Victory Hurts, More Ways Than One

Nov 30, 2010 at 12:43 PM

Something was wrong.

It's not like he hadn't been injured before. Indeed, given his medical history, his career already was a bit of a miracle. Of course, that didn't stop us from handing him an ever heavier burden to haul. Realizing the chance we'd been taking, at last we signed a capable backup, but then the backup simply sat, and the load remained as heavy as ever: by a WIDE margin, he led us in rushes, catches, and yards. Sure, we seemed to have plenty of offensive weapons. But as the announcer said after we'd run him on third-and-15--and after he'd had the temerity to convert--"He IS their offense, folks."

It's a tired cliche that every touch could be a running back's last.

In the case of Frank Gore, it's truer than most.

He certainly didn't look vulnerable, not when he burst through the line and gained 25 on our opening play. He didn't even look hurt when he went to the locker room, much less came back and reentered the game. But when he couldn't continue--when he told his coach that he couldn't go on--THAT'S when you knew.

Something was wrong.

The diagnosis was broken right hip, done for the year. (And if you Google "Bo Jackson" and "hip," you'll know it could still very clearly get worse.) Mike Singletary's fault? Technically, no. Despite the league's overkill on head injuries, it's a dangerous game; any player can get hurt on any play, no matter how often he's used. But by pushing Gore for more and more--yet another effect of his run-first mentality--did Singletary unnecessarily (or even recklessly) increase the chance of disaster?

Of course. Of course he did.

Still, Gore's previous injuries had always had a bit of a bright side: they'd forced us to open up the offense, into a more balanced (and thus more effective) attack. So if we were gonna make a run at this pathetic division--and as long as Singletary isn't rewarded for it, I guess we might as well--losing Gore, in a twisted way, might have actually helped.

As long as Singletary got the message, that is.

But thanks to the Cardinals, he didn't.

By now we know--or SHOULD know--that what we are against the Cardinals isn't a particularly good measure of what we really are. Even when the Cardinals were good, Singletary was a yard away from three-and-oh. And now they were bad, REALLY bad, having lost five straight and punchless on both O and D. The results were predictable. Right off the bat, our O-line mauled like it hadn't all year, and when the Cardinals botched a handoff on their opening play--and when Troy Smith responded by making the only play he'd be asked to make--you just had a feeling.

This was gonna be our night.

With Smith handing off again and again, Brian Westbrook, who was pressed into service much too late, ran 23 times for 136 yards, part of a cartoonish effort of 47 rushes for 261 yards and 2 scores. With the Cards' O capable of simply nothing--who could blame Derek Anderson for laughing?--the game was every bit as terrible as ESPN had feared.

Still, we won it. For what it's worth, we were out of last place, only a game behind the "leaders." (Though, frankly, it isn't worth much.)

There were two possibilities. One was that our O-line and running game, stagnant all year and especially last week, all of a sudden were strong, able to lead us into the playoffs, even without Gore. The other was that the Cardinals, once again, merely made us look better than we actually are. The first would somewhat validate Singletary's stubborn adherence to his dated philosophy, though not enough to stay in his job. The second would suggest, if we were to try it again, against a GOOD team--say, the Packers--we'd be simply annihilated.

It seems pretty clear to me which is true. But guess which one Mike Singletary picked.

"This is kind of what we would like to be able to do," he said. "It's not necessarily the blueprint, but we would like to be able to run the ball more successfully. ... We'd like to take the pressure off Troy and just allow him to make plays that are there and not try to force anything."

Not necessarily the blueprint? Come now. As please-Jed-don't-let-him-get-away Jon Gruden said, "This is Mike Singletary football. Call it whatever you want." And what I call it is gross incompetence, at least against everyone not Arizona. But Singletary's been fooled again. Even now that Gore is gone, we'll run first and run forever, against the Packers and everyone else.

I can't imagine how THIS'll turn out.

Though it was hard enough to deal with the constant reminders that our coach wasn't Gruden, it was Ron Jaworski who nearly brought me to tears. In discussing the Niners' quarterbacking legacy, he simply said: "The home of the West Coast Offense."

And there it was, a graphic reminder of where it all went awry. The West Coast Offense continues to thrive, but not here, not at its home. We've sold it out for "Mike Singletary football," and it's time for Jed to bring it back.

Recently, Jed was asked whether, with his next coach, he'd look to make "a big splash." By sheer coincidence, each example he was offered was a West Coast disciple: Gruden, Holmgren, Billick. (Harbaugh too would qualify.) But Jed's answer didn't exactly inspire confidence; he said that "the right fit" was more important than "a sexy hire."

Last chance, Jed. When your puzzle is broken, you can't be thinking of who's "the right fit." You let a genius build it anew. You pay what it takes and get out of the way.

Gore is gone, and even THAT won't stop Mike Singletary.

Last chance, Jed. You really wanna return us to glory? Bring the West Coast Offense home.
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.


  • Jaelyn
    Wham bam thank you ma'am, my questions are answered!
    Jul 16, 2011 at 9:34 PM
  • RamItOn
    Hi Jeff, This is equal parts catharsis and genuine inquiry. Please bear with me: 1) Upon perusing the 49ers news, it seems that Singletary is once again pondering a quarterback switch (I'm assuming that the other quarterback under consideration is Alex Smith and not Carr). Really? Because we haven't seen enough of A.Smith yet? If Alex absolutely lit it up for the last 4 games, winning them all in fantastic fashion, I'd still want him jettisoned. HOW MUCH MORE DO WE NEED TO SEE OF HIM?!!! At least see if Troy's ability progresses at all. 2) I read that Stanford is looking to lock up Harbaugh, leaving us with Gruden and...who else? HC options. Why would Gruden leave his cushy broadcast job? Why would he want to work for space cadets like the Yorks? What other viable options are there? Are there any assistants or coordinators that fit our needs? 3) Any word on Jed York giving Singletary the dreaded "vote of confidence" yet? When Singletary receives this, I'll feel more comfortable. Right now, I'm scared that Jed may give him another shot. Thanks for listening. I love the Niners, but this team is really starting to piss me off.
    Dec 6, 2010 at 2:35 PM
  • bmoneyt
    "The West Coast Offense continues to thrive, but not here, not at its home. We've sold it out for "Mike Singletary football," and it's time for Jed to bring it back." -Therein lies the problem. At its core, our team ownership is fatally flawed. As long as the Prince is in charge, and his Daddy still owns the team, "it" will never come back. "a sexy hire" is only code for "We will never pony up the dough for a great coach." "The right fit" will always translate to a coach who is easily controlled and manipulated and doesn't cost very much. Our team will always suck until the Prince and his Daddy are run out of town and out of the NFL. Period.
    Dec 4, 2010 at 2:30 PM
  • Shane
    Jeff, I never imagined that wins would become more painful than losses. As I sat and watched that Monday night game all i could think is this is awful. Here we are running all over the cards and Sing thinks his genius is winning the game! He has no ability to be honest with himself and acknowledge we beat a pathetic team with a terrible run D and an even worse QB problem than us! And we as a 49er nation are supposed to smile and slap hands when we continuously run the ball on 3rd and long, while we continue to scale back on all the exciting plays that made football fun again... oh and successful. The writing was on the wall going into TB, it was so easy to see. Sing HATED going downfield taking chances, letting his playmakers make plays. He took a big steaming dump on our success against TB and that cards game was him lighting a match. well i still smelled the stink! The pain comes knowing the more we win the better chance he could keep his job! Awful. Well good news is buddy, the losses hurt a lot less when you know they are coming and they are for a greater good. Cheers to getting killed in GB... hope you have some good wings at least!
    Dec 4, 2010 at 8:06 AM
  • Coach Jose
    To All: Could someone venture a guess - on what play Frank may have gotten hurt? I have re-watched all his runs (few that there are) including the couple when he returned and I cannot find even a hint of injury. Could he have been already injured...entering the game?
    Dec 1, 2010 at 12:42 PM
    Response: The prevailing theory, sensibly enough, is that he got hurt on his last carry before going into the locker room, a one-yard loss on 2nd-and-10 at the Cards' 32. If he'd had a broken hip entering the game, it's hard to imagine he could've zipped through the line on that 25-yard gain on the opening play.
  • overthemiddle
    Jeff I have refrained from making comments all season long. I have supported Singletary and Smith (alex) just because I have been a long time niner fan. I go way back to the Brodie to Parks era and I have seen the good and the bad. I admired Sing as a player and as a man. However, this team has lots of talent in lots of places, unfortunately quarterback is not one of them. I now must concur that Singletary has to go. I loved the way the niners ran against the cardinals but that team sucks so it's not a measure of how good the run game is. What a shame to waste the talent that is on this team. No one to blame other than Sing. I am now calling for his firing but who wants to be a head coach of this team. I would have liked to see Mike Bellotti the former head coach of the Oregon Ducks. What I like about Bellotti is that he forms his plans around the talents of his players not making the players conform to the head coach's idea. Anyhow enough said, I now am on the bandwagon to get rid of Sing.
    Dec 1, 2010 at 10:46 AM
  • louie
    Judging by every hire (football side of the business) the Yorks have made they have absolutely no idea of what "the right fit" is. What should be obvious to everyone by now is "the right fit" means people who are not proven, successful, big-time talents ("sexy") who will take the spotlight away from unproven, failing, controlling owners.
    Nov 30, 2010 at 8:05 PM
  • Steve
    hear, hear!!
    Nov 30, 2010 at 6:21 PM

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