Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

Blame Who? The Team, The Team, The Team (Or Lack Thereof)

Jesse Dumas
Sep 22, 2014 at 10:02 AM

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Any task that requires repetition and precision in execution requires great discipline. Whether it's working on an assembly line or running routes over the middle, if your head's not focused and involved in the task at hand, mistakes will happen.

These 49ers certainly do not lack in the ability to execute nor do they lack talent. They lack accountability. Harbaugh came in 4 years ago and brought with him the mantra of "The Team, The Team, The Team" and right now, it seems this squad is a bunch of individuals playing for themselves.

I won't try to be dramatic about stating the obvious; the 49ers of the past couple of seasons have been a team that attracts a lot of flags. The past two weekends have been nothing short of astonishing at how predictably they would incur penalties in crucial moments.

You can break down the X's and O's of the games a million different ways and find plenty of "if only's", but the biggest question mark surrounding this team right now is one about discipline. It would appear that this group is lacking it in a way we haven't seen perhaps ever in the franchise's history. They've given away two games out of three so far this season and if we're being honest with ourselves, they could have let the Dallas game slip away just as easily if it weren't for a Romo-implosion.

Certainly, I can't ignore nor do I disagree with the sentiments shared by Anquan Boldin after Sunday's game. It would seem the flags fly far more readily against them than they do for them and certainly some of those have been very questionable. Fine, he's been on the receiving end of two of the more costly ones in the past two weeks and he's entitled to his opinion (which he'll most certainly be fined for). But it's his mistakes that are perhaps the most glaring. A player, proven to be one of the greatest of his generation and highly decorated, making great plays followed immediately by brain-numbing penalty flags you would expect reserved for the greenest of rookies. Did you need to face-bump that guy after the catch? Does that help you make the next one?

Regardless of how you care to look at it, the cat's out of the bag now. This team is marked, deservedly so or otherwise. Harbaugh, and perhaps even more so the senior members of this team, need to take control of what's happening in practice and stop this trend immediately. No sense griping about the officials, the only change the team can affect in this situation is from the inside out.

These past two weekends, the product on the field has been deplorable at the end of games. It's a waste of talent, time, and a golden opportunity to compete for what so few teams really can. In a sense, it's a relief that the problem is so clearly identified. Stop the penalties and this team will win. Sounds easy right?

Maybe it is. The will to win in this team is strong and they're a prideful group of men. Right now they look distracted and disoriented, but backs against walls can lead to some great things. I hope the leadership shines through on this team like I think it can.

But maybe it isn't. The problems this team is having at the end of games points to a cultural issue. I'd written before the season that this will have to be a Harbaugh masterpiece due to the changing talent on his team. The talent shift has shown us some things we thought we'd never see (4 WR Sets, Etc.) but with the new faces and talent, he's let something altogether different and far more important to slip out of his hands, that concept of "The Team, The Team, and The Team". This season's viability hinges on his ability to get it back.
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.


  • Harv
    Great article...l love my team and think they will bounce back. That said l hold Harbaugh accountable for this he has to speak to the remaining leadership on this team and get them to understand they must set the example. This whining and recklessness on the field is not the 49er way! Players need to play or ride the pine for a game or two.......three games in and l see a bunch if undisciplined babies instead of my beloved Niners......Jim Harbaugh l'm calling YOU out!!
    Sep 23, 2014 at 1:17 PM
  • Phil
    I saw early on that the Niners spent a lot of their time lobbying for calls instead of just playing football. It would be real "boss" if, when a guy gets flagged, instead of trying to plead his case, he just shakes it off, gets back to the huddle and makes up for it with a great play. That's what old-school players used to do, not just for flags but when they screwed up in general.
    Sep 22, 2014 at 6:14 PM
    Response: Phil, I couldn't have said it any better. Shut up and play already.
  • Lucky Phil
    In Coach Harbaugh's press conference today, he repeatedly said "Everything is OK, Everything....Is....Ok". Maybe four or five times, while pointing a small caliber hand gun at his forehead. Jesse, Should I believe everything is Ok, or is this more coach speak?
    Sep 22, 2014 at 5:17 PM
    Response: If Harbaugh was telling the whole truth and nothing but the truth in these pressers, he wouldn't be a good coach. Let's not abandon ship yet.
  • Gonzola
    I love Lucky Phil!
    Sep 22, 2014 at 3:33 PM
  • Razoreater
    You got it right, but your fellow writer, Jack Hammer would say, "This isn't Pop Warner", when it comes to holding Boldin accountable, by benching him after the penalty....
    Sep 22, 2014 at 2:18 PM
  • Alister
    Very nice column. I agree almost 100%. I do think we have time to fix these issues, and I still trust Coach Harbaugh to do it. I actually felt better about the team after Week 3 than I did after Week 2. Colin played much better, and Greg Roman is diversifying the offense. I think that first half was very intentional -- we will see more and more of the WR sets. And Colin looks great in that style. The only issue is that they should have gone to power running in the second half. Roman and Harbaugh will correct that. The Saints and Packers are also 1-2. The Cardinals have to play Seattle twice and us again in SF. Long season ahead, and we are still very much in it.
    Sep 22, 2014 at 12:58 PM
  • Lucky Phil
    Whose Got It Better Than Us?
    Sep 22, 2014 at 12:41 PM
    Response: The Cardinals and Seahawks for the time being.
  • Wolfman
    I've been a Niner fan since the beginning in 1946. In all of those 68 years I have never seen them more un-disciplined or dysfunctional. Jed York is NOT Uncle Eddie. It's clear to anyone with a football brain that Greg Roman is not capable of developing a pro-level passing offense. His play calling is hopeless and no amount of talking to him will do any good. Harbaugh still has no sense of time management and needs to either bring in a real OC (like Mike Shanahan) or call the plays himself. I don't think he is capable of doing that and Roman shields him from accountability. He was pretty much the Alex Smith of his day when he played so I don't expect much from him in that regard. It's a shame that the Niners have brought in a talented bunch of players but the front office and top two coaches are preventing us from winning. I would like to see both Harbaugh and Roman fired and Jim Tomsula take over the reigns. He has the respect and love of all the players and has proven himself over and over again.
    Sep 22, 2014 at 11:56 AM
  • Phil
    What happened to the running game? It has all but disappeared. It is a waste of good talent in Gore & Hyde.
    Sep 22, 2014 at 11:48 AM
  • zachamin
    FIRE GREG ROMAN NOW! I have predicted that 49ers were going loose against Arizona and I have same predictions for coming weekend game against Eagles. In fact 49ers are done for the season. Oh by the way get rid of Baalke as well as Greg Roman
    Sep 22, 2014 at 11:37 AM
  • JustTheWest
    Nipped it right in the bud--couldn't agree more with the lack of execution. Blame the refs all you want, but the 49ers had their chances in both losses.
    Sep 22, 2014 at 11:36 AM
  • shammer
    You mean "Blame Whom"! Obviously, they don't hire you guys for your high school English abilities!
    Sep 22, 2014 at 11:35 AM
    Response: Thank you for that constructive criticism, Sham. It's an honor taking notes from an internet commenter of your caliber. If that title made the article somehow impossible to read, I apologize and may God have mercy on my soul.
  • Mikesf
    This team has high expectations yet they cannot finish the game. In the first three games, they play great football in the first half. In the second half, they play like a bunch of idiots. Penalties are killing them. It like like they lack the killer instinct they had last year. Where is the leadership to take the team to the next level? Better yet, finishing strong in the second half. Some of the play calling is ridiculous such as the Bears game where they tried to score a touchdown by running three time and settling for a field goal. This offense lacks the killer instinct. Something has to change. Your thoughts?
    Sep 22, 2014 at 11:33 AM
    Response: No arguments here, Mike. The results on the field are enough to tell me what they're doing aint working. I do think it will take time to get all the new receivers in sync with what's happening and I think with all the new faces on defense there's a similar dynamic there. The 94 team took about 4-5 weeks to really start to play together with all the FA additions, but you have to wonder if they'll be afforded that kind of time playing in the modern NFC West. Back then, the 49ers weren't sweating any of their divisional opponents.
  • Kent
    I've been a fan since the "Million Dollar Backfield." How many out there have only been fans since the Walsh years? I've seen a lot and suffered through the darkest years. Today it's about egos the size of mountains playing. This team is caught up in itself. The lack of discipline and execution both on and off the field shows up on game day and in police reports. It also reflects negatively on the coaching staff. Accountability starts at the top. In addition, we have as much talent or more than other teams but the game planning during the game is ridiculous. The last two weeks has been a tale of two different teams each half. No excuses. It's time to right the ship or go under.
    Sep 22, 2014 at 11:29 AM
  • GoldxBlooded
    I couldn't agree more Roots.. Is it coincidence that not sitting McDonald against the nfl wants that they are now the most penalized team in the league now? The timing of these penalties are to frequint to not question. 3rd down almost every time. They look good on first and second, but not third? Yeah right.
    Sep 22, 2014 at 11:20 AM
  • pavlosh
    I'm really not happy with Roman as an OC. He just doesn't seem to know when to call the right plays at the right time. Abandoning the run game is a huge mistake as far as I'm concerned. They should use the run game to set up their passing game but now it seems as though they are going at the opposite direction not to mention putting Kaep at risk. As much as I think Harbaugh has done a great job, his style might be wearing a little thin. Looks like a pattern of his.
    Sep 22, 2014 at 11:14 AM
    Response: I won't disagree here with the philosophical change to their offense. I do think this offense has the ability to be great though with all the weapons they have, we saw flashes of this in the first half yesterday, but with so many new faces it's taking time for the whole thing to gel. Won't make a bit of difference if they can't shore up the penalties though.
  • Roots
    The biggest problem is 49ers have become Public Enemy No. 1 in the NFL. The amount of penalties we are getting is a direct result of us not suspending McDonald. The refs call anything they see against us, even if it's nothing. (Not talking about Boldin being an idiot or other warranted penalties.) Only referring to the "phantom penalties" with no replays. Since I have NFL redzone I was objectively watching the morning games. Sooooo many calls were simply ignored in other games that were called in the 49ers game, good refs in other games or blind? You can bash me and yell at me for having a 49ers bias which I probably have, but right now the 49ers have an image problem we need to correct that. Plus we need to control our tempers, starts with harabaugh and way down. That's two games we have lost because of lack of discipline. Lastly our offensive line & play calling has to improve, I liked the hurry up but outside of that, we sucked. I hope my fears are not coming true of this being a rebuild year (due to injuries,off-field issues, and young players) Come on Ninas!!!
    Sep 22, 2014 at 10:44 AM
    Response: Not going to disagree with you on any point, Rooty. Would the league hold a grudge against them over the McDonald thing though? That seems very "conspiracy theory" for the situation but it's hard to ignore the feeling that the refs have it out for them.
  • tony
    lifelong fan. like OJ Simpson, Steve Spurrier, Jim Plunkett old fan. first jersey was Gene Washington. Its easy to get excited about new players, but after most or all making absolutely no plays it dissipates. good teams have lots of playmakers. great teams have those plus some transcendent players. our HC, GM, and OC, are apparently believing that we want to see them make the plays. i am sure something is up. Harbs is a players coach so long as those players adhere to a stifling amount of control. I am sure many other teams would drop everything to have Kap. let him play. he is the only playmaker who can run <4.6 40. we must have the slowest team in the league. it does not work unless you knockout every other team. as we now know, the time to knock out the rest of the league has passed, as you cannot hit anyone at QB and/or WR. time to smarten up and join the party in the no touch football league.
    Sep 22, 2014 at 10:34 AM
    Response: I think you touched on something when you mentioned Harbaugh's a player's coach. I think he's adopted an identity of letting people do what they want so long as the wins keep on coming. It'll be interesting to see what happens when they don't.
  • Gonzola
    Forget about "The Team, The Team, The Team" and focus on "WIN, WIN, WIN". I don't care if they play as a team, all hate each other, all hate Harbaugh, or hate Jed York... etc. I don't care as long as they WIN! Where is Eddie D when you need him? This team has been cursed ever since Eddie D left and moving the stadium to the middle of nowhere in the desert is the dumbest move so far. Not to mention ownership screwing loyal fans over by selling standing room only tickets as well as last minute unsold SBL seat tickets!?!? The coaches (mostly on the offensive side of the ball), team management, and ownership are terrible. We as fans are being systematically screwed over and now... we have to watch a bunch of LOSERS! "Show me a good loser, and I will show you a loser." Get it RIGHT Niners and win some d@Mn games. Eddie D had 5 coaches in 2 years before he settled on a winner! If you can not win with what you are given then you have to pack your bags... Losing the Super Bowl is unforgiveable. Although I have to say playcalling was MUCH BETTER this game than last. Look at the Cardinals - it is a wonder how they win, but they do! Go Cardinals! Squawk, Squawk or whatever they say...
    Sep 22, 2014 at 10:29 AM
    Response: Wow, you did see where this franchise was 4 years ago right? I'm not ready to declare this group a bunch of losers but I do question their ability to sustain success.

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