Let’s Just Stop And Celebrate It: Once Again, The Best In The West

Oct 6, 2009 at 7:00 PM


At halftime, I sat there, all ready to write it again. As usual, I was bipolar, torn between love for our heroic D and utter contempt for our pathetic O. The defense had made the Rams look every bit as awful as they are, but the Rams' offense was looking no worse than our own. 84 yards. Zero points. Were it not for the fortunate bounce of a punt, we'd have been locked in a scoreless tie, with an opponent that was one of the absolute worst.

Even at the end of the game, I was tempted. Sure, we'd buried the Rams under an avalanche of our defensive pressure and their own incompetence. But from an offensive standpoint, we'd just completed the least impressive 35-point win in the history of the league. The playcalling, at least, was a notch above prehistoric, but thanks largely to an offensive line that's quickly approaching the limits of our tolerance, we'd been able to muster only 228 net yards. We'd attained dismal averages of 5.5 per pass and 3.3 per rush. And Shaun Hill had endured another four sacks (only Buffalo's Trent Edwards has suffered more), and he'd been battered on seven occasions besides.

Yup, I was all set to write yet another installment in my continuing series: the wins are nice, but this offense just won't get us over the hump.

Then I noticed something. And I really thought about it. And then I felt like writing something else.

So tell you what. Much to your relief I'm sure, I'm gonna take a week off from my usual anxiety. I won't regurgitate my standard concerns. I won't bellyache about how bleak things might be if we were placed in some other division. We're in this one, and it's worth declaring, loud and proud.

It's been seven long years, but we're back where we belong. Best in the West.

Check out the standings. There we are, alone on top. Three-and-one, and all three wins at the expense of the guys behind us. No other team is even .500, but it's even better than that. The Rams now are oh-and-four and utterly hopeless. The Seahawks are one-and-three and patched together with wire and tape. The Cardinals at one-and-two aren't quite so dead, but both those losses were at home, and the Cards seem particularly ill-suited to break the famous curse of the Super Bowl loser.

As recently as last week, I was still thinking the playoffs were a long shot. Now I realize that anything less than the division title would be a monumental disappointment. Forget about the ifs and buts. We are far and away the best team in this bunch, and that's a major achievement we should recognize with unmitigated joy.

The crumminess of this division should be celebrated, not begrudged. After all, in our glory years, that crumminess was one of our most underrated boons. Remember when the NFC "West" contained the Rams, Falcons, and Saints, all of whom stunk to high heaven? In the 14 years of our Super Bowl dynasty, the Rams were .500 or worse 8 times, the Saints 9 times, and the Falcons an astounding 12 times. Our own teams were pretty good, of course, but let's face it. Winning at least 10 games every one of those years—except the year in which fewer than 10 games were played—was a whole lot easier when we played 6 a year with the dregs of the league.

We didn't apologize for it then. And we shouldn't apologize for it now.

Am I changing my tune enough to suggest we're about to contend for the Super Bowl? Uh, no. As I noted, in a league that's increasingly defined by its mediocrity, the Niners are glaringly imperfect. There's plenty of room for the critics to gripe, and as soon as next week I myself might be griping again.

Right now, though, we're at the quarter turn. It's still early, and anything can happen. But it's not too early to say that a division title is ours to lose. We are on pace to return to the playoffs. If things stay on course, we'll see playoff football at Candlestick Park.

Go ahead and point out our flaws, if you must. After what I've written lately, who am I to stop you? But take just a minute and appreciate where we are.

We're the class of our division. And we haven't been that in a very long time.

It's so, so easy for us to be greedy. We're so accustomed to championship football. Not just that, but beautiful football. We've come to see it as our birthright, and that's why to many of us, even after six straight years of losing, wins just aren't enough. Wins are better than losses, of course, but until we go farther, until we restore that beautiful, championship level, plenty of us will rake plenty of muck.

Needless to say, myself included.

But after a seven-year climb, we're atop this division, and it's time to enjoy the view. It's time to take just a minute and appreciate how far we've come, without worrying whether we'll get any farther.

So let's make a deal, just for this week. This week, when you're tempted to criticize Scot McCloughan for his second-round selections of David Baas and Chilo Rachal, just remember Terry Donahue and his reign of terror. This week, when you're itching to rail against Mike Singletary's conservative philosophy, think back to Dennis Erickson and his glassy-eyed impotence. This week, when you're dreading more of Hill's wobbly ducks (which somehow end up always where they should be), pay your respects to Ken Dorsey and his record of two-and-eight. And this week, when you're starting to worry that maybe this team won't do anything more than just get to the playoffs—as if that's such a bad thing—just remember the Niners of 2004, two overtime field-goals from oh-and-16.

It's a weak division. And we haven't officially won it. But after only four games, the title—and the playoffs—are in our grasp. So far from where we've been, no matter how far we might go.

Just don't forget to remember that.
The views within this article are those of the writer and, while just as important, are not necessarily those of the site as a whole.


6 Comments

  • raulp49
    Good article. Mike Singletary has changed the culture around our team, he said he wanted "winners" on this team and he has helped to change the attitude of our players to become the team they are called to be, and he has done it as he leads "by example" and I feel he is honest and loyal to his players, and the guys have responded admirably... kudos to him for the way he handled the Crabtree deal and now MC is already signed and ready to go help our team achieve the goal to make it to the playoffs this year; Shaun Hill, he is a winner and he gets it done, and it needs to be said "what a class act he is" and the rest of the team: Gore, Willis, J Smith, Spikes, Heitmann, Nate, M Lewis, Spencer, Mr Bruce, Arnaz, Manny L, Parys, Nedney, A Lee and the rest of the gang... kudos to you guys!!! 49ers are back on top where they belong... Thank you Jed and thank you Scottie....
    Oct 9, 2009 at 12:14 AM
    0
  • ShaneO
    Jeff i still love the work. a few weeks ago i busted your stones cuz you're such a good writer and you use facts but it's always bleak! This is much better haha. But my comment is i'm confused by 9ers fans. hey man i'm just old enough to remember the 88-89 super bowls and became a die-hard in the 90's. i used to joke that brett favre ruined my teenage years! so yes this is a different kind of football. but the league is different now too. i don't understand what there is to be unhappy with. and i mean this to all 9er fans. i once said i don't care if we win every game 7-3 and win the superbowl. i've been so thirsty for so long that yes i will drink dirty water! and if we have an amazing D and an offense just efficient enuff to win, i'll take it! i just feel like we are the only team in football that can't be happy with winning but have to also do it a certain way. Think of wins as your children, they are all beautiful!
    Oct 8, 2009 at 12:57 PM
    0
    Response: I remember you, Shane; thanks again for your support. And trust me, if we win ugly all the way to the Super Bowl, I'll be as happy as I'd have been if we'd won pretty. I tend to doubt we can make it that far when we're playing THIS ugly (on offense, that is; the D is downright gorgeous), and that doubt is what gives rise to those mixed emotions of which you speak. But as you point out, I'm getting more positive. If we stay on track, we'll return to the playoffs, and no Niner fan could complain about THAT.
  • Dan
    I have 2 arguments to that, Jeff. I'm sure you've heard them both. For one, the team who won our so called inferior division last year ended up being the NFC champions. Secondly, the Vikings game 2 weeks ago wasn't a fluke, the touchdown at the last second of the game was a fluke, but all the points we scored we earned. The Vikings played a very good game, and we had them beat. I hate to have to borrow credibility from another team, much less from a game we actually lost. But that was the only game we've played outside of our division, and I was impressed with what I saw. There are a lot of good teams in other divisions who have already lost some games. My question is this, are the 49ers, who are your favorite football team in the NFL, ever going to meet your expectations as a team? I think they will, but right now I'm very happy about what they are doing.
    Oct 7, 2009 at 9:25 AM
    0
    Response: Ah, but that's the struggle I've been having, Dan: defining what's fair for us to expect. At various times over the last few months, I've found reasons to expect Super Bowl contender, 5 and 11, and everything in between. But my point here is that I think I'm finally finding peace. As of now, what's fair to expect is a division champion, with anything else as gravy. And yes, I'm happily thinking those expectations will be met.
  • charlie
    the niners are back! a win is a win--regardless of who you play...the defense is awesome.
    Oct 7, 2009 at 7:32 AM
    0
  • Nick Calhoun
    Awesome well-written article. Pretty much sums up how I feel right now. You gotta enjoy this and appreciate how far we've come, and how lucky we are to have a team with so much heart. Some teams get in a rut and it takes 20 years to get out. I remember the 41-10 loss to Chicago in 2006 where they scored 41 in one half. We were embarrassed game after game. It feels great to take this all in and enjoy wins.
    Oct 6, 2009 at 11:40 PM
    0
  • Confucius
    Ah, so! In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.
    Oct 6, 2009 at 8:49 PM
    0

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