Earlier today, Jeff Diamond, the former president of the Tennessee Titans, wrote an article about why the 49ers CAN'T win the Super Bowl this year. It is another typical opinion piece laced with knee-jerk feelings based on an odd comparison with the 1999 Rams and one that clearly demonstrates that the writer has not watched many full games of this year's 49ers.

1 - Opening comments


The article begins by acknowledging that the 49ers have had a "terrific turnaround", but then immediately states he "doesn't expect them to advance far in this year's NFL playoffs." He believes they will win the Wild Card game and then immediately lose to New Orleans or Seattle. Now, to be fair, this could happen, but it is easily just as likely that they advance to the NFC Championship Game.

The 49ers, while extremely short-handed, were in position to beat Seattle in a game that felt like a postseason game, but the backup rookie kicker missed a difficult 47-yard field goal. San Francisco has not played the Saints yet and we will see how it does on Sunday. To just dismiss its chances against these two teams is quite premature at this point and due to the title of the article (CAN'T), Diamond deserves some push-back.

2 - The 1999 St. Louis Rams


This is where the article takes an interesting turn. His Tennessee Titans lost Super Bowl XXXIV to the St. Louis Rams back in January of 2000 by 7 points and I'm sure that stung much as it did for me to watch my San Francisco 49ers lose Super Bowl XLVII to the Baltimore Ravens by 3 points. He compares this year's 49ers team to the 1999 Rams since both teams had amazing turnarounds from their 4-12 records from the previous season, respectively.

Diamond states Warner and Garoppolo were each in their first full seasons as a starters. True. He then discusses how much better the Rams' offense was in 1999 compared to the 2019 49ers and I don't believe he's wrong. Marshall Faulk, rookie Torry Holt, Isaac Bruce and Kurt Warner went on to each have at least Hall of Fame caliber careers. That was an all-time great offense.

He states Garoppolo has a good quarterback rating of 101.2 and that he has ten interceptions, which is too high for his liking. Interestingly, at this point in the 1999 season, Warner had nine going into his Week 14 battle at New Orleans, where he threw one interception to have a total of ten interceptions after that game.

Am I saying Garoppolo is having as good of a season as Warner did in 1999? No, of course not. Warner's 1999 MVP season was one for the ages as he threw 41 touchdowns and 4,353 yards. What I am saying is that while I agree that Garoppolo's ten interceptions are even a little high for my liking, about half of them were tipped passes and it should not be a highly concerning stat. This is not a reason to say the 49ers "CAN'T" win the Super Bowl this season, especially when pointing to Kurt Warner in 1999, who had basically the same amount at this stage in 1999 and finished with 13 on the year.

The next interesting take in the comparison to the 1999 Rams is when Diamond states that Garoppolo "works behind a solid offensive line and has one of the league's best fullbacks in Kyle Juszczyk, but he doesn't have a Hall of Fame running back behind him." He then goes on to say George Kittle is a Pro Bowl Tight End and that Emmanuel Sanders and Deebo Samuel are good, but not as explosive as Bruce and Holt.

He's correct. This offense isn't as explosive as the 1999 Rams. This is where I dismiss this comparison. The 49ers offense does not HAVE to be as explosive as the 1999 Rams to win the Super Bowl. It has already demonstrated its ability to keep pace with the Seahawks and Ravens. It blew out the Packers. This offense is very good. It is second in points per game (29.1, behind Baltimore's 33.8) and fifth in total yards (378.0). Seattle, on the other hand, is third in yards per game with 390.3 and fifth in points per game (27.4). New Orleans is thirteenth in yards per game (361.4) and ninth in points per game (24.8).

What do these numbers tell us? It seems fairly obvious that San Francisco CAN keep pace and maybe even outpace Seattle and New Orleans on offense. We will know more after these final four games, most notably against the Saints and Seahawks, but there is no statistical reason to state the 49ers won't be able to keep pace with them as they score more points than both and have similar yards per game.

Lastly, in this comparison, Diamond says that instead of the offense being the "most impressive" element, it's the defense. He is absolutely correct and because he is correct, the defense should be viewed as a major reason why the 49ers CAN win the Super Bowl this season. I've already demonstrated the 49ers are comparable on offense, but this defense can put San Francisco over the top as it has consistently limited opponents. Currently, the Niners boast the number one defense in yards and second in points allowed. They have been dominant against the pass where they only allow a staggeringly low 134.3 yards per game.

The Saints are ranked tenth in yards allowed and twelfth in points allowed. Seattle is 23rd in points allowed and 24th in yards allowed. Defensively, this isn't close.

The 1999 Rams is a fun comparison and I think what Diamond is trying to say is that the Rams had the offense that could carry them. He is selling the 49ers' offense way short and in essence is selling the defense short, as he believes it won't stop Russell Wilson and Drew Brees. The 2019 49ers are not the 1999 Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Shaun King. They have a top five offense and can match up well with any team in this league. There is no good reason to count out San Francisco at all at this point, especially since it is getting healthy, something it wasn't when it faced Seattle a few weeks ago.

3 - Robbie Gould


Diamond will probably have support on his point concerning Robbie Gould, who is statistically 14 for 22 on field goals this season. In the minds of many, Gould has to prove that he is still the same Robbie Gould we have gotten used to over the last two seasons when he was all but automatic every time he stepped onto the field.

While it's easy to point to the 14 for 22 stat, there are a couple of things that need to be taken into consideration. Regular long-snapper Kyle Nelson was suspended and missed the first six games of the season. During that time, the 49ers went through three snappers and Gould missed seven of his total of eight. In those seven, three of them were over 50 and right before the half. One was a 45 yarder in a monsoon at Washington. One was blocked. While it's easy to criticize Gould for these numbers, there needs to at least be some context. Seven of his eight misses were with a different long snapper. Could it be that the timing was off?

His only other miss (and only miss with Kyle Nelson) was last week against Baltimore where the 49ers had no alternative but to at least try to convert a 51-yard field goal before the end of the first half in the rain. It was partially blocked and fell short.

Whether you blame Gould or the long snapper, we should all be able to agree that Gould deserves some benefit of the doubt here and we should wait and see how the rest of the season goes. Prediction: Gould will be just fine.

4 - The "Soft Schedule"


Diamond believes the 49ers are "coming back to earth" as they have lost two close games against the Seahawks and Ravens. He names the Rams (7-5) and Steelers (7-5) as the only winning teams the 49ers faced during their first eight games. What gets forgotten is how good the Carolina Panthers were when the Niners faced them in Week 8. The Panthers were 4-2, were riding a four game winning streak and were coming off a bye. They were definitely considered a playoff team and the 49ers destroyed them 51-13. The Panthers have not recovered. Since that game, they are 1-4 and have fired Ron Rivera.

This schedule talk has got to stop. Once again, I will point out that they were in position to win against the Seahawks in overtime and they completely dismantled the 9-3 Green Bay Packers, who were also completely healthy and coming off a bye week. They went on the road and held the Ravens to their lowest offensive output of the season and lost an extremely tight game, 20-17.

If you want to talk about schedules and the 1999 Rams, let's not forgot how soft their schedule was, since it's "so important". The 1999 St. Louis Rams only faced one team that finished over .500 in the regular season, the Tennessee Titans. They had an incredibly soft schedule and division that season. While I'll always believe the 1999 Rams are one of the top teams in NFL history, this comparison Diamond uses with the Rams and this year's 49ers is inconsistent and borderline absurd.

5 - Everything Can Change on Sunday


Lastly, Diamond states that he is "liking the 49ers more after their convincing win over the Packers." Well, that's nice. At least we're making some progress here. He then says that if the 49ers are to beat New Orleans on Sunday and then Seattle that he would feel differently.

That is an extremely far cry from the title of his article and his use of the word "CAN'T". So, to sum up the article, he believes the 49ers aren't as explosive as the 1999 Rams, though they have a better defense than the Rams and despite everything he wrote, the 49ers are a top five offense in this league. He believes they don't match up well with Seattle and New Orleans, though they have a better defense and outrank them offensively in nearly every category. Finally, everything can change if they beat New Orleans and Seattle.

Don't be fooled by articles like these. The 49ers are having a very good season, match up well with anyone in this league, are getting healthy, and have every chance to win the Super Bowl this season.

We'll see what happens Sunday. If San Francisco beats New Orleans and Seattle stumbles against the Rams, we'll probably see a slew of articles from pundits around the country stating the 49ers are the surest thing in a long time and that they've always thought so.