I Think I Just Lost Faith In Everything

Sep 1, 2009 at 5:59 AM

I couldn't help it.

As the first half in Dallas wound down, the rational side of my brain was telling me not to overreact, calmly observing that this doesn't count. But that rational side was shouted down, overwhelmed by the screams of another side that's seen all this before and simply refuses to be hurt again.

Last week, I was still fully invested in our playoff dreams. And who knows, maybe by next week I will be again. But right now, try as I might, I can't escape the dread. After Saturday's game, all my hopes have spun upside down.

Uh, Football Outsiders? I take it back. I think we're about to prove you right.

It was the preseason, but it wasn't the first game or even the second. This was the third game, the all-important dress rehearsal. You don't pull out all the stops, of course. But in a very real sense, you show the kind of team you're gonna be.

No longer can we hide behind abstract talk of will, or toughness, or discipline, or any of the other Singletarian catch-phrases that sounded so great in the peace of the offseason. It's too late for that now. What matters now is how well we play football. And if Saturday's dress rehearsal showed how well we play football, no longer can we hide behind any illusions.

This team isn't any better than it's been, six years running.

All it took was one half of one game, to turn this unwavering believer into a hardened cynic. You pick a topic, I'll give you nothing but gloom and doom. Observe:

Mike Singletary. Those brainless nutcracker drills weren't just for show, were they? I mean, beyond shutting down three players for most of camp, they had a point, right? The point, I thought, was to build toughness, to show that we could go "through" our opponents when push came to shove. Yet there we were, down by three, fourth and one at the Cowboys' six. What an opportunity to show this new toughness. Since we're all about running "at will"—and since we've done almost nothing else so far—surely we should be able to grind out a yard. Why not give it a go, especially in a preseason game? So what does Singletary opt to do? Kick the field goal. Seriously, are you kidding? Don't tell me all that talk of toughness was just talk, that once the game starts you're as soft as Mike Nolan. Don't tell me that what you really meant was "physical with a what the F." Come on. Seriously.

Jimmy Raye. I know Singletary's stuck you with his conservative philosophy. And I know you don't exactly have Montana and Rice out there. But you've got to have more in your arsenal than just runs and screens, dump-offs and draws. I mean really, a Wildcat (okay, Taser, whatever) draw on third and 10 at the Dallas 43? You've been coaching approximately forever. You do know that no matter how imposing your running game seems, it won't have a chance if you don't at least try to stretch the field, right? Or does this explain why head coaches weren't exactly beating down your door?

Shaun Hill. Congrats on getting the starting job. Now if only you'd been given the time to develop a rhythm with your receivers, a rhythm that's so clearly lacking. And when that's lacking—of course, with no help from your sieve of an offensive line and your receivers who can't separate—your lack of physical skills becomes all the more glaring. Watching you throw that deep rainbow, I couldn't help but wince. At times, Shaun, I'd swear you're the man. But at other times, like Saturday, you look just like the backup you probably should be.

The defense. I give up. It's the same old story, year after year. We don't need much. Just a stout line. Maybe a fierce pass-rush (still no real sacks?). Oh, and an aggressive secondary (Nate Clements, are you paid too little to stand in the same area code as the guy you're "covering"?). We've been looking for these things for 10 years, and we might still be looking for another 10. It just never ends with these guys.

Scot McCloughan. Ah, the architect. You needed offensive-line help, so you rolled the dice on a bad back that promptly retired. You needed a pass-rusher, but you insisted that Manny Lawson would be the answer, and you seem so outrageously wrong. And of course, while your signature draft-pick is once again your injured backup-quarterback, the quarterback you didn't take has led his team to 9 touchdowns in 12 drives. No matter how good Nate Davis might look in the long term, that's gotta be enough to drive you to drink.

It does feel good to vent a little, and we do have plenty of targets. But in the end it doesn't change the inescapable truth. The season's only two weeks away, and we are not ready. Not even close.

We've been through so much. We're so desperate to recapture that feeling, that sense of knowing we're watching genuine greatness. We're so desperate to relive that sensation, that euphoria that comes from having survived the darkness, and basking in the victory on the other side.

We are just so desperate to believe.

But no matter how desperate we are, we will not believe in what we know isn't real. We will not just blindly believe in this roster, just because our general manager offers pleasant explanations for the ways that he built it. We will not just blindly believe in these coaches, just because the coaches can give a good speech.

Beliefs like those were fine, before the games began. Once the games began, all there was to believe was what was between those lines. And as of right here, right now, I don't see any reason to believe in that.

But then again, there's always next week.
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.


  • jack
    hey buddy y don't u just relax... this is preseason. raye and coach mike aren't gonna bring out the entire playbook in these 4 meaningless games... don't get me wrong i watched every down like the rest of u but these games aren't anything to lose faith over... if u have no faith in SF then do us all a favor and stop writing about us... we don't need ya... who do u think u r... ur welcome to ur opinion but nobody here wants to hear ur bs about OUR team... maybe go write for the cardinals... and we'll c ya on sunday when we come in.
    Sep 8, 2009 at 10:03 AM
  • Roy in San Jose
    An accurate summary of the current state of affairs, exceptionally articulate and well analyzed. Like it or not, it lays out the landscape for what it is, not what we might have hoped for. All the components have come together for the 49ers to be a good (as in "not bad"), middle-of-the-road NFL team. But let's not confuse the team for anything more than that.
    Sep 7, 2009 at 10:09 AM
  • James
    What it comes down to is Frank Gore. We have hardly seen him play this preseason, and they have said all along that this offense rests on his shoulders. I agree with the specific rants you make on people, but that doesn't mean this season is over. We ARE in the easiest division in football, and we DID "beat" the Cardinals last year. We ARE a better team than last year, if only barely. And besides, maybe if Hill gets hurt, we can start Davis and stretch the field like we need to. Or.... we can sign Jeff Garcia, even though it's impossible when we already have 3 QBs and no clue about our cap room when Crabass is still lurking around waiting. What a douchebag.
    Sep 5, 2009 at 10:30 PM
  • Mason
    Singletary gave us the best chance to win, not only by weeding out those players who aren't going to give it their all every down (that's how you get hurt), with the nutcracker drills, and put the best part of our team on the field when he opted to kick the FG. Jimmy Raye took Singletary's philosophy to heart and showed us we can, in fact, impose our will on the opposing defense, by giving our SECOND and THIRD string RB's the highest rush yard total in the NFL. Shaun Hill didn't get the job as QB, Smith never got a shot at it. 7-5 or 7-3 or whatever, Smith went from absolutely dismal to 7-9 under a system almost exactly like Jimmy Raye's. Hill is not an option at QB, he should have been cut and had Huard as a #2, Smith as a #1, let Davis learn for a year or two. The defense is good, you just fail to see it because you don't see sacks. Apparently you don't understand that INT's come from pressure. I don't get to watch many 9ers games (I'm overseas), but from the clips of the Denver game, Orton's 3 picks were all with a defender in his face. Scotty MC. Sure, he's not the greatest, but before him we were NOTHING. I'm not saying we're gonna win, but you gotta believe.
    Sep 2, 2009 at 6:40 PM
  • Santino
    Amen Jeff... it's difficult to think we'll be worse than last year, let alone stay the same when you have great, inspirational speeches from such a monumental "terror" hall of famer telling us he's instilling this "tough" mentality. I have even been doubting myself when I sit there and think to myself... what if he's wrong... what if he's just another elementary Nolan. After seeing that first half of the Dallas game... I completely agree with you.
    Sep 2, 2009 at 4:42 PM
  • Isaiah
    I read this site daily. It's the best fan site for members of the Faithful. I never comment, but I have to today. It is worth remembering that had we beaten ARZ in the second game last season, we probably would have won the division. And the only reason we lost that game is because Martz screwed up the call. The easiest route to the playoffs is to win the NFC West, and believe it or not, this team could easily win that division. Once you get into the playoffs, anything can happen. (Exhibit A: Cardinals last year.) I really do believe there is a logic to Coach Singletary's madness. I think the defense will be better this year. Gore and Coffee are special. Shaun Hill is still undefeated at home. I don't know where we are headed, but I do know this club is better than last year.
    Sep 1, 2009 at 8:47 PM
  • goreitup
    If u don't believe in the niners because of a couple of quarters in preseason ur an idiot and Fu dude! I bleed red black and gold and I don't give up, the niners are a part of me like my last name, I'm a lifer and if all it takes is to be down a measley 7 points at halftime to give up on us IN A PRESEASON GAME then shut up and ship out! And by the way to all of u agree n with this fool who just trashed our team go buy a steelers jersey u coattail ridin wannabes!
    Sep 1, 2009 at 8:04 PM
    Response: Oh please. I'm as committed a fan as anyone else. Your assumption that I'm not a "real" fan because I think critically is just nonsense. If what you want is just a bunch of mindless cheerleading, rest assured you won't get it from me. But I appreciate that you took the time to read and respond.
  • NickSh49
    Nice writing Jeff, even though it is all doom and gloom today. I personally like where the team is headed, but we are all probably fooling ourselves if we think we're gonna run over anyone this year. Still, I like the foundation that is in place with Singletary, Raye, Manusky, and Everest. There is a certain focus and no bullsh–t attitude that the coaching staff is now displaying with Nolan gone, something we haven't seen as fans since probably the Seifert era. We're definitely headed in the right direction. The problem is with the QB and pass rush. Shaun Hill and Manny Lawson need to live up to the hype. But apart from them, IMO, we aren't that far away really. Just add an OT, a pass rusher, and a QB... and signing Crabs soon wouldn't hurt either.
    Sep 1, 2009 at 4:59 PM
  • Ceadderman
    Submitted by Sig - "Shaun Hill can be so much more," so can any other QB not mentioned here. But hey, I've only been saying that we need to address the OLine every year since '02. I had hope in '06 only to see it dashed when we let stalwart plug-in players move on to other teams rather than pay them. I swear the NEXT time that happens I'm gonna PERSONALLY drive down the 10 hours and slap the guy responsible for it. It's okay when you HAVE a solid body to plug in where that guy is in the depth chart. But it's another entirely when you don't and have to rely on FA and the draft to pick one up. Too many ?????????s about them when you KNOW what you got before they leave. Kwame may not have been solid and got flagged a lot but he was a stalwart on rushing downs. Now we are stuck once again with Snyder and Sims. I don't know about anyone else but Harris could have filled the spot that Sims is holding right now. imho Kwame > Sims. O_o
    Sep 1, 2009 at 1:48 PM
  • Daniel Borden
    I hate to admit that we're gonna suck again...just another year of letdowns and shattered playoff hopes. That's why I'm not going to face that reality. I have to look at our improved running game! I have to dream about #7 recapturing the prowess of a once stout offense and hopefully the comparisons to greats will ensue. I have to think that we're just one play away..... If I don't...I'll end up just like the rest of my family who "gave up" years ago and now watches the games without an inkling of who's at left tackle or who we're playing next week. Because they just stopped investing all those emotions that make this game so great. Like you they were just tired of being hurt. who knows...maybe they got it right?
    Sep 1, 2009 at 1:37 PM
    Response: Absolutely not! Let me make this very clear. No matter how much we hurt, no matter how much we suffer, no matter how long we wait, we are FANS. The 49ers have been entrenched in our souls for the better part of our conscious lives, and we could never quit, and wouldn't even if we could. So although I suggest that we prepare ourselves for the very real chance that our hopes will be dashed again, never will I suggest that we just flatly disengage. We are FANS, and never will we quit.
  • SanFranAddic
    phew!....thanks for venting for me Jeff. You took the words right outta my mouth. At the start of pre-season I thought a 9-7 season was a safe bet and hoped for more. Now I'm wondering if 7-9 is even realistic. Where is that physicality? Where is that toughness we've been hearing about ad nauseam? We got owned on both sides of the ball. Our offensive and defensive schemes are still under wraps, but the talent level was certainly on display and I didn't like what I saw at all. We have a few promising rookies, but this season looks like another long and painful one for us tortured 49er fans.
    Sep 1, 2009 at 1:08 PM
  • Reg
    C'mon man it is pre-season and if we looked as bad as you say then shouldn't the score have been worse than 10-3? I admit we have some things that need to be worked but any knucklehead can see the improvement. I mean we don't have an all-pro QB--that's true, but I'm thinking Raye is trying things now to get a feel for the team, not necessarily to impress anyone...just to see, if i'm in this situation does this play make sense--if not move on. I'll be the first to admit that we are not the golden boys of years ago, but I like this a lot better than the last few years. We are hitting and playing hard and the secondary doesn't look as bad as it has in years past--not great but definitely not as bad as before...So why don't you just save this article as draft and at least wait until some meaningful downs. I mean some people you just can't please--did you really expect us to come out and look like a seasoned team--and last I checked we are 3-0 in the pre-season--doesn't mean much but hey a win is a win...so chill out and look at some games and quit stressing man--
    Sep 1, 2009 at 12:50 PM
  • Sig
    I'm going to have to agree SOMEWHAT with Jeff on this one. I have been a die hard fan of the Niners since I was little, AND I LIVE IN DALLAS! I was so excited about us getting a crack at the Cowboys 1st team. After the 1st half, I was sick! We looked exactly like the team that came down here and lost last year...maybe worse! WE NEED AN OFFENSIVE LINE!! I said all along...instead of Craptree, we should have gotten an offensive lineman! Shaun Hill can be so much more, but it's hard to develop when you're running for your life! Look at Peyton, Brady, Romo...etc...all these guys can sit in the pocket and pick you apart! And this 3-4 defense is just not cutting it. NO PRESSURE WHATSOEVER!!...BLITZ UP THE MIDDLE SINGLETARY, NOT FROM THE CORNERS!!! THE QUICKEST WAY TO A DESTINATION IS A STRAIGHT LINE!!!...I could go on and on...but I really can't wait to see if any adjustments are made before we get slaughtered by AZ in the 1st game of the season. We'll see if Warner has all day to sit back and make a ham and cheese sandwich before he decides to hit Fitzgerald for a TD on Clements!
    Sep 1, 2009 at 8:09 AM
  • undercenter
    Jeff - I can only concur with one of your statements and that is kicking the field goal late in the half. I totally agree with you on that point. Sing let me down on that play. Our quarterback situation is much like a political race, when you have bad and bad and you are asked to select from bad you end up with bad. Not hard to figure. I personally would have chosen the other bad (Smith), at least there is potential there. With the other bad (Hill) what you see is what you get. Smith is in the same class as Joey Harrington, both selected by horrible teams and expected to take their respective teams to the SB. When Crabtree was selected I even felt then what a mistake that was - why do we need a wide receiver when we don't have someone that can get him the ball. We needed a pass rusher or an OL and you know what, we still need them and we don't have crabtree. The pass rush is not getting sacks but is getting hurries which can be just as good especially when they turn into interceptions. With mistake free football and a little luck we could win ten games. I say this because I don't believe the Cardinals or the Hawks are that good and the Rams will bring up the rear.
    Sep 1, 2009 at 8:06 AM
  • bubba1
    As a long time fan of tough football teams, the results from that show up in the 4th quarter, when the other team is gasping for a lot of body blows. I love the lack of penalties and mistakes, and trust that the Niners will enter several games a field goal to a touchdown behind starting the 4th quarter and walk off the field winners in regulation or OT.
    Sep 1, 2009 at 8:04 AM
  • Dan
    I agree with that other dude, you seem a bit pessimistic. You must already know this. Most of the fans here are going to be happy with this season by default. It's not likely we could be as bad as the last two seasons. Personally I just want to see my team play good football every play. That said, I don't think the players are going to settle for just "better than last year." I really think these guys want to win. You might think I'm buying into hype and you might think it because of Singletary's superior motivational skills. But I think this kind of motivation just might get us somewhere, so don't give it all up yet. We haven't even got this season started and we're already winners. You gotta know the difference between a winner and a loser, right?
    Sep 1, 2009 at 7:57 AM
  • ninersush
    kaplan i'm with you. i think after watching the last game, watching brett favre, matt schaub, and joe flacco amongst other qbs this weekend i am just not too excited about the team. all that bravado that sing put up was great but now it's gonna come down to the players and coaches and i don't think we really have any. i'm hoping that we do. and if we don't i hope we stink to the point that they clear out the house and get shanny in next year. that way we will at least have a proven coach. good luck to this version of the 9ers. godspeed.
    Sep 1, 2009 at 7:40 AM
  • NinerTico
    Dude, even I was upset at the performance, but we held their supposedly high powered offense to only 10 points in two halves while intercepting Romo. Sure our offense didn't click for most of the half and we didn't get a sack, but we held on and scored on the last drive of the half gaining some momentum. It's OK man. We are going to get through this. I was like you in that I was putting all my analysis eggs in this one half basket of football. Well, I cracked some of the eggs. Time for an omelette then...mmmm, sausage and cheese!
    Sep 1, 2009 at 7:33 AM
  • Richard Gomez
    Nice work, Charlie Brown.
    Sep 1, 2009 at 7:21 AM
  • The Dude in brooklyn
    Chill out, Jeff. Did you think this team was SB-bound? And who's this "we" that you write of? You make tradeoffs in the preseason about what you emphasize. Yes the pass-rush is looking weak but it's very unlikely to be worse than last year given that the personnel is exactly the same if not more developed. Even last year's pass rush was only below average, not panic-worthy. What about the +8 TO ratio? No brightspot there? I'd take a positive TO ratio over sacks anyday. If the 49ers finish the year +8 in TO ratio with zero sacks, they would likely make the playoffs. On offense, the passing game looks weak but the run game looks extremely strong. The O-line is returning 5 of 5 starters, which should help in both facets of the offense. A QB competition was needed. Unfortunately, the tradeoff is reduced reps for the starter. Of course, our backup got more reps, which is a good thing. All you've shown is that the team has weaknesses and looks to be very conservative. Fair enough. The team also has substantial strengths that will mitigate those weaknesses. We don't even know the extent of those strengths because the best 49ers have hardly played. Deep breath...
    Sep 1, 2009 at 7:03 AM

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