Straight out of the Rabbit’s Hole - 20 questions.

Diego Del Barco
Nov 11, 2011 at 10:43 AM

First of all I want to thank everyone who participated in this. When I first came up with the idea I was afraid I might not even get 20 questions in the first place and look foolish. This is coming one day later than I had hoped for so I apologize for the delay, but here it goes:

1) By Jon - Do you think we can compete with the top tier NFL teams, such as the Packers, Saints, Ravens, Steelers, Etc? Speaking of draft which position do we go after?

--> I liked your question because you weren't asking me if I think we can beat those opponents, clearly some of the best teams in the NFL today, answering such question would be really difficult either way. Now, can we compete? I have no doubts whatsoever that we can, and really as a fan in the situation this 49ers came into this season, that is all you could ever ask for, that your team, the team nobody around the league expected much out of at the beginning of the season, could compete with the likes of the Packers, Saints, Ravens, Steelers, etc. As long as you're able to compete against top teams, a positive outcome is never out of the question.

Regarding the draft, I believe in the Best Player Available approach, but I think cornerback and safety should be addressed early on, and I really like the WR class (Kendall Wright or Mahamed Sanu are guys I would look at in Day 2). I do not think we will be drafting a QB in the upcoming draft.

2) By Dominik - With the exception of players such as Gore or Bowman, who very often are measured by their stats, which Niner do you think as of now deserves a spot on the NFC Pro Bowl roster not because of his stats, but simply because of the way he has played without regards to stats (e.g. Mike Iupati!?)?

--> Iupati is definitely someone to discuss when answering this question, but I have someone else in mind: Ray McDonald. There isn't another Justin Smith in this league, but McDonald comes real close - he lives in opponents' backfields, whether it's a run or pass play, he will not be blocked, even if he's sometimes double teamed. If you have ever heard the following: "QB pressures are just as good as a sack", McDonald's play will clearly illustrate this point. Even with his high level of play this season, I doubt he would be a starter in the Pro Bowl, but deserving of a spot in the roster? Absolutely.

3) By Mike - I was wondering about the rotations on the D-line, are we deep enough to rotate behind our starters??? Im always looking to see the snap count on the backups and Dobbs never gets in if at all!!. Im getting the feeling Vic doesnt have much trust in him. hope Im wrong but thats what I see.

--> In my honest opinion: no, we are not deep enough to rotate behind our starters, especially when you consider the level at which Smith and McDonald are playing. Isaac Sopoaga has been playing really well at the nose tackle position. However, when you start looking at the guys behind the starters, only Ricky Jean-Francois has been able to perform well, and he has done a much better job at nose tackle while Sopoaga was injured than at defensive end when he had to fill for McDonald last week. I love the Demarcus Dobbs story as much as anyone, but like many players who excel in preseason, it doesn't necessarily mean he's ready to be a regular contributor in crunch time. I mean it's either that or you really have to question the decision making of this coaching staff, and you're not about to start that argument, are you?

4) By napaniner29 - In your opinion how does our defense match up against Aaron Rodgers and the vaunted Packers aerial assault and do you think our defense can perform at this level at Lambeau in January?

--> Look, I usually use the word "arguably" when making statements like this, but I'm just going to say it: Aaron Rodgers is THE best quarterback in this league. As good as the 49ers defense has been so far, they haven't faced a QB anywhere near as good as Rodgers - matter of fact, they really haven't faced a lot of good quarterbacks this season, look at this list: Tarvaris Jackson, Tony Romo, Andy Dalton, Michael Vick, Josh Freeman, Matthew Stafford, Colt McCoy, and John Beck ... not exacly a gauntlet of QB's. Jackson, Freeman, McCoy, and Beck I don't need to say anything about, we faced the good Romo, and that's part of the reason why we are not undefeated. Dalton is the runner up ROY, but he is a better QB now than he was against us in week 3. Stafford is really good, but can look average when you take away Megatron the way we did. Vick is the only elite QB we have faced so far, and go back and look at the box score: he put up almost 500 total yards on offense, and we don't win that game unless a rookie kicker misses a couple of field goals.

As much as our secondary has improved, it's still probably the weakest link of our defense, and the best QB in the league would definitely be able to exploit that. So no, it is not a good matchup, and there are two stadiums I wouldn't want to be playing at come playoff time: Lambeau and the Superdome. It's a tough task, but if the 49ers are able to get the #1 seed in the NFC they would be doing themselves a HUGE favor.

5) By Jeromy - Are the Niners super bowl contenders this year?

--> Man you guys are really putting me on the spot. If I had to bet, I wouldn't bet on them making it to the Super Bowl. I am a firm believer than in order to make that kind of run in the playoffs you need to have players with post-season experience - off the top of my head I can only think of TWO players on our roster with said experience: Jonathan Goodwin, and David Akers. I don't think we will be one-and-out, but I find it hard to believe that we will be on the field in Indianapolis next February 5.

Then again, I would be lying if I told you I expected us to be 7-1 at this point in the season, so I wouldn't put the 49ers past exceeding my expectations.

6) By Edd - Do you believe the 49ers are a QB shy from being an "elite" team?

--> No, the 49ers have a nice building block, but they are more than a QB shy from being an "elite" team. The secondary still needs an upgrade, and depth is an often forgotten aspect of elite teams. Furthermore, and I know many of you don't want to read this, I don't know if Alex Smith has reached his full potential, and with the season he is having up to now, aren't you just a teeny-tiny bit curious?

7) By fowteenanas - Is this 49ers defense good enough to carry the team through the playoffs? (a la 2000 Ravens or 2002 Buccaneers)

--> How about this? I think this 49ers defense is just good enough to carry the team through the playoffs, but I wouldn't say they are as good as the 2000 Ravens or 2002 Buccaneers defenses. I don't know if you have noticed, but yours truly doesn't think this secondary is as good as the rest of the defense, and both those defenses you referred to had pretty good secondaries. The 49ers secondary has been playing really well, but in the playoffs, against the best QB's in the game, I can't tell you that they will pull their weight. I hope I'm wrong.

8) By trantor - Due to an amazingly weak schedule, the 49ers are highly likely to go, at minimum,12-4 this year. But they could just as easily be a 7-9, 8-8, or 9-6 equivalent team, and you would not be able to tell the difference (in W-L column) with this schedule. There are three challenging games left in the schedule, Giants, Ravens, & Steelers. Do you agree the 49ers need to win at least two of three of these to be considered a NFC championship caliber team in the postseason?

--> I agree. Yet even if they only win one of those three games, as long as they are competitive in all three match-ups and have a chance to win them towards the end of the game, I would consider that a plus as well. A win in those games would obviously mean a lot more though. However, as bad as the rest of the teams in our division have been so far, do not underestimate the challenge that divisional games present, especially the ones on the road.

9) By Rizz - Will the 49ers be more respected with a win against the NY Giants?

--> This is a HUGE game for many reasons: the Giants look to be the class of the NFC East, a division which, although disappointing, certainly has a surplus of talent in three out of four teams. The Giants themselves are one of them, and they have a Super Bowl MVP QB leading their charge, as well as one of the scariest pass-rushing units in the NFL today. Earning a win on Sunday against them would definitely certify the respect the 49ers currently have around the league, but most importantly: the winner of this game will have an edge in earning at least a bye week in the playoffs, and that has tremendous value.

10) By Bobby Murillo - With the way the offense has played throughout the first half of the season do you see the offensive key components gel and start making more explosive plays?(besides Frank Gore)

--> Absolutely, there is no doubt in my mind this team continues to get better as each week goes by, therefore we have not seen their full arsenal, especially in the offensive passing game. The biggest key is health: Michael Crabtree has missed some time and is just now starting to get into true form, Braylon Edwards is just coming back from injury and may still not be 100%, and Joshua Morgan looked to be a key part of the passing game before going on IR. Kyle Williams seems to be coming along, Tedd Ginn Jr. is working hard, and the Vernon Davis - Delanie Walker combo has already proven to be a nightmare for opposing defenses. Stay tuned.

11) By Harmeet - The Niners offense has been really conservative. And really boring to watch most of the this year. Why havent we seen more down field deep passes and more braylon edwards tailored plays to use him to his best ability?

--> Oh c'mon now, you cannot call this offense "really boring to watch" most of this year - did you just become a fan this season? Because I think you really need to go back and look at the 49ers offense the previous few seasons, and you will agree with me that this season's offense is actually pretty entertaining to watch. Give Edwards some time to get back to form and become a full part of this passing game, believe me the plays tailored for him are there, but I don't think this coaching staff will be forcing anything on the field if they don't feel they're ready for it.

12) By james - I've heard a lot about how Aldon, Chris and Bruce are doing a well and improving, but how are the other rookies coming along?

--> well let's not forget about Kendall Hunter now, he's been everything I hope he would be in his rookie season and more. I really believe the best thing that can happen to Colin Kaepernick is to sit and watch/analyze/study how to be a pro QB while giving 100% each day in practice. Daniel Kilgore and Mike Person I believe have been inactive every game this season and the coaches really like them both, while Colin Jones has been on and off the roster and practice squad and only sees action on special teams. Curtis Holcomb is currently on IR with a leg injury. That's it for the rookies we drafted and kept on the team.

Our undrafted free agents (UFA) Scott Tolzien, Ian Williams, and Dubbs have either been inactive on game days or seen very limited action, and we have six other UFA's in the practice squad: Chase Beeler, C; Derek Hall, T'; Joe Hastings, WR; Cory Nelms, CB; Konrad Reuland, TE; and Monte Simmons, LB. I get the feeling the any of the Stanford graduates (Beeler, Hall, and Reuland) could get a call to the big roster if a player is needed.

13) By Oldschool9erfan - Kendall Hunter is an explosive back and he has shown some great things when he is on the field. Why isn't he getting more playing time. Why do the niners continue to pound Gore like they do and not give him more rest. If we lose Gore completely to injury we will be hurting in the playoffs.

--> I know it seems crazy, but I'm pretty sure Frank Gore has been rested more this season than any other season in his NFL career since he became a starter. Gore is a difficult guy to get off the field because he is such a complete back (running, catching, blocking) and he is the type of player that needs to get in rhythm, so coming off the field too much isn't necessarily recommended. However, if you watched the game last Sunday, you heard the commentary about Gore actually coming off the field more this season than he usually has, and Hunter's performance is a big reason for that. However, as good as Hunter has proved he can be, you are not going to see big decrease in playing time for Gore, not when his performance is putting him in some conversations for MVP.

14) By Amid Malhotra - Let's say you are the GM... If alex keeps this consistent level of play for the rest of the season, would you resign him in the offseason? and if you do, for how long?

--> It's always fun when you're asked to be the GM ... except when you are asked about Alex Smith. First of all, I have to discuss this with the coaching staff, there are many factors that play into this: Kaepernick was drafted with the 36th overall pick and there are expectations for him to be the QB of the future - how far along is he in his development? Is he ready to be an NFL starter? Is the immediate upside good enough to not have a significant drop off in the team's performance? Because obviously Alex Smith has been doing very well this season. How about Alex himself? Is he our best chance to win right now? Can he be even better than he's been this season?

See, if you had asked me this at the beginning of the season I might have been more inclined to let him walk and see what Kaepernick has, mostly because I didn't expect this success so soon, but obviously this team is ready to compete now, and it needs the best possible situation at QB. So if my coaching staff doesn't believe the players behind Alex in the depth chart are ready to take over, there aren't any free agents or rookies that we would prefer at the position, and obviously this coaching staff thinks a lot of #11, then yes, I resign him in the offseason: something along the lines of 3 years, $21 million, with about $5 million guaranteed, front-loaded contract.

15) By fanster - What are the chances we see a Niner game in the near future where they open the offense up? Maybe to quiet the critics in regards to the passing game?

--> The chances they open the offense up are pretty good, the chances they do it to quiet critics is pretty low. Jim Harbaugh does not care what anyone thinks of him, he is going to do it his way. This is what I think: I think this team can open up the passing game, you've seen flashes of it here and there. Alex Smith has shown that when given the opportunity to open up the passing game he can be pretty effective. I think Harbaugh keeps it as his secret weapon, he knows it's there, the players know it's there, they all believe in it, and are ready for it whenever they decide to bring it out - but they are 7-1, and not by a fluke, you don't change your strategy significantly when you're having this type of success, but you do continue to prepare yourself for when that moment comes, because it will come, and I really think the Niners will be ready for it. Don't get caught up on stats and flashes, wins are all that matters, and the team's performance has yet to reach its peak.

16) By Juan - Do you think it would be more beneficial for the team to clinch the NFC West before thanksgiving or for them to clinch it afterwards? I personally think it might be better to clinch it afterwards so they don't become content just before their Thanksgiving game. What do you think??

--> many fans concerned about a possible letdown if we clinch a playoff spot early: #1 - Harbaugh isn't the kind of coach to let that happen, and I'm sure he's aware of the possibility for the scenario you just created. Remember that Frederick P. Soft has been banned from the 49ers facilities. #2 - As I stated earlier I think this team, and any team for that matter, would fight to get the #1 seed in the playoffs as long as it is within reach, and right now the 49ers are only one game away from being in that position. Even if they clinch the NFC West before thanksgiving, and their chances are pretty good, they still have to continue to fight for the #2 seed at worst, and will want to get that Home Field Advantage throughout the playoffs, so I don't see the team's performance dropping after they clinch the NFC West, regardless of who is on their schedule.

17) By Robert W - Do you think the 49ers wil be able to resign Dashon Goldson? I believe he is one of the most talented Free Safeties in the league. I mean really what more would they want out of a safety he is fast, athletic, hits hard, and can cover. Plus the talent level of the guys that are behind him is a significant drop off.

--> Goldson scares me, and I'm not talking about his hits. Goldson this season has been everything I expected of him once he became the starter in 2009, but he was far from that the last couple of seasons. He has been the best safety for the 49ers this season and his level of play sure seems to warrant a new contract. However, I can't help but think that his current performance is mostly inspired by the huge chip he has on his shoulder from this off-season, when he was barely pursued in free agency. Once he gets his money, will this level of play continue, or will he revert to the previous hit-or-miss safety? I'm not sure.

18) By maui9er - Aloha Diego, Saw my first 49er game at Keasar, as a tiny tot, had a dog named Brodie as a young boy, and drove around to all the Waikiki hotels hunting for San Fransico news papers during the 80-81 season. Here's my question: It's been exactly 30 years, and I've been feeling Deja Fu since Harbaugh's hire in January. Enjoyed every coaching hire, suffered thru the lockout, thrilled with the fast fury of Free Agency, and saw every step of growth and development from Pre-Season to the Mid-Point of the season. What are your thoughts on the Deja Fu I've been enjoying all year?

--> Thank you for sharing your experience. Most of you don't know this about me, but I didn't start watching football since I moved to the United States in 2001. I've been hooked on it ever since. However, I did not get to experience this team's success in the 80's the way you and many others did. While I have definitely read up on 49ers history and I'm well aware of the period you are referring to, I don't know if I can compare both situations, although I can certainly see the similarities. I can't tell you that I think we're going to win four Super Bowls this decade, but I can tell you that I think this team will be back as contenders with this coaching staff. You wouldn't happen to have a dog named Alex, would ya?

19) By Patrick - If we lock up the payoffs (and/or the #2 seed) should we get Colin Kaepernick substantial playing time? Or do we keep Alex in all the time to continue to develop the offense around him to get ready for the postseason. For that matter should we try and get him in a few plays a game right now to mix things up and to get some tape on him for evaluation purposes?

--> I understand the curiosity when it comes to Kaepernick, I really do, but I don't think he should see substantial playing time this season. Alex Smith isn't Peyton Manning, or Tom Brady, or Drew Brees, or Rodgers, he doesn't have this offense on lock and can just afford to sit on the sidelines and expect to be ready come playoffs time. He needs all the playing time he can get, he needs to get to the point where he is 100% on the same page with every other player on offense, and he is not going to achieve that by being on the sidelines while Kaepernick is evaluated. I can't see the 49ers doing this, Harbaugh is as cocky as he is smart, and I'm sure he understands what Alex needs in order for the team to succeed.

20) By Janitor - Is your name Dog the Bounty Hunter in spanish?

--> That is a rumor I cannot confirm nor deny.


Thank you very much to everyone for your questions, we will definitely be doing this again in the future. Please follow both me Diego Del Barco and 49erswebzone on twitter, and I'll see you next time.
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.


  • Bill
    The 49ers are hosting the NFC Championship Game in January. This isn't a question. It's a statement of fact. There's no way that Green Bay goes undefeated down the stretch. The 49ers will.
    Nov 15, 2011 at 11:08 AM
  • AJ Bolino
    Alex just won a game without Frank...and crickets from Terry B. Como se dices callate wey in English? Happy Sunday!!!
    Nov 13, 2011 at 4:58 PM
  • AJ Bolino
    Good stuff, amigo. Great idea, too! I'm pretty jacked for today...I'm really curious to see what we can get done against Big Blue today. I think that we'll pound it...the Giants are worse against the run than almost every team we've played thus far. I'm really curious to see how Alex performs against this pass will go a long way toward telling how far this team has really come. Keep up the good work, bro!!!!!!!!!
    Nov 13, 2011 at 5:55 AM
    Response: thank you amigo, I'm pretty curious about this one too, looking forward to it
  • Harmeet
    no ive been watching the Ninerz since 93 haha. but by boring offense i mean its not exciting like other teams. you'll see one or two plays a quarter tht are just amazing and then the rest is like clock management, short passes.
    Nov 11, 2011 at 11:38 PM
    Response: I understand, but be happy for what you do have (7-1, successful system, good outlook for the future) and the rest of that you're looking for will be here before you know it. Patience, it's a lost art
  • Dan B.
    1) The niners have holes.....EVERY TEAM has holes. In regards to your answer in question one. WIth the exception of the Steelers we have the a better all around team. We have a WAY better D than the Saints and Packers(Defense wins championships) We have a better offense than the ravens and our D is on par and the Steelers have a better O and awesome D. Our special teams is better than everyones! We are #2 in the NFL for a reason. QB,s avg a 78 psr rating against us. Thats 6th best in the league. We dont just compete we would win(hopefully :-) Also...drafting best player available is completely asinine. Every great team(including ours) drafts for need for a damn good reason. You dont know WHO the best player available is!! Is he Cam Newton or Jamarcus Russell. So many busts come to mind that I cant believe ANY team would draft "the best player available" draft for need. Always!
    Nov 11, 2011 at 11:35 AM
    Response: So I say we can compete, you say we can "hopefully" win .... Hmmm, we're not that far apart, are we? And while I do favor the BPA approach, I also listed some of the positions I think we need to address. Obviously I'm not going to draft a MLB with my first round pick regardless of whether Burfict is waiting in the Green Room and I hold the 32nd pick. It's BPA at a position of need, maybe I should have made that more clear.

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