An Open Offense, A Statement Win, and (Hopefully) A Lesson Learned

Oct 4, 2011 at 5:59 AM


For those who were expecting some kind of improvement. For those who were waiting for some kind of change. For those who were seeking some offensive development, the Niners delivered a strong early message:

Nope.

Indeed, the Niners picked up right where they'd left off. Oh, sure, Frank Gore went up the middle for 40, about 39 more than he usually gets, but on the whole the offense remained in dire need of an enema. By halftime, Alex Smith had completed 8 passes for a typically mundane 90 yards, and the Eagles had turned his fumble into a last-minute touchdown. The Eagles had scored only 20 points, thanks to our bent-but-not-broken defense and one of the stupidest things ever done on a football field. Still, down 17, what possible hope did we have?

The sight of Colin Kaepernick warming up, after a foot-wetting first-half cameo, provoked a tinge of desperate excitement; was this, at last, the end of Smith? Once again, no, but at least we changed our offensive approach. Now forced into catch-up mode, Smith threw deep, hitting Josh Morgan for 26 yards. Our blocked field-goal led to an Eagles field-goal, but clearly now we were passing the ball.

On our next drive, something clicked. On second-and-6 at his own 24, Smith dropped back, pulled the ball down, and rolled right. Surely that Smithian classic, the heave out of bounds, was to come. But instead, Smith kept his eyes down the field (!) and located Kendall Hunter, who dashed 44 yards. Two plays later, Smith hit Morgan on a very West-Coast-looking slant, and Morgan went 30 yards for a shockingly easy score.

Of course, we'd already seen this show, actually more than once. A stodgy first-half. A big deficit. An offense with no choice but to open things up. A furious comeback. And, the script says, an oh-so-close loss.

Across Niner Nation, we readied ourselves for another installment.

After a Philly three-and-out, Smith threw one of his best passes ever, hitting Michael Crabtree between two defenders for 38 yards. Four plays later, a strike to Vernon Davis for ANOTHER quick score, and just like that, the margin was six.

The Eagles, though, were racking up yards, and Michael Vick hit should've-been-Niner DeSean Jackson with a 60-yard bomb. Our defense stiffened, but a field goal would make it a two-score game. The kick was wide right, and after we punted and Philly again drove the length of the field, so was a SECOND kick.

It was then that you thought: maybe, this time, the end will be different.

With the pass having loosened the Eagles' D, Gore and Hunter (at last a worthy second punch) cut deep gashes. Gore for 25, Hunter for 14, and Gore for a dozen more and the go-ahead score. Once again the Eagles drove, once again needing only a field goal, but once again they self-destructed, fumbling away the game.

For years we'd been waiting, forced to settle for moral victories. Forced to take solace in merely playing contenders close. At last, though, we'd beaten one. In thrilling fashion, we'd beaten one.

That said, the big story here wasn't really the win. Indeed, aside from a healthy injection of luck, there wasn't much difference between this comeback and those earlier ones that had fallen just short. The big story here was the revelation that seems so obvious everywhere else but seems so tough for THIS franchise to comprehend: When you open the offense, you move the ball, and you score. When you don't, you don't, and you don't.

The question now is whether Jim Harbaugh will learn.

This game refuted the popular notion that our offense had been conservative only because Harbaugh hadn't installed anything fancy. It's not like the players hadn't seen these pass-plays until halftime in Philly; the plays were always in the book, but, as many of us had suspected, Harbaugh just didn't trust his players to execute. His run-first offense thus was borne not of necessity, but of timidity.

Through the first three games, he'd largely gotten away with this. We'd been in every game throughout, so there was no compulsion to open things up. Here, though, the halftime deficit did the trick. He had no choice but to fire away, and Smith, thank heavens, rewarded him.

Once again, though, we've been here before. Smith was magnificent in the second half: 13 of 17 for 201 yards and the two scores. But don't forget, two years ago, he was just as good in the second half of his comeback game in Houston: 15 of 22 for 206 and THREE scores. There we didn't win, of course--the Texans actually MADE a late field-goal--but we were excited for what seemed to be the dawn of a new offensive approach, and thus the dawn of an age of real hope. A certain writer put it like this:

"[T]his exciting new offense does not accord with [a certain coach's] boring offensive philosophy. He loves to run to set up the pass, but by now he must know that it can't work here; he simply lacks the offensive line. He must know that he can't keep his now-explosive passing game under wraps until it's 21-zip [or, say, 20 to 3]. He must use it early and use it often, and once he's stretched and loosened the defense, THAT'S when he'll be able to gash it with runs. [The coach has] proven he's willing to change. We'll really be onto something, Coach, if this means your philosophy's changing too."

As you know, the philosophy DIDN'T change. And now that certain coach is gone.

Harbaugh isn't a caveman, right? So, now that Smith has shown he can handle this, Harbaugh won't stubbornly stick with a stagnant run-first approach, right? On the contrary, Harbaugh will come out firing, right from the start, and we'll see, at least mostly, the offense we'd expected.

Right?

Smith wouldn't necessarily run it perfectly, of course; we've seen great halves before, and they've never amounted to much. But at least we'd be free of this face-palming paradox, the new coach running the old coach's offense. At least we'd really begin to build.

So, though I never thought I'd need to do this, I'll make the same plea to Harbaugh that I made to his predecessor. The passing game is what wins, Coach, whether you trust your players or not. You mustn't keep it under wraps. You must use it early and use it often.

If Harbaugh learns this, we'll get much more than a statement win.

At long last, we'll get on our way.
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.


87 Comments

  • Michael Taylor
    Has anyone noticed that Jeff Kaplan has absolutely nothing to say about the 49ers this Monday morning/afternoon????
    Oct 10, 2011 at 1:32 PM
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    Response: I usually post on Tuesday, Michael. In the meantime, though, be sure to check out what I predicted would happen yesterday, in my response to Lucky Phil below.
  • Rob
    Jacka...totally agree!
    Oct 8, 2011 at 6:53 PM
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  • Dan
    Terry B., I like to read all sides to the story of the 49ers. While I don't agree with the general tone and what I see as simplistic conclusions that are prevalent in most of Jeff's writing, he is the extreme of a certain story that has been going on in San Francisco for quite a while. I think some of his premises are valid and he makes some good points once in a while. I criticize him not because I loathe him, but because I think if he were to back off the negativity he could be "the voice of reason" he is trying so hard to be. It seems he is a stubborn old opinionated man and thus refuses to give up his anti (everything not Walsh/Joe?) crusade. I am not trying to demean him in any way, stubbornness has its own steadfastish virtue. For the most part I read and comment on Jeff's articles because I find opinions contrary to my own to have some value, in a way that sometimes keeps me honest and sometimes reinforces my initial opinion. I take a quick glance at his article every week, glean what I see as valid, and then sometimes comment to what I think the mistake in tone or conclusion is, if I see one. I could pat him on the back and say good job once in a while, but generally I find myself more disappointed in the presentation than I am enlightened. Also I don't see him giving credit where credit is due without taking away from it with his back-handedness or using an apologetic tone, so I don't see why I should give him much credit when I comment. He wouldn't appreciate it anyway. I honestly think if Jeff were to temper his extreme opinions he could actually come up with a better representation of this side of the 49ers story. This seems to be what I have to work with though.
    Oct 7, 2011 at 2:39 PM
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  • Jacka
    @ Jeff once again you are wrong. The team didn't really change the philosophy in the 2nd half. They executed and could actually protect Alex. In the 1st half they struggled big time to give the QB time to throw, so of course they weren't going to throw as much even though as you pointed out yourself it was a 50/50 split. Then you replied to me that we started throwing more "vertical" in the 2nd. Really?? Other than Crabs' 38-yarder the team didn't start pushing it down the field. They still took what Phili gave them. Was Hunter's 44-yard pass a result of them throwing vertical? No it was a dumpoff that he took the rest of the way. Was Morgan's 30-yard TD a bomb? No it was a slant route that he took to the house. Your whole article is flawed. The team is who they are. A WCO that preaches taking what is given to them. Pound the ball and if a big play is there they will take it. It all starts with protection though. They didn't "open" it up like you say and they really never will be a 4-wide shotgun and throw 40 times a game. They can still hit big plays by executing their current gameplan though.
    Oct 7, 2011 at 2:38 PM
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    Response: Again, Jacka, the first-down play selection in the second half proves that we went to a pass-first approach (starting with the opening play, a deep pass to Morgan). Run-first to pass-first = closed to open.
  • Dan
    Shane, to answer your questions, I didn't say Jeff's article sucked. There are relevant points he brought up, but I don't think they follow through to the conclusions he is bringing them to. He says that Harbaugh wasn't calling enough passing plays because he's too dedicated to the run. I disagree. I do think the 49ers should be better in the passing game. It would make them a better team. I don't think it's a good idea to have Alex Smith try to play like a gunslinger, carelessly throwing the ball in all different directions. That's not how he's effective. Let's face it, he's not Tom Brady. He's NOT Aaron Rodgers. He can't play like them. If that means he has to be picky in the passing game, that's how it should be. At least he's not throwing the ball away every time we get behind anymore. And look what's happening - we are winning close games. We have even come back from behind. I disagree with Jeff, plain and simple. I think Harbaugh knows exactly what he's doing with Alex. I'm not a "homer" like Terry says. I'm not waving the Alex Smith flag or even the Jim Harbaugh flag. But I sure as heck am not waving the Jeff Kaplan flag. He is assuming knowledge that the passing game can in fact be better than it is now. There is no way to know that. It is possible that this is, in fact, as good as this team's passing game can be at this point in time. If that's the case, tell me, what does Harbaugh need to learn?
    Oct 7, 2011 at 10:36 AM
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  • Terry B.
    AJ, I'm going to drop the sarcastic veneer for a moment and explain myself to you as best as I can. This all started last week when you showed up in the comments here and obnoxiously told Jeff to "lay off Smith" and "lay off Harbaugh" as if it's your right to tell another Webzone columnist what to write. (Did your buddies tell you to do that too? It looked to me like you came here on your own.) I find it a bit odd that one Webzone columnist would criticize another Webzone columnist in the comments. I just can't imagine Sydney, Oscar, Diego, Jeff, or any other columnist doing that at your column. Then, when some of us argued back with you, you responded with silly threats like "don't do it again!" or demanded that we engage you at your column, even though it was you who showed up here and started complaining. Do you see a problem here, AJ? Additionally, you frequently use your column as a bully pulpit to insult other fans and writers who disagree with you. Why not just stick to writing about the 49ers? Is it really that important to present yourself as thin-skinned and immature? You'll remember last year when Jeff wrote a column entitled "Niners' Preseason Goes From Peace to Panic," you immediately responded with "Un-pressing the Panic Button: A Sane Fan's Guide to the 49ers 2010 Preseason," the clear implication being that Jeff and those fans who agreed with his point of view were insane. And now this week, you're at again. The introduction to your column is a clear shot at the fans you argued with here last week, and you go after Jeff again, referencing his other columns such as "Baalke's Bargains," etc. Again, AJ, this just makes you look petty. The other columnists are just writing about the team. They are not taking every opportunity to take shots at you and your opinions. As to where I should engage you, I engage you here because this is where you showed up last week and started acting like a jerk. When I act like a jerk here, this is where people engage me. Also, I typically don't read your column. I used to, but after a while I gave up because I don't believe that you are objective and I don't like being told that everything is O.K. when I can see with my own two eyes that it's not. I made an exception this week because it appeared from your headline (which referenced your "arrow up" comment that you made last week) that you were going to be going after other fans again. I was right, and your column once again confirmed for me that there is no need to read you. Although Jeff is far from perfect, he's the only Webzone columnist I find interesting enough to read anymore. His folksy style (constant use of 'em for them) is annoying, and he does tend to repeat himself. Sometimes you just want to say, "we know, we know, you've said that a thousand times!" Be that as it may, I always find him entertaining and objective. Although your family situation is truly regrettable and certainly explains your absence over the past year, it does not explain any of the boorish behavior that I've described above. I think what it boils down to is that, when you come to the comments section of another columnist and start telling him what not to write, you have to expect a response from other readers. You frankly come across as the classic example of someone who can dish it out but can't take it. (Making your use of the phrase "man up" truly ironic.) Anyway, I think we can safely ignore each other from now on. I have no interest in ever reading another one of your columns, so I'll only see you if you come back here. If you do come back, however, you shouldn't presume to tell other people where they can and can't respond to you.
    Oct 7, 2011 at 9:21 AM
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    Response: Just for the record, let me say that I myself take no offense to AJ's critiques of my opinions. Sure, he and I once had a little spat about 'em (wink wink, Terry), but we hugged it out (at least figuratively), and now my view is that our occasional clashes can only energize the debate that this site exists to promote. Of course, Terry is free to take his own offense, and in light thereof I think I support the idea of Terry and AJ safely ignoring each other. Let's just move on, kids. Let's talk some football, eh?
  • Alden Brown
    Dan, WTF, Jeff is biased because he expresses a preference for the passing game over the running game? So the only unbiased columnist is one who thinks they are equally valuable and important? Really? I've never heard "bias" used this way before.
    Oct 7, 2011 at 9:15 AM
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  • Terry B.
    Dan, can I ask you a question in all seriousness? Why do you keep reading Jeff's columns? You've been complaining about him week after week for over a year, and now you state flat out that you don't find him objective. Most people, if they don't like a columnist and don't find him objective, simply don't read him. Why do you devote so much of your time and energy reading and arguing with a columnist you don't like and don't find objective? (Sorry, Jeff, I'm not trying to diminish your readership. I'm sure you appreciate all the readers you can get. I'm just really curious about this.)
    Oct 7, 2011 at 9:13 AM
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  • Jeremy
    For those who think our OL is getting better, check this out from ProFootballFocus.com: "Wrong Side of the Line One thing that just doesn't seem to improve is the right side of the San Francisco offensive line. After a couple of average games original starting RG Chilo Rachal got benched in week three following three penalties against the Bengals and was replaced by Adam Snyder (-4.5). Now, with the starting job, Snyder was, if anything, worse. While he didn't give up a penalty this was about all that went right as he allowed a hit, three pressures and was abused by both Cullen Jenkins and Trevor Laws in the running game. Perhaps the only thing keeping the guy to his right in a job is the lack of a viable alternative as RT, Anthony Davis (-3.5), continues to fall well short of the required grade for NFL tackles. In the 20 games of NFL action he's seen to date we've graded him positively only four times, with none so far this year. In this game Jason Babin picked up three sacks all against him and he was penalized twice for tripping."
    Oct 7, 2011 at 5:52 AM
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  • 49erLegacy
    Jeff, "the offense needs to be open" does not seem like a fair statement or assessment of the offense. What this offense needs is the occasional deep downfield pass that will make defenses back up, the short passes have been there. This offense is in NO WAY similar to Singletary's offense. Also, you game plan and the Eagles are one of the worst teams against the run, so the game plan called for running; did you notice that after Gore broke the 40-yard run they went to the pass and the drive stalled? So passing frantically is not always the answer.
    Oct 7, 2011 at 5:14 AM
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  • Shane
    Now chris, on the other hand we have Dan... Dan, Thanks for the recap, now without insulting someone, without calling out terry B, myself, jeff or just throwing around a variation of "you suck," go back through everything that you paraphrased and explain why it's incorrect or unfactual in nature. Were the niners not down 20-3 at the half? did the O not look like sh*t? had we not just fumbled? was there any hope down 20 on the road? ok... had we not seen many second half comebacks and close losses? matter of fact was that not our MO for a while?Minn, Dal, ATL, Hou, etc (PS moral victories), um i think the big story actually was Smith's performance passing the ball was it not? the 9ers scoring 21 unanswered? (mostly thru the air which then led to the run.) last year smith was just as good but we lost, check. the next game we ran on 8-10 first downs, ok that's right. and if we pass we will be good... ok I'm all ears, how does this article "suck"? sounds like exactly what happened to me.
    Oct 6, 2011 at 9:53 PM
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  • Shane
    Chris, i feel like you have some sense in your head, i really mean that. you seem like a good 9er fan. But as far as my AJ comment i don't know what to say man, re-read my comment, I'M actually the one who said there was prolly a more classy way to say it, i apologized and even manned up and gave my opinion on his blog. aside from that I won't continue to apologize cuz although said harshly it is true. If you wanna read about how good the 9ers are doing wld you not go to AJs blog first? (despite 8 straight losing seasons.) but it cld have been said better. i agree. i just don't prefer that style of reading. the thing about respect tho is it's a touch overrated. Not that you shldnt give respect but there is a fine line between reporting and the "sunshine" comment if you will. If someone is gonna be objective about a team, and that team has been awful for the better part of a decade, and is currently 28th in offense with a head coach that is supposed to be a guru, dude it's gonna be ugly, as it should be. that's part of this business. I'm not saying i would go up to sing on the street and say you suck! but online giving my opinion on a platform that is designed for such a purpose, yeah i'm gonna rip him. That's the fine line. that's the reason i love these articles. I wld be disappointed and frankly wld think jeff had gone soft if i came back here after that cinci win and read GREAT SUNDAY. bro, that was terrible! we escaped with a win. i wanna read facts. I honestly didn't find the article offensive, just thought it was a recap of what happened with some insight on if we kept doing it.
    Oct 6, 2011 at 9:41 PM
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  • Dan
    Well Terry B. I would love to read some "thoughtful, objective journalism" but I can't seem to find any here. These articles, while thoughtful, are far from objective, as objectivity excludes bias - which Jeff is dripping with in his run vs. pass struggle. Arrow up is a good description of the 9ers' fortunes right now and if being enthusiastically pleased about being 3-1 while everyone else is 1-3 (or worse) is being a Homer, I can't really refute your condescending attacks. But enjoying a good start to the season isn't homerism, so I'll refute your attacks. Just because I don't find it necessary to point out every flaw on the 49ers' current roster and in the 49ers' current system, that doesn't make me a Homer. I know where the weaknesses are. Our weaknesses have been exposed every game this season, and we have prevailed more times than not. If being pleased with this simple victory makes me a Homer (which it doesn't) then I have no refute. So what then is it that makes me a Homer? Or is it just that I criticize you and Jeff? Harbaugh's "conservative planning" has done us much more good than harm so far. I expect the conservatism to fall away as the season progresses, but the +8 turnover ratio is largely responsible for the 3-1 W-L, and a good chance at the post-season. So maybe you and Jeff are wrong. Ever consider that?
    Oct 6, 2011 at 7:33 PM
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  • Lucky Phil
    Hey everybody can we all agree to disagree. You don't have to agree with every article Jeff and AJ write. But I respect the work they do and appreciate the research and time they take to write their articles. I don't understand the two camps of "Homers" and "Haters" this comment board has come down to. We are all fans here. Keep up the good work Jeff & AJ, I wouldn't change for anybody.
    Oct 6, 2011 at 7:31 PM
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  • Chris Platt
    Again you're right Shane, "if you want rainbows blown up your ass read Bolino" is a very classy way to say it. Lol, c'mon dude, I think you're missing my point. All I'm saying is there needs to be a measure of respect for the people that play and coach this game and Kaplan doesn't have it. When you sit and trash everybody all the time, then I think yes, 35 ppl can come in here and call him out, absolutely. You want some substance Shane? Scroll up to the top of this page and read the titles of his last four articles. Lol, need I say more. There's a way to get your point across and do it with respect to the athlete or coach. If you'd like to learn how, go read Peter Gammons. As far as Sing goes, I never said the guy was a great coach but nothing he said or did is deserving of some snob who can barely throw a football and is stuffing Cheetos down his throat throwing some potshots his direction on EVERY article. Grow up Kaplan. And the fact you don't care about that Shane is the reason I am even typing this. I know it won't change your mind tho. Lol
    Oct 6, 2011 at 7:19 PM
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  • Dan
    Jeff, I simplified your article the best I could for your fans. I don't think they were all able to get to the essence of your article. It wasn't terrible though it comes across dripping with bias. I think some people have mistaken it for "not negative" and "not assuming more football knowledge than Harbaugh." Hopefully this will clear things up. I get that you are marginally hopeful for the team here but let's face it. This article is biased, negative, and assumes that it contains knowledge of the game that escapes coach Harbaugh. There is no reason to deny that. Condensed version of your article following: For those who were expecting some kind of improvement, the Niners delivered a strong early message: Nope. The Niners picked up right where they'd left off. What possible hope did we have? Smith hit Morgan on a very West-Coast-looking slant, and Morgan went 30 yards for a shockingly easy score. Of course, we'd already seen this show, actually more than once. A furious comeback. And, an oh-so-close loss. For years we'd been waiting, forced to settle for moral victories. The big story here wasn't really the win. The big story here was you open the offense, you move the ball, and you score. The question now is whether Jim Harbaugh will learn. His run-first offense thus was borne not of necessity, but of timidity. Two years ago, (Smith) was just as good in the second half (but) we didn't win. As you know, the philosophy DIDN'T change. We'd be free of the new coach running the old coach's offense. I'll make the same plea to Harbaugh that I made to his predecessor. Use it (the passing game) early and use it often. If Harbaugh learns this, we'll get much more than a statement win.
    Oct 6, 2011 at 7:15 PM
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    Response: Uh, thanks, Dan. That seems really helpful.
  • AJ Bolino
    Jeremy, If you're too timid or childish to talk football instead of slinging schoolyard insults, please...keep bashing me here. Hugs & Sloppy kisses, AJ
    Oct 6, 2011 at 7:14 PM
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  • AJ Bolino
    Terry: Like I said before, if you have something to say, comment on my article. I don't say that all is well and good. In fact, if you'd actually read the piece, you'd see that my conclusion is that they haven't arrived yet, but they are on their way and they have improved week over week. I never said that Jed was the best owner in sports and I never said that Alex is better than Aaron Rodgers. And now to your second point: I haven't written in almost a year because of family issues. Namely, my father has bone cancer and is currently undergoing chemotherapy. He's been sick since last October. Additionally, my mother had a stroke, and just had surgery to correct a blockage in her carotid artery. I have had a mountain of adversity to deal with...so please stop attempting to intone that I can't be bothered to write here. You'd be amazed how little football matters when two of the most important people in your life might die. Finally: If you have something to say, man up and post your comments under my article. I am tired of having my buddies tell me that people are talking sh*t about what I write without even giving me the courtesy or opportunity to respond.
    Oct 6, 2011 at 7:10 PM
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    Response: I'm very sorry to hear about your parents, AJ. Best wishes to you and your family. I'm sure I speak for all of us.
  • Terry B.
    It is clear what must be done. People on this site can be divided into two camps. "Fans" and "Homers" would be the most accurate description, but I think I'll go with "Fans" and "Dans" because of the nice rhyme. Fans are those who love the 49ers, but still think critically and want to read thoughtful, objective journalism. Dans are those who think everything is always right and good in 49er land, can't handle anything even remotely negative, and are only interested in reading columns that tell them exactly what they already think. Jeff's columns serve the fans well. But, for the Dans who can't handle Jeff, I suggest an alternative. Normally, I would just send the Dans to AJ to have all of their dreams fulfilled, but AJ only writes twice a year, so clearly that won't work. Instead, there can be a permanent column affixed to one of the home page's four corners that tells the Dans what they want to hear. Maybe AJ would accept the task of writing it. We can call it "AJ's Affirmation" or something. It can say: "All is right and good in 49er land, the arrow is pointing up, nothing the 49ers do is ever bad or wrong, our game plan was brilliant this week, Jed York is the best owner in sports, Alex Smith makes Aaron Rodgers look like chopped liver, all of Trent Baalke's player acquisitions are brilliant, Jim Harbaugh's game plans are never too conservative, none of us know more than anyone involved with the 49ers, all is part of the plan, zone blocking." Every week, instead of reading Jeff's columns, the Dans can just read AJ's affirmation and get everything they ever wanted.
    Oct 6, 2011 at 5:53 PM
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  • DC Pikes
    Mr. Platt you're right, Singletary did pull Davis out of a game & benched him but singletary did not know X's & O's & for someone who claimed in his book that he was a gifted coach? He's foolish, shortsighted & in denial about his ability to coach or lead. He lost the locker room because he lacked the skill, football intelligence & instincts to be a legitimate coach & leader!!! Imagine if Singletary had allowed Martz to stay and instruct him to develop & open up the offense.
    Oct 6, 2011 at 4:51 PM
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  • Shane
    OTM, i agree man i think insults are often petty (my bad), i'll be the first to admit i got sucked in this time cuz like i said it's just embarrassing to read these comments on the best writer i know of, IMO, just because each article doesn't start with "WE ARE THE BEST." I LOVE talkin 9er football, but the actual state of the team, you know. also, I like to bet a few games a week and trust me if i was always right i would be retired by now! (I know I'm not.) I agree i think most stats are overrated but i feel there are some that point to overall themes that differentiate winners and losers, and i like to back up my opinions with some kind of reasoning. GO 9ers!!
    Oct 6, 2011 at 4:49 PM
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  • Shane
    Chris, i don't understand. me saying what i said about AJ's piece (which I'll admit - if you wanna read only good stuff - was prolly the most "classy" way to say it) is disrespect, but 35 ppl can come on here and shit on Jeff, that's ok? of course it is cuz Jeff says "bad" things bout the 9ers so he isn't a real fan, right? that's crazy, we haven't been a winning team in 8 years, that's not being down that's being right. The other thing i don't understand is how me saying i don't know as much as harbaugh is an "out." I seriously don't know what the hell that means. It's not anything, it just means I'm obviously not as smart as Harbaugh, i watch the games on sunday from home just like you. I'm not in the NFL. that doesn't mean I'm never right and he is never wrong. You said obviously when the O opens up we look really good, sorry Chris i wish it was obvious but there a bunch of clowns that commented before you that don't seem to understand that, and it only plays to my point. if it was that obvious why did we have to be down 20 to throw the ball? As far as Sing goes, hey I'm happy that he is a great guy but frankly i don't care. i don't care if we get Tom Cable in here to punch someone in the face, let's just start winning games! Sing was an AWFUL coach, man! I appreciate that he put his heart n soul into it but so what. I LOVE the 9ers, if i was the coach i would put my heart and soul into it too but you don't seem so high on me. The difference is I prolly know more about Xs and Os and wld actually throw the ball! The guy couldn't manage games, had no creativity, cldnt manage the clock, etc and was basically a glorified motivational speaker, and it's not even his fault. he was promoted from LB coach! Even the guys, including VD, were quoted as being happy when he was gone, and have taken digs at him since. what does that tell you? VD would have been just fine without Sing, the guy is a freak. but this is what i mean about the rose glasses. we have been awful for 8 years, it's ok to say it. let's just accept it and move on to better days. lastly, you still did the same thing. you say this article is "demeaning" and "obnoxious." i disagree, i think it's right on the money and factual and uses stats and arguments to back it up. You simply used adjectives to put it down, that's what i mean when i say substance.
    Oct 6, 2011 at 4:27 PM
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  • Jacka
    Once again Kaplan proves how little he really knows about what goes on during the game. You attribute the Niners' 2nd half to "opening up" the offense and feel like you have been proven right that Harbaugh was purposely being conservative. The team didn't change ANYTHING about their gameplan from 1st to 2nd half. They just executed much better. The ran 2 TE's for about all but 3 plays in the 2nd half. This is the type of offense Harbaugh wants. A power-based attack that can both run and pass when needed. All that changed was the line actually fired off the ball, opened holes, and gave Alex time to throw. It's hilarious how Kaplan thinks that his point of view has been vindicated yet the team didn't change a thing. Get a clue Kaplan. Another useless and horrible article.
    Oct 6, 2011 at 3:52 PM
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    Response: I'm not talking about formations; I'm talking about philosophy. In the first half, we ran on our first two first-downs and on three of our first four (though, in fairness, by the end of the half the run and the pass were even). In the second half, excluding the last drive (where we were running out the clock), we passed on 9 of 14 first-downs, at one point passing on 5 in a row. (The passes also were more vertical than they'd been in the first half.) Of course the coaches and players are saying we didn't change the plan. But clearly we went from run-first to (aggressive) pass-first. And not coincidentally, we went from losing to winning. But thanks, Jacka, for showing me how little I know.
  • J. Leslie
    Mike Singletary sucks.
    Oct 6, 2011 at 12:50 PM
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  • Chris Platt
    Shane, yes, clearly you treated Bolino with lots of respect, you're right, my bad. Lol, of course you and Kaplan will never come out and claim that you know more about football than Harbaugh. That's your little out. But for any clear-thinking person that can read, the tone of Kaplan's articles is very demeaning and obnoxious and then you always come riding to his rescue telling the rest of us that we are blinded by our "rose colored glasses." I sit here and read him continue to bash Singletary in EVERY article he writes. Sing is a great man who tried to make it work and he completely changed VD into a pro bowl TE. Don't forget that. Unfortunately he didn't work out as a coach but the man is pure class and put his heart and soul into the organization for several years so I take offense when some snotty little sportswriter thinks it's funny or cute to lob potshots his direction. It's obvious Shane that when the offense opens up it looks really good, we aren't idiots, but the goal is to win and Harbaugh is doing a great job of managing Smith and this team so all I'm saying is let's chill out, watch it, and judge this thing at the end of the season.
    Oct 6, 2011 at 12:20 PM
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  • Scappman
    Jeff, This is THE BEST article you're ever written regarding the current state of the Niners. Everything was spot on. Any fans that don't get this, well maybe they should be rooting for Singletary, where is he now? Minnesota? (0-4.) hmmmm... Oh well, the point is with that O-line Harbs must go with a more Walsh-like West Coast Offense. Pass to set up the run then gash 'em with a dose of Gore AND Hunter! Use the middle, slants etc. Remember how they tore 'em up with Brent Jones? You hit all the right notes my friend, we just have to hope Harbs isn't as stubborn as his predecessors, "Dumb and Dumber"!
    Oct 6, 2011 at 11:22 AM
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    Response: Thanks, Scapp.
  • overthemiddle
    @shane - You claim you don't disrespect others and yet you call them names - pure playground stuff. Others also use the name-calling but you claim to have a college education and name-calling doesn't fit. You, like Jeff, articulate very well and like Jeff sometimes you're right and sometimes you're wrong. By name-calling, your credibility diminishes, even tho you may be right. And for all of you that keep bringing up stats - stats are good for conversations but mean little after the kickoff of a game. Just look at the Eagles game, their stats were better than the Niners but look who won. Jeff keep up the good work.
    Oct 6, 2011 at 8:57 AM
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  • John H.
    Jeff Kaplan: "Our passing attack looks unstoppable. This was a statement win. Since passing is what wins in the modern NFL, let's keep our foot on the gas the whole game and not risk having the game slip away." Mouth Breathing, Knuckle Dragging, Web Zone Reader: "How can you be so negative? It must suck to be you. How dare you act like you know more than Jim Harbaugh! Idiot!"
    Oct 6, 2011 at 8:19 AM
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    Response: :)
  • Jeremy
    Thanks for the helpful advice, AJ, but I think I'll ignore it and just keep bashing you here. Homer.
    Oct 6, 2011 at 8:07 AM
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  • Shane
    CHRIS: obviously that is the only comment of mine you have ever read. I always have treated others with respect, most of my offerings begin with "i respect everyone's opinion." Lately it has just been out of control on here tho. The problem with the haters on this "blog" or w/e, just like all haters, is a lack of substance. They just come on here and bitch and moan that I (i won't speak for jeff, he has his own platform) don't know as much as NFL coaches, what do i know, what does jeff know, the classic this isn't madden, you suck, way to be negative. nowhere in there is there any substance. That's why i enjoy Terry B, AJ. I may or may not agree but at least there are facts backing them up. example, on power ranks the best teams in the league are GB (5th in pass, 16 run, 28 D) Saints (2, 10, 18) Pats (1, 9, 31) Det (6, 29, 11)... BTW here are some of your top running teams: Oak, philly, Vikes, Bills, Jags, skins. wow, Juggernots!! welcome to '11, the NFL pretty much IS madden! Teams that win run spreads and pass first. What successful teams run and play D? (even the jets look like garbage, why? they can't pass the ball). My point is, i never said i knew more than Harbaugh, i never saw where it said that in Jeff's article. I don't know what it is to play QB in the NFL, no. However i do have eyes and a functional brain. My kid sister cld see what we were doing wasn't working. FYI, i actually played HS and some college football. I played with a guy who made it to the NFL and i'll be the FIRST person to tell you i'm not a star, I was an undersized WR/S and got hurt, but i love the game and know a little something about it. I KNOW that Harbaugh is a great coach with a great offense, my "suggestion" is USE IT! the stats back that up, up to and including our 2nd half in philly. So to all the Haters rather than just talking bout how the article "sucks" why don't you actually talk about what part is wrong and why? best thing Sing ever said... "Can't do it!"
    Oct 6, 2011 at 7:17 AM
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    Response: Shane, thank you.
  • David
    It's hard to be high on this team. Remember 2 years ago we beat Seattle, lost a well fought heartbreaker against the Vikings, came back the next week and creamed the Rams, just to get blown out by Atlanta. However then we had a terrible coaching staff, a team that played with little heart. I do believe this year is different, the coaching staff can game plan and adjust when needed, however I won't be convinced unless we end up 5-2 after playing Cleveland, then I will be convinced we're winning the division with conviction! That is only 1 win before the bye, and a should-be win over a subpar Browns team.
    Oct 6, 2011 at 3:02 AM
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  • Chris Platt
    Kaplan and Shane lend proof to the phrase, "birds of a feather..." mugOmug hit the nail on the head about Kaplan, and Kaplan's reply to Adrian further illustrates this. You have no NFL coaching experience but you act like you're Bill Walsh. You have no front office experience but you act like you're Michael Lombardi. You probably didn't play football past high school but you act like you know all the intricacies of playing quarterback in the NFL. You have no respect for anybody. And then you get guys like Shane who come on here and cheer you on. It's "embarrassing" to me when guys like Shane and Kaplan act like they know more about football than Jim Harbaugh. It's like you know more about Harbaugh's offense than Harbaugh does. Guess what...this ain't Madden. It's the NFL and if you think after FOUR games that we have seen all that Harbaugh's BRAND NEW offense is capable of then you clearly don't know football.
    Oct 5, 2011 at 10:41 PM
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  • AJ Bolino
    Shane, Don't be an ass. If you've got something to say, comment on my article.
    Oct 5, 2011 at 8:38 PM
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  • Shane
    I just can't take this stupidity anymore, how damn hard is it to realize we are in a passing league and that is what wins and we are the only team still trying to establish the run!!! Hello, it's 2011, you push the safties and backers away to open holes, it's really that simple. Sing didn't understand that and now he is a LBers coach. I think Harbaugh does but he didn't trust the players. What's sad Jeff, i'm glad you're optimistic (which since i have a college education and can read, it's clear from your article), but honestly my friend, i'm not. I think they go right back to conservative at home. I pray i'm wrong, we'll see. (btw how bout that call on Hunter!) Finally, i appreciate you being a realist. I've been a 9er fan since i was 7 and i love the inside honest scoop. if you want rainbows blown up your ass i suggest read Bolino.
    Oct 5, 2011 at 8:08 PM
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  • Shane
    WOW, this is embarrassing! I didn't realize how many 9er fans wore rose-colored glasses. Anyone who calls this article "negative" or doesn't see that it is 100% accurate is a moron, and there are a lot of jackasses that frequent this site. Everything in this article is right on the money. Jeff, i swear the reason i love your writing is it's just a reflection of everything i say on sundays (only a lot more insightful, and significantly less swearing). when we went down 20-3 at the half my exact words were "well good news is we have no choice but to air it out now, we finally get to see what this O can do." the Morgan TD, "wow is that john taylor out there (kidding of course)." at the end of the game, "happy, but i've seen this smith before, second half of houston." those are all legit points, anyone who says it's "the plan" to get down 20-3 to start throwing the ball is an a-hole. no brains. NO team says that. i don't see how people miss that we had to be down 20 just to start throwing. This is just an article begging to continue, so we can have continued success!!
    Oct 5, 2011 at 7:59 PM
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  • AJ Bolino
    Terry B and Alden: If you've got something to say to me, comment on my article. Otherwise, save it.
    Oct 5, 2011 at 7:57 PM
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  • AJ Bolino
    Jeremy: Don't be a douche. Don't put words in my mouth. If you've got something to say to me, comment on my article. Otherwise, save it.
    Oct 5, 2011 at 7:54 PM
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  • dea49
    "By: Kevin Date: Tuesday, October 4, 2011 at 10:02:13 Comment: I only partially agree. You don't like the "conservative" playcalling but that's exactly the reason why we're not tied with the Cardinals and Seahawks." It's probably the reason we're not 4-0 too! In the past when we have HAD to air it out, Smith has done quite well but when you have to play catchup it's easier to collapse with turnovers and mistakes.
    Oct 5, 2011 at 7:51 PM
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  • M. Horner
    Couldn't agree more, Jeremy. I don't know why we don't just change the name of this site to 49ersHomerZone.com. Then we can all just come here every week and pretend we're the Packers.
    Oct 5, 2011 at 6:32 PM
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  • Jeremy
    To all you idiots who keep complaining that Jeff doesn't know as much about football as Jim Harbaugh: what sportswriter does? If that's your criteria, you might as well just quit reading sports journalism. And, since this is your criteria going in, why do you read Jeff's columns in the first place? I'll bet you wouldn't be questioning his knowledge of football if he were a homer like AJ Bolino. Karlmeezy32: I couldn't disagree more with your assessments of the writers on this site. Jeff is the only one worth reading. Sydney's sentences are indecipherable, and AJ just writes the same thing every week: the sun is always shining, every thing is looking up, the line just needs a few more weeks, Mike Singletary is a good coach (oh wait...). At least here you'll get an honest, objective opinion. Looking at the number of comments the writers get, I know I'm right about who's worth reading.
    Oct 5, 2011 at 6:04 PM
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  • Lucky Phil
    "On the whole the offense remained in dire need of an enema". LOL. Great line Jeff. Looks like they got the $hit out of their system on sunday. Went to the gym sunday morning to force myself to stay away from the game. Got home at half-time and went straight to my crack cocaine (Niners). And God Damn they got me again. I'm hooked. Anyway, don't get down Niner fans, Jeff has a funny way of throwing ice water on your genitals but I can tell he is a big-time fan. And yes he enjoyed that win just as much as all of us. Remember, Coach doesn't like people blowing bubbles up his a$$. So Jeff, keep kicking your shoes at his crotch. (And to be honest this wasn't a very negative article) "The passing game is what wins", this is what this article was about. Just like every article Jeff has written this season.
    Oct 5, 2011 at 6:01 PM
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    Response: And LAST season, and the season before.... But I have a feeling that this week will be the week. We're gonna come out throwing, like the real contenders do, and we're gonna beat Tampa Bay. How's THAT for positive?!
  • Adrian
    This article stinks. But it is a great way to incite readers... props if that was your goal.
    Oct 5, 2011 at 4:00 PM
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    Response: You know what, fine. Let's just revert to our run-first offense. Maybe we can put ourselves in a 20-point hole EVERY week. I'm sorry, everyone, for being so "negative" as to assert that we should stick with the aggressive passing-game that worked so well in the second half. It's unbelievable around here. Truly unbelievable.
  • 5e3deluxe
    ahhhh: So you're saying you don't understand complicated sentences or big words? How many kids did you beat up in school because they were smarter than you and used "big words"? Stupid is never good.
    Oct 5, 2011 at 2:56 PM
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  • David Whitten
    Hey Jim Harbaugh, Jeff Kaplan, aka: Captain Comeback, former first round draft pick, former savior of USD and Stanford football, BCS Bowl-winning coach says, "use the passing game" and all our problems are behind us! This stuff is laughable man!!
    Oct 5, 2011 at 1:50 PM
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  • OnYouLikeGlue
    If you think they didn't try passing the ball consistently until the 2nd half then you would be mistaken. In fact the first drive of the game stalled because the team abandoned the run which had been successful for three incomplete passes that led to the missed field goal. I don't disagree that passing to open up the run is the more successful strategy, but I think they attempted to do that in the first half as well, but just failed to execute. Some of it was bad protection, some inaccurate throws, and some dropped passes (at least 3). But the assumption that the 2nd half was schematically different from the 1st half is just false. They didn't spread things out with 4 WRs, they maintained their 2WR, 2TE packages.
    Oct 5, 2011 at 12:02 PM
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  • ahhhh
    mug0mug exactly. too many people, football fans and not, think they're the smartest person in the world/they know everything cause they came up with some complicated sentences or threw in some big words or made everyone think about what they said. whoop de f***ing doo, you made a point, that must be quite an accomplishment for you cause you think everything you say is correct just cause you said it.
    Oct 5, 2011 at 11:30 AM
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  • karlmeezy32
    Agree with mug0mug - your articles could be better if you weren't so condescending and smug. Since you don't really know what you're talking about, the attitude makes your articles almost unreadable. Take a look at AJ's article and take note on how to write a proper article. JK = by far the worst writer on this site.
    Oct 5, 2011 at 10:55 AM
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  • Rabbit
    Jeff, you just may be the Rush Limbaugh of the 49er experience. And like that other Rush, the value of your contributions is mostly questionable. I do not appreciate a homer's hoorah cheerleading, whatever happens, approach either. Probably why I quit reading what you write. This read was out of curiosity. The last game was good fun and they can take a lot of good (including the ropes course in Youngstown) forward with them. There was much to give credit for, notably improved play from the OL. And Philly played them straight up and less than 8 in the box. Like Bill Walsh's first couple of years (2 W - 14 L) the coaches are learning the players' abilities, coaching to what they have and teaching. Hoorah! And the team is growing.
    Oct 5, 2011 at 9:26 AM
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  • oldniner
    OK, Jeff. I'll try one last time. I apologize for the name calling, my negativity and everything else. But I think I do have your attention. I'm 67 and have been a 49er nutcase since 1955 when I listened to the games on radio in Sacramento. No, I never played the game (except as the very bad last guy chosen on the neighborhood sandlot). I was on the summer custodial crew at St. Mary's College in Moraga 1964-66 for the Niners' Summer Camps. We cleaned their rooms and made their beds (How's THAT for jock sniffing?:), we could stand on the sidelines with the players and watch the practices. John Brodie and Dave Wilcox wandering the halls together. Kermit Alexander daring us to look at him (We stayed at least 10 feet away at all times). Watching them sneak the honeys into their rooms (but we were never jealous:). So on to 1981 and the Miracle that Bill Walsh wrought. It seemingly came out of nowhere, Jeff, but of course it didn't...it came out of the West Coast Offense and it kept coming for 22 years.......until they fired Mariucci, we lost Bobb McKittrick and the West Coast Offense, and it all turned to runny shit. But I knew it could happen again.
    Oct 5, 2011 at 7:35 AM
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  • mug0mug
    Your articles are incredibly annoying. The tone you use as you try to sound like you have a superior understanding of the game is obnoxious, especially because your actual understanding of the game is clearly limited. I've experienced many people like yourself who try to explain their way into being more critical through carefully crafted prose, if only to have more impact when saying something positive. It'll probably work on some, but it's terribly obnoxious to those who know better.
    Oct 5, 2011 at 3:17 AM
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