Kyle Williams' Giant Mistakes: This Too Shall Pass

Paul WardContributor IIIJanuary 23, 2012

Agony night at the 'stick
Agony night at the 'stickEzra Shaw/Getty Images

“Think of Andres Escobar,” says the man down at the end of the bar looking up at the screen showing Kyle Williams’ fumble over and over. “He’s lucky this isn’t Columbia.” 

Escobar was “The Gentleman of Football”, who was murdered in Medellin — although never proven — because he scored an "own-goal" in the 1994 FIFA World Cup.  

Actually, when I heard that my first thought was Jordan Williamson, the freshman kicker at Stanford who had such a bad Fiesta Bowl a couple of weeks ago. You wonder how he'll ever get that out of his head. How much therapy is that going to take? 

And there are so many other examples. But sure this one with Kyle Williams hurts. Losing is one thing, but not like that.  

And after all that had happened. Here the 49ers were still in a position to get it done. After five wasted drives — whether bad play calls or Alex redux — they seemed finally ready to prevail. Coming off P-Willie’s sack you thought, "okay, now…."

Actually, Williams’ first mistake was worse than the second. What the hell was he doing anywhere near that ball if he wasn’t going to catch it out of the air? And in the second miscue, how does he not carry the ball securely from the moment he has it, rather than starting off like a man offering a loaf of bread during a food riot?

But this is not Columbia, so have another shot of Herradura and forget it. Think how bad he feels. 

Although as someone next to me said, “Think how bad he feels? Think how bad Gore and some of the older players feel.” 

You come so far and then somebody has a bad game. They’re not careful. They’re not smart. They don’t play like a pro. 

So what do you do with Kyle Williams? 

Before you answer that, remember how he got to the 49ers. Here’s how he’s described on the Arizona State University website. This is what got him to this level: 

"Exciting and explosive wide receiver over his four-year career at ASU...was an extraordinary all-purpose weapon and a potentially thrilling special teams return threat for the Sun Devils...played in 41 games, making 15 starts, in his career...set career highs for receptions, receiving yards and touchdowns as a senior...totaled 109 receptions for1, 626yards (14.9 avg.) and 18 touchdowns, 74 punt returns for 768 yards (10.4 avg.) and 31 kickoff returns for 709 yards (22.9 avg.) in his of the most dynamic high school athletes in the country as a senior at Scottsdale's Chaparral High School, earning Arizona State Player of the Year Honors by The Arizona Republic."

At the 49ers in his second season, he played in 13 games (including New Orleans), was thrown at 31 times and caught 22 balls, good for 253 yards and a 71 percent completion percentage. He averaged 11.5 yards a catch, had three touchdowns and two drops. 

Pro Football Focus gives him an overall rating — before the Giants' debacle — that puts him behind Crabtree, Morgan and Hastings, and ahead of Ginn, Swain and Braylon Edwards. In sum, he gets a barely positive overall rating as a receiver; a slight negative rating overall for kickoff returns. 

This is the problem he holds both promise and tremendous uncertainty.  Which way will he go?  After his first muff, on the ensuing kickoff he ran a ball back almost to midfield. He was a man on a mission.  For a moment you had to forgive him.  For a moment you saw the promise.  

But then what.  And what really is the potential here?  And how will he respond to this?

As a 49er fan you say to yourself, keep him unless you find somebody better. You regard him like somebody in the fantasy league. You keep him on a flyer, hoping he gets smarter, surer.

As a team member you keep him no matter what. You realize it’s a game. You lament, you howl at the night, you let it go. Next week you go on vacation. You get away for a while. You think about other things.