Admit it.

Oh, sure, it isn't the usual feeling. You're a die-hard, after all, and watching the Niners is one of the highlights of your week. Maybe it's the ONLY highlight. Maybe it's the one thing that gets you through your daily grind: the thought that in a matter of days you'll be able to escape into another world. A world where all that matters is the Niners.

Admit it, though. There was a point, on Sunday, when you thought you would rather be anywhere else.

For me, that point was just before halftime. The Niners faced a third-and-2 at their own 47. We'd managed all of 93 yards. We hadn't ventured past midfield. And behind an abysmal offensive line, Jim Harbaugh sent Frank Gore up the middle, again. Predictably, Gore lost a yard. Andy Lee punted for the sixth time, and we went to the locker room trailing the Bengals, three to nothing.

It was right about then when I couldn't help thinking: you know, maybe I should be mowing my lawn.

I stuck it out, of course, and to some extent was rewarded. In the fourth quarter, down six to three, the Niners put together their one impressive drive, a game-winner thanks to our defense, which held the Bengals to field goals on their two trips inside the 10.

The Niners had won. We were two-and-one, alone atop the NFC West. Yet Harbaugh described the experience perfectly: "That football game, from an offensive perspective, ... was painful at times. Like going to the dentist."

All together now: rinse and spit.

I know, I know. A win is a win, right? Plus, as I've written myself: "When you've lost as many games as we've lost recently, you don't complain about ugly wins. You take ‘em however you can get ‘em."

So I won't complain. Instead, I'll ask a simple question: what exactly are we doing?

Let's start with the obvious: we're not gonna win the Super Bowl, not THIS year anyway. This offense, now ranked dead last, is stuck in an endless, miserable loop. Because of the limitations of our personnel--particularly on that embarrassing line--Harbaugh won't even attempt to install the actual West Coast Offense, and the limitations of our personnel are made even more limiting by the limitations of our schemes. To whatever extent you still had hopes for a miracle dark-horse Super Bowl push, Sunday's snoozer should've put ‘em to bed.

Now if you're not gonna win the Super Bowl, what you want is proof that you're getting there. Proof that you're building. Proof that you're putting the pieces in place.

After Sunday, it's fair to ask: are we even doing THAT?

Consider the case of Colin Kaepernick. He isn't playing; he's our purported QB of the future. Andy Dalton, though, whom the Bengals chose just before we took Kaepernick, is playing now. Our defense gave Dalton a pretty rough day. But he's getting precious experience, and he's playing well enough to show Bengals fans (if any exist) that their team just might be a team on the rise. Meanwhile, Kaepernick sits.

Now I'm not saying that Kaepernick's experience would be as productive as Dalton's; our offensive line is so atrocious, his experience would mostly consist of being knocked down. It's better, of course, that he watch and learn.

But then again, look at what he's watching and learning.

A veteran bridge is valuable only if he's running the system that the rookie himself will be running next. The rookie will watch the plays unfold; he'll learn which decisions work and which don't. But the system that Kaepernick's watching just can't be the system he'll ultimately run. On Sunday there were some modest wrinkles--the game-winning drive was nicely schemed--but if Kaepernick's given the real WCO, and please, PLEASE, tell me he will, what he's watching now will be virtually worthless. Essentially, he'll be starting from scratch.

Yet our crappy division continues to be both a blessing and a curse. The Rams, the popular preseason faves, are oh-and-three, though of course they've faced a tough early schedule. Seattle is truly awful, yet they just beat the Cardinals. So yeah, our offense is nearly unwatchable. But, once again, it might be enough.

If it weren't, Harbaugh might've been inspired to break the vicious circle, and truly start installing his offense. Naturally, it wouldn't be pretty, but at least we could see it. We could start to see what we would become. We could start to see how the future would look.

But my concern, for THIS week, is that Harbaugh is attempting to win a very small battle while slipping behind in a larger war. He's attempting to "grind" his way to a division title--which would be somewhat exciting but ultimately meaningless--at the price of a year of genuine development. A year closer to real contention.

I've been accused lately of being impatient, of unreasonably demanding immediate progress. I've been reminded to think once again of the lockout: how could Harbaugh possibly install the WCO in a month and a half? Well, to begin with, I think we've seen that the lockout hasn't been nearly the obstacle that it originally threatened to be, as offenses across the league--even those that are newly installed--are producing at almost ridiculous levels. But beyond that, I'm really not impatient at all. I don't demand perfection. I don't even demand WINS, at least not yet. All I want is proof that we're building toward something real. Proof, if you will, of true restoration.

Instead I got what I got on Sunday. A game that seemed to prove only inertia. A game that was like a head meeting a wall. A game that was almost a burden to watch.

We won it, of course, and a win is a win. Yet I can't help but think that we're losing more.