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Niners Go from Camelot to Cursed

Mar 3, 2024 at 5:38 AM--

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Come, children. Come gather 'round as I regale you with tales of this old man's youth. I know these stories will seem absurd, proof of my feeble and failing mind. But I'm telling you, they really happened.

Things were different then, kids. Our telephones were wired to the walls of our houses. Our televisions picked up only three channels.

And perhaps the most incredible of all: the Niners won. At the biggest moments, the Niners won.

I see the looks you're giving me. I know you think I've finally lost it. But I'm telling you, it's really true!

A century ago, when I was a lad, the Niners went to five Super Bowls and won them all. Three of those were total routs; the Niners played their best on the biggest stage—really, try to imagine it—and just destroyed their opponents' souls. But the other two were close, yet the Niners made the crucial plays—seriously, stop looking at me like that—and won them anyway. In the first one, they gave away nearly all of a 20-point lead, but then—get this—they actually held on; in the other, they came from behind in what's still the most dramatic finale in Super Bowl history.

You can laugh, kids, but I saw each one with my very own eyes.

Of course, they didn't win all the time. Play enough big games, and you'll lose a few, including a few that really hurt. But that's just the nature of sports; the very first rule is that sometimes you lose. Even when they lost, though, they didn't just give the damn thing away. The opponent had to rise up and actually be better, at least on that day, and that's what happened every time. Even the one that looked like a giveaway—see Craig, Roger—was actually a takeaway. It hurt like hell, don't get me wrong, but the opposing team just made a play. You tip your hat, you (eventually) move on.

But like I said, things were different then. And I sure don't envy you kids today.

These days, at the biggest moments, all the Niners do is give.

"You hate to be the last guy that had the ball, to give it up that way in that fashion and to lose a game of this magnitude." --Kyle Williams, 2012

This was the moment when everything changed. An NFC title game, almost literally given away? In my day, the Niners would never do that. The Niners I knew were always smart, always prepared, always ready to play their best. They didn't make dumb, crucial mistakes. What the hell was this? Whatever it was, it had to be a one-time thing, a uniquely awful confluence of luck and fate, a dream undone by one particular star-crossed player. I mean, c'mon. Certainly this wouldn't happen again.

"I should have just gave you a shot right there. That's my fault. … I owe you one. I owe you one." --Colin Kaepernick to Michael Crabtree, 2013

But, from there, things only got worse. The Niners botching an NFC title game had been inconceivable, but the Niners botching a Super Bowl? Absolutely impossible. And as bleak as things initially got, the Niners ended up with a perfect chance to preserve that legacy. Three plays to get five yards and the winning score. And that's when it was all undone, by one particular star-crossed player, who decided in that moment to abandon all pretense of playing his role, all the orderly progressions of his craft—and instead he decided to make a hero of one particular star-crossed teammate, merely to repay an imaginary debt. He failed once. He failed twice. And when he failed a third time, it was clear that the Niners would never be the same.

"I'm going to take Crabtree every chance I get on a one-on-one matchup." --Colin Kaepernick, 2014

And when he failed a fourth time, nearly an entire year later, it was proven again.

Clearly it was time for a change. Perhaps a new regime would wash away this weird energy surrounding this team, and get it back to being the finely-tuned machine it'd been before.

But from there, the Niners unraveled completely.

"That right there could have been a legendary moment for me and Jimmy, but unfortunately it didn't happen. … That's a play that will forever be in my mind." --Emmanuel Sanders, 2020

"I feel like I let my brothers down. … Obviously my play was a crucial one that I left on the field and I really wish I could have it back." --Jaquiski Tartt, 2022

"Obviously for me, just putting the ball on the ground is something I keep replaying in my head. Just can't do it." --Christian McCaffrey, 2024

"I don't regret nothing. I'm a playmaker. You've got to take risks. I was trying to make a play in the moment, I guess." --Ray-Ray McCloud, 2024

"I should've just played within the scheme. I played on instinct. It was my fault." --Spencer Burford, 2024

To the Niners' credit, they've consistently gotten back to big games, and they've even managed to win a few. But they've never managed to win their last one. Those big games dissolved in a blur, of blown chances and crippling mistakes.

In this century, the Niners have lost a staggering four NFC title games and three Super Bowls. They get a mulligan for that most recent NFC title loss. But otherwise, not once—not once—was the opponent actually better. The Niners of last century were a dynasty; the Niners of this century have given one away.

And that's a peculiar symmetry, isn't it? It's almost like the Niners are paying back their success, like some mystical force is exacting revenge. But for what?

Well, let's think about this.

It was almost precisely at the turn of the century when Eddie DeBartolo—the managing owner whose passion (and uncapped spending) were the catalysts for the Niners' dynasty—was exiled and replaced by his dippy brother-in-law, John York. Only a few years later, perhaps even more ominously, York announced that he'd be taking the Niners away from San Francisco and putting them in a nondescript suburb of San Jose, a whopping 43 miles away. And to top it all off, in their very first game at their new stadium, the Niners lost 34 to nothing, and a fan collapsed in the heat and died!

Talk about your bad juju, amirite?

But that's ridiculous, I hear you say. Curses don't manifest as normal things, like bad playcalls or stupid mistakes. Curses manifest as weird things, things that defy easy explanation, like a black cat that crosses the field, a fan who knocks away a catchable ball, or a bizarre injury that completely turns a game around, like when a star linebacker blows his Achilles while simply trotting onto the field, yielding to a replacement who immediately gives the opponent life….

As you'd expect, there's been a lot of talk about what it is the Niners need, to finally get over the hump. Most say an offensive lineman (or two). Some say a safety or cornerback. Some even argue for another new regime, as if that hasn't already been tried. But I don't think that any player or coach could help them. They've suffered too much over too many years. At this point, there's just one thing they need, and they won't get over the hump 'til they get it.

The Niners need an exorcist!
The opinions within this article are those of the writer and, while just as important, are not necessarily those of the site as a whole.


  • Lucky Phil
    Ok Jeff, it's been seven yrs. Are we gonna get another one outta ya? I have had two months of repressed rage after this Super Bowl. I need the old Jeff back.
    Mar 19, 2024 at 4:52 PM
    Response: I'll be around, Phil. I'm too old to give you the weekly rants that I spat out during the Singletary days--though my GOD did we have fun--but I certainly won't let another seven years go by.
  • RamItOn
    Welcome back Jeff.
    Mar 5, 2024 at 11:13 AM
    Response: Thanks, Ram. It's great to see that so many old friends are still here!
  • Lucky Phil
    Jeff your thoughts … The Niners Draft - The Bills are desperate to upgrade the WR position.Trade Samuel for bills 1sr rd, 3rd rd and 2nd next yr will be enough. As long as they secure Aiyuk to a long term deal and sign DJ Chark to reasonable 3 yr. Niners draft Suamataia with bills pick and draft Corley (Debo clone) or McConkey late 1st. Trade 2nd rd next yr/ 3rd this yr for Beebe OG. Get TJ Tampa with 2nd. Mohamed Kamala and Jarrian Jones with comp 3rd round. Rasheen Ali and Jaden Crumedy in 4th. Kamal Haden in 5th. And DeCorian Clark, Baylor Cupp in sixth. If the Niners follow this path we will be well positioned next year and future to win titles.
    Mar 5, 2024 at 8:22 AM
    Response: Sorry, Phil. I admire your ability to simply get up off the mat and move on to a discussion of off-season moves. But I'm just not ready yet. I can't wrap my mind around all these losses. I mean, I posted this article, my first in SEVEN YEARS, just to argue that this team is CURSED. And part of me might actually believe it!
  • Lucky Phil
    If there is one thing I would say to Shamahan is Arrorgance is a lack of Confidence. He had the opportunity to take the ball second in OT giving his offense a huge advantage with four downs and a clear goal to win. But he squandered that opportunity because he had a lack of confidence in himself and his offense. I have said for years since his lack of confidence in team was the reason they failed to call a TO at the end of the first half against the Chiefs n the first SB they lost and Shamahan still hasn’t learned. Throws everything on his defense because he doesn’t know how to manage the stress of being a OC for this team. We need a a Head Coach. Kyle will be a hall of fame OC one day when he learns to improve the passing game and for heaven sake focus focus focus on the pass protection.
    Mar 5, 2024 at 7:58 AM
  • Tcash
    Great article Jeff. Glad to see you back.
    Mar 4, 2024 at 12:41 PM
    Response: Thanks, T.
  • Lucky Phil
    Good to have you back Jeff
    Mar 3, 2024 at 2:16 PM
    Response: Good to have YOU back, Phil!
  • Eerie
    Also now is the era of sports betting and it rules/corrupts the kingdom of sports. Now, the most valuable team wins, not the best one. Those times are over...
    Mar 3, 2024 at 8:31 AM

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