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49ers Winning With Good Players, Better People

Gilbert Brink
May 18, 2020 at 9:33 AM


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Take a moment to think about the last 49ers player to be arrested. Google it if you must. This exercise may take a few moments of your time, but that wasn't always the case.

Quite frankly, a 49er being arrested was a monthly occurrence under past regimes. 49ers fans would dread the days like this one, mid-May, when the NFL was deep in hibernation and yet a 49ers player would be the talk of the sports world. Whether it be Rueben Foster's domestic violence allegation, Aldon Smith's numerous DWIs or unfathomable bomb threat, Bruce Miller's physical assault of a senior citizen or Ahmad Brooks being booked on sexual battery charges, the 49ers had no shortages of disgusting headlines focused around the deplorable behavior of some of their biggest stars.

Once beloved former 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh famously said he wanted the 49ers be "above reproach" in regards to off the field issues. Harbaugh talked a good game when it came to his desire to create a high-character roster, but his actions sang another tune. It can be argued that the Harbaugh era was a breeding ground for the poorly disciplined and unaccountable culture that permeated the franchise for the years he served and the years that followed. From January 2012 until February 2018 there were 17 arrests/charges against 49ers players. That is roughly 3 arrests/charges per year. The 49ers essentially were league leaders in domestic violence, DWIs, sexual assaults and physical assaults.

The final arrest of the 17 noted above belongs to a player who was chosen by the current regime. In 2017 the 49ers GM John Lynch traded up into the first round to select L B Reuben Foster out of Alabama. Foster shined on the field during his rookie year, but it was apparent early that Foster's on-field abilities would be saddled by his off-field issues. Like many other 49ers during that time period, not all of Foster's undesirable actions led to arrests and charges. Foster was accused numerous times for domestic violence, and later the accuser rescinded the accusations. While Foster may not have been guilty of those accusations, the negative energy surrounding Reuben Foster was unsettling. On November 25th 2018, the 49ers decided to release Foster after another allegation of domestic violence occurred at the team's hotel during a road trip to Tampa Bay. For GM John Lynch and head coach Kyle Shanahan enough was enough.

Reuben Foster serves as the great lesson that both Shanahan & Lynch needed as novices to their positions. Both are a first time head coach and general manager, respectively. Reviewing that 2017 1st round, it was clear to see that in Foster they ignored every red flag for the immense talent. On the contrary, earlier in that round the 49ers displayed what the real direction of this franchise would be when they selected DL Solomon Thomas. While many view Solomon Thomas to be the albatross of the Shanahan/Lynch regime, the motivation to make Thomas their first selection was driven by the quality of his character. Certainly he was evaluated to be a top talent by nearly all NFL scouting departments, but John Lynch loved the person who Thomas was after developing a relationship with him while attending a course with him at Stanford University. While Thomas has been a general disappointment on the field, the person he is off the field is the template of what built these 49ers into one of the best teams in the NFL.

Open a newspaper today and you will not find headlines about Fred Warner, George Kittle, Jimmie Ward or Dre Greenlaw. Their faces aren't plastered across ESPN due to something stupid they did or something inappropriate that they said. A common theme coming from the 49ers locker room was love and unity. The 49ers succeeded due to their tight knit locker room comprised of good people who work hard to be the very best they could be. Instead of trading for Antonio Brown in the offseason, the 49ers trusted their young WRs through the season, and when they needed help, they traded for a strong veteran leader in Emmanuel Sanders, a player who WRs Deebo Samuel and Kendrick Bourne credit for helping them mature into better versions of themselves. After releasing Foster, the 49ers had to fill the gap left in his absence. They turned to 2018 3rd round selection LB Fred Warner to be that replacement. In 2018 Warner flashed as a bright spot on a bad defense and was given the green communication dot in his rookie season. In 2019, Warner became the heart and soul of the defense and led the 49ers to a Super Bowl with zero police run-ins recorded. While former 49ers Ray McDonald and Ahmad Brooks made headlines for sexual crimes, the 49ers drafted LB Dre Greenlaw whose first headline showcased him as a hero who potentially stopped a sexual assault.

In 2020, the 49ers fanbase has much to be proud of. Not only is the team a legitimate championship contender with a brilliant future, John Lynch & Kyle Shanahan have created a locker room that causes no shame when you thrown on a jersey and cheer them on every Sunday. No longer do the fans have to dread the headlines, anticipating the day when they have to donate their jersey to Goodwill in embarrassment (somebody, somewhere is enjoying my Aldon Smith & Reuben Foster jerseys). With recent headlines of Seahawks & Giants players' alleged armed robberies, an arrest of a Bills player on gun charges & DWI and a Redskins player firing a gun in public, it's nice to have no 49ers news to read this offseason. Thanks for keeping us bored San Francisco 49ers, we appreciate it.
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.


1 Comment

  • Brian Stephany
    Well said . . . and so very true. Hi character players represent both the 49ers and their fans well. And they bring that intangible benefit helping to forge team unity because they're more likely to think about "we" instead of "me". With football being the ultimate team sport, unity and cohesion is necessary for success.
    May 18, 2020 at 9:51 AM
    0


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