can other people ask silly rhetorical questions to make a point? The fact of the matter is we did not have the blockers in place to get out on the edge and run outside, nor does Frank possess that style of running that will lead to huge gains on the outside against the speed of NFL defenses. Predictability was at times a problem last year, especially when Noodle Arm was our quarterback at the start of the year. The fact remains that you have to have the pieces in place to...wait for it...EXECUTE MORE DIVERSE PLAYS. The Saints and the Colts weren't in the Super Bowl because of the diversity of their offenses. They were in the Super Bowl because their Quarterbacks were simply better than every other Quarterback in the league last year. You made a comment about the best passing teams having much better records than the run-first teams...guess why....take a wild guess...Those teams all had great Quarterback play. You would think that someone who had the privilege of watching Joe Montana play would understand how important a great QB is to an NFL team. News Flash the 49ers have not had a great quarterback since Steve ate an Aeneas Williams rocket shot to the head. We have Alex Smith, and no one on the Web Zone, or in the known world, knows what the heck Alex Smith is going to be this year. What we do know is we have one of the best defenses in the league, one of the best running backs in the league, and a coach who has won a Super Bowl using that exact formula. Is Coach Sing the next great coach in the league? Only time can answer that question. However, bashing him after one year, and saying that the pressure is now on because a couple of fans say it is, is absolutely ridiculous. The man has a bus full of children, I think he can handle the pressure of a few fans. Instead of heaping criticism on the coach, and stating that he is too stubborn for his own good, try looking at this through glasses that aren't skewed by this suddenly pass-happy league. Singletary has gotten his team to buy into what he is selling, and has stated on numerous different occasions that this team will not be content with three yards and a cloud of dust. He has created an identity for a team that has lacked an identity since the Walsh Era. This is an identity that some of our older "cheese and wine" fans might not appreciate, but it is an identity that has been successful in the NFL since the league's inception. You may have, on occasion, turned on a football game and listened to the two head coaches talk about what they had to do to win the game. I would be willing to bet your ridiculous lawyer salary that both coaches probably said they needed to establish the run, and stop the run. The reason they say this is not to blow smoke up the backsides of their adoring public, it's because they absolutely mean it. So should the 49ers run it right up the middle the first play of the 2010 season, ABSOLUTELY. If you watched Seattle play SF last year you probably saw Frank bust two 80-yard touchdown runs right up the porous Seahawk defensive front. However, that does not mean run the ball up the middle every other play. It does not mean we should pass the ball every other play. It simply means that our beloved 49ers are going to be tough, physical, and relentless in every phase of the game, because that's what OUR coach expects from HIS team. If you can't appreciate that, then you just can't appreciate football. Faithfully yours, A 49er for life
By: Hey look, Jeff musta' got laid!
Date: September 7, 2010 at 7:50 PM
Comment: Man alive Jeff! If I didn't know better, I'd say you were downright giddy...lay off the prozac Eeyore. Normally you take a huge piss in my cereal, but this one is surprisingly upbeat for you. I think I hear what you're saying though man and it's a strangely optimistic piece you wrote. I guess what I took from it is that this year is a new year and even the most bullheaded mf'ers on the planet are capable of compromise when push comes to shove...not Sing I mean you, ya bullheaded mf'er ;) All joking aside, I completely agree with the crux of your well written article. I too am tired of seeing this team try to pound square pegs into round holes. The team showed a knack for running a spread offense last year (who knew drafting a spread QB 6 years ago would come full circle like that???) This is something effective that the team can use as they incorporate Sing's style into the offense. Whether it plays out that way is yet to be seen, but I like to think that our coaching staff is young in the grand scheme and is still learning how to utilize the talent on this team. O ya...dude, you missed The Catch cuz you were in your room crying lol! There's 1 you don't get back...
Date: September 7, 2010 at 7:32 PM
Comment: Fair point on ST. i am fully willing to admit I am nervous about it because i feel ST cost us about 3 games last year. i also understand a lot of that, if not all of it, was due to kick and punt returners. Now that we have upgraded that area i would hope we can find 4-5 guys who can come in and make a tackle or blow someone up on a block. Thank you for your feedback!! Hey everyone, how long before Nate Davis is on seattle??!! lol I really really hate the hawks.
Date: September 7, 2010 at 4:58 PM
Comment: Great Article Jeff. I want to be optimistic, but I STILL believe that our first offensive play of the season will be number 21 straight up the middle for a gain of 2 yards. I love Sing's attitude and intensity, but he's too stubborn. I really hope he proves me wrong, we have the pieces in place, all we need is the right gameplan and we could be a scary football team...
By: Richmond Pete
Date: September 7, 2010 at 3:13 PM
Comment: Sing won more games last year than any other 49er coach has in 8 years. With a new starter in week 8. Without Frank Gore for 3 games and with one of the worst lines in football. Singletary has a winning record as a head coach so far. How exactly do you come to the conclusion that he is that bad?
Date: September 7, 2010 at 2:45 PM
Comment: rjberryx: Just to play devil's advocate here, sure the players have to perform on sundays but you cld have all the talent in the world, the mid-90s steelers O line and barry sanders and jim brown in the backfield but i think the point is if you run up the gut 70+% of the time these NFL Ds are just too good and too fast and you will get stuffed. the talent must be there and play well but the coaches' job is to maximize the talent that is on the field. As sad as this is i wld be LESS disappointed with a pick on a play-action pass on the opening offensive possession than with a one yard loss on an HB dive on the first play.
Date: September 7, 2010 at 2:39 PM
Comment: I hope the first play in Seattle is Frank Gore running behind the guards. I disagree so wholeheartedly with your assessment of the 49ers' current offensive philosophy it's ridiculous. I disagree that the 49ers don't try to pass often enough and I disagree when you say we shouldn't give the ball to Gore for him to break huge plays between the tackles. I'm not the only one who disagrees so I'm not an outspoken jerk trying to get a rise out of you either. I realize you try your hardest here to express yourself, and I know it's gotta be tough. Especially being a lawyer and all. (I know I promised not to make it personal but I had to take that shot, you're just begging for it.) I'm just going to be happy and proud this season no matter what happens, and I'll be happy for you too if you ever get the kind of season you want. I'm just guessing but I think you won't be happy unless we crush everyone we play by 30+ points and win the superbowl with 8 minutes left on the clock because the referees had to call the game to protect the AFC's feelings. Myself I'll be happy if we win the west and even more happy if we win the NFC. I'm not going to judge you though Jeff, have fun watching the games.
By: Dan B.
Date: September 7, 2010 at 2:36 PM
Comment: If I see up the gut one more time i'll shit myself and mail my pants to Singletary. Apparently he's always dropping his.
Date: September 7, 2010 at 2:34 PM
Comment: Hey Jeff great neutral article to get ready for gameday. very straightforward. I guess it's time for Sing to show us what he's got starting sunday. No reason to beat a dead horse (unless he revives that horse on sunday, then we will beat that SOB back down). But if we get balanced O on sunday instead i can't help but to feel like we will, with no doubt, leave Sea with a W. What i am curious about however is: Jeff, what is your take on the cuts? Personally I'm seriously concerned about our special teams. we have lost/cut a lot of significant STers and i'm not sure how badly it will affect us. I'm hoping that the guys filling in step up. Also our secondary is a giant question mark (not that it's a bad thing), Smith has looked great and awful. mays isn't ready. our starting CBs cld go either way and our backups are...well idk. it cld be a disaster or it cld all come together and we are top 5. Finally, i read an interesting article about mike johnson taking over for raye after raye retires as OC. I'm excited about the thought of that. My gut says it keeps continuity yet injects some youth and modern football into our offense. hope it's sooner than later (ok one more kick to that dead horse).
By: Mike McFeely
Date: September 7, 2010 at 2:08 PM
Comment: Jeff, I started to read this article, and I wanted to thump you for your pessimism, and then I realized that you care as much as me, and that you are not just a naysayer. God bless you for your faith and let Sing Kick Sum A this year. We're Back!
Date: September 7, 2010 at 2:02 PM
Comment: Unless you are trying to stimulate email like mine here, it's simply not rational to place the blame for poor performance at the feet of an NFL coach. Schemes must be imaginative within the limits of the players' ability to execute them given their experience and talent - but of course you knew that. Players must make plays - especially the QB. But then you knew that too. So if the outcome of the game is MOSTLY dependent on players making plays, what is your real beef with Sing? BTW, I did appreciate your line about Gore up the gut - I agree. I hope we are past that but opening the game with a quick interception off a pass play would be a real bummer in Seattle wouldn't it? Maybe an opening running play is a little more calculating than we thought.
Date: September 7, 2010 at 12:58 PM
Comment: Who is the hater named Tailour? If you're really a decent attorney Mr. Kaplan -- your first step should be to sue the pants off Mr. Brigade Combat Soldier who fights to protect our freedoms while I drink cheap beer and sit on my keester. Of course -- I jest. Good letter to the man. I hope he not only reads it -- he takes the challenge. I'm getting tired of witnessing God Awful football in the greater San Francisco Bay Area. It's been seven long years in the darkness. Will somebody please turn on the light again or at least light a match?
Date: September 7, 2010 at 11:50 AM
Comment: Mr. Kaplan, you're more charitable than I. I see no reason to believe and frankly, winning the division is nothing to be proud of, as surely it will lead to a humiliating one and done. The fact is, and this will surely incur me the wrath of those too young or too stupid to remember the smart, tough, fast, athletic football of the Walsh-Seifert-Mariucci era, Singletary is probably a good man, but as a coach, he sucks. Dingding said it last year: "We're not going to outsmart anybody." At least he had that right. It was one of the dumbest seasons of offensive football I've ever seen. I read a story about the WCO becoming a relic. Um, the Packers use it, the Saints, the Eagles, now the Redskins will, Cleveland and others. Dingding will fail this year. Frankly, if he fails, it will be worth it to get rid of him. He's all talk, no substance. He knows how to be a HoF linebacker and little else. His choice of an OC should have been illustration enough of just how stupid he is. If we're lucky, Jon Gruden will decide it's time to get back to his roots and coach the 49ers. Mike Singletary is a coach like a fish is a bicyclist.
Date: September 7, 2010 at 11:01 AM
Comment: i agree w/ you on the niners being too predictable--throw...
By: Michael Tailour
Date: September 7, 2010 at 8:58 AM
Comment: Dear Jeff Kaplan, It's me again. Simply put; you're a jackwagon (I would have put sports journalist, but what a TRANSPARENT joke that would have been). Always have been, always will be. You know precisely why you have earned this title and it's the same reason that we, the 49er faithful, will continue to award you this title (again & again) in the future. Heavy is the crown... Good Luck, Jackwagon. The pressure's on. Retire. Sincerely yours, SSG Michael Tailour (CJSOTC-A) ##th Brigade Combat Team ##rd Cavalry Regiment
By: Darrell G
Date: September 7, 2010 at 7:58 AM
Comment: Yeah coach and team...... Get Some !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
By: AJ Bolino
Date: September 7, 2010 at 6:57 AM
Comment: Nicely put amigo. Bravo:)