"I wear my sunglasses at night, so I can, so I can, watch you weave then breathe your story lines."

And oh, what a story line we were weaving in San Diego. Indeed, THIS was our chance. Led by the "totally different" Alex Smith--cough, cough--we'd destroyed a crummy Seattle team. Now, on the road, against a very strong opponent, this was our chance for that signature win, a win that would likely propel us into the playoffs.

A win that, who knows, might save the coach's job.

"I wear my sunglasses at night, so I can, so I can, keep track of visions in my eyes."

Ah, yes, the vision. The vision of an O that could all but tell the D what was coming--a run up the middle, usually--and dominate anyway, by pure strength and will. Recently, the coach had sung the virtues of using "the entire playbook," but he'd never quite lose track of the vision.

Case in point.

It was the second quarter, and we were very much alive. Early on, a jump-ball had gone the Chargers' way, but since then our D had held 'em in check. Now our O was in position to tie. A replay had shown that Smith had come up six inches short--story of his life--and now it was fourth-and-goal. The coach wisely decided to go for it. But with what play?

The D, naturally, would expect a run up the middle.

And the coach, of course, would oblige.

"I felt anytime we're in a situation like that," he'd explain, "our offensive line can get that." This despite our offensive line's proven unreliability. This despite the perfect opportunity for play-action, for using "the entire playbook." This despite just plain common sense.

Virtually untouched, a Charger defender burst through the line, and on fourth-and-goal from six inches away, Anthony Dixon was crushed for a two-yard loss.

Needless to say, reports of the vision's death had been greatly exaggerated.

"I wear my sunglasses at night, so I can, so I can, forget my name while you collect your claim."

If there's one thing the coach's name once stood for, it's discipline. Yet once again, at the first sign of trouble, his players' discipline went out the window. On the Chargers' next drive after our goal-line debacle, our D stopped a run to set up a second-and-15 at the Chargers' eight. But Justin Smith lost his head, brainlessly pushing a ref, and was tossed from the game. The next play was a 35-yard pass to a receiver who simply was left alone, and the Chargers went on a scoring drive that consumed 7 minutes, 13 plays, a hundred yards, and the Niners' soul.

After our next drive's last four plays were run, run, pass, punt--HOW MANY TIMES--Ahmad Brooks dropped a pick that an eight-year-old would've caught, Tarell Brown committed a second personal foul, and the Chargers added another score. And to start the second half, Ted Ginn's return for a touchdown was nullified by a THIRD personal foul, and that was basically it.

Another Niners collapse. Another opponent collects.

"I wear my sunglasses at night, so I can, so I can, see the light that's right before my eyes."

Indeed, how could the coach NOT see it? The difference between a GOOD team on the one hand, and his on the other, had never been clearer. Sure, there were gaps in the players' talent--at quarterback, among other places--but those were dwarfed by the gaps in the coaches' imagination.

The basic goal of any modern offense is to get the ball to playmakers in space. Of course, a modern defense knows this, so ITS basic goal is to take those playmakers away. This is the so-called "chess match" of football, and it's what makes the game so fascinating.

Here's the thing, though. It takes brains.

Time and again, the Chargers moved their playmakers around and ran 'em through route combinations designed to get 'em open. Facing a tepid rush and mushy coverage, Philip Rivers shot fish in a barrel on the way to a rating of 150. Meanwhile, when the Niners WEREN'T running up the gut, they were sending receivers out almost aimlessly. Though Josh Morgan had a nice game, top playmaker Vernon Davis was sent into coverage on play after play, the Niners having no idea how to get him in space.

Davis caught one ball, for four yards. At the time, the score was 34 to nothing.

The truth was inescapable. The Chargers were playing chess, and the Niners were playing checkers. The coach MUST'VE seen it. It was right before his eyes.

"Don't masquerade with the guy in shades, oh no, I can't believe it."

And so, again, the masquerade was exposed, both of coach and of team. "I really looked for our team, in spite of the setbacks, to really take a step forward," the coach said. "Obviously we did not. We continue to stumble." Indeed, two and a half years into this charade, we continue to stumble, and the coach just now is starting to see why. Oh, sure, he might change quarterbacks again--so much for "the entire playbook"--but a new quarterback's no match for our chronic, systemic failure to prepare. Not that the coach has an answer for THAT, of course. "I just think that maybe we could have done a better job of practice or something like that."

Indeed. SOMETHING like that.

Inspiring, Coach.

But thank heavens, despite the undeniable proof of his sheer incompetence, there's still the NFC West, that last refuge of the damned. We still could become the first-ever playoff team with a losing record, and don't go thinking the coach won't party like it's 1985. "This team has had its highs and lows," he said. "But if we are fortunate enough to go to the playoffs, I believe that we deserve to go."

No, Coach. You DON'T deserve to go, no matter how fortunate you are. The only thing you deserve is a pinkslip, and I just can't wait 'til you get it.

Oh, and one more thing.

Your shades look ridiculous.