We definitely got our a55es handed to us, and all our weaknesses have been exposed. We have a rookie head coach, an O-Line that's completely out of sync, a QB who looked a lot like the backup many consider him to be, a defense whose play was eerily reminiscent of last year and an offensive strategy designed to "win by one". It isn't surprising that fans are panicking. We started the season euphoric, daring to believe that this team was what coach Singletary portrayed it to be- a team that could compete with any team in the league. But after years of false promises, our faith is easily shaken, and Sunday was a full-on tectonic shift.
But let's recognize some things before we brace ourselves under the doorframe or dive under the dining room table:
1) Singletary, for all his inspirational talk, is still a rookie HC. He's come in and done a very impressive job of changing the culture of this team in a very short time, but let's remember that as a new HC, every game is new territory for him. Expecting him not to completely flop at some point was unrealistic. Even the great coaches have had games that just plain got out of hand. This is likely Singletary's biggest lesson to date and knowing him, he's taking it to heart.
2) This team is still a work in progress. The way we started the season gave grounds for even the more realistic fan to entertain the notion of a deep playoff run. And as much as Singletary wants to will this team to be "special", building the cohesion and effectiveness that denotes "special" takes not only time and consistent focus but probably a talent upgrade in at least a few areas. The "win by one" offensive strategy will only work consistently at a playoff calliber level if everything is clicking. Our O-Line has a long way to go to becoming a "special" group. There's uncertainty at 3 spots- both Guards and RT. Shaun Hill will never be All-Pro, but given some time to operate, he can be more than adequate. On defense it's the pass rush. We currently have no one who can consistently beat his man 1-on-1 and create pressure. You can scheme to generate a pass rush only so long before some OC out-schemes you. The question in both areas is whether we need an upgrade or if the guys we currently have can adequately step up their games. Based on what I've seen so far, I would tend to think it's the former.
But the point is we're about to see what we've really got in this team. How they respond over the next several games (win or lose) will go a long way telling us who belongs and who doesn't (and that includes coaches). Teams rarely go from sub-par to a championship level over night, so bumps in the road were inevitable. Let's just be happy we got our wake-up call in week 5, right before our bye when we have some extra time to work out our issues. Better now than later in the season when the pressure intensifies.
And let's temper our expectations. We're on the cusp of being a playoff-calliber team, but with some of our issues, there's a good likelihood we might not make the playoffs. Then again, we're 3-0 in our division with a reasonably easy schedule in front of us. Either way, what's most important is how this team competes. Our goal is to win a Superbowl. This team is probably not equipped to do that right now, so it's important that we as fans keep a long-term view and celebrate the small strides towards achieving that goal, however this season plays out. A slaughter like we just experienced is an opportunity for our Niners to rise to the occasion and re-establish their identity within the limitations of the talent currently on the roster.
I believe we're on the right track but I also don't expect any miracles. Don't rush to judgment. Sit back and see how they respond to this challenge. And once we have a clearer picture of who belongs and who doesn't, then it's our front office's time to insert those final pieces. We really aren't that far away, so don't duck and cover just yet. Have some faith that the foundation will hold.