January 24th, 1982…January 20th, 1985… January 22nd, 1989… January 28th, 1990… Jan 29th, 1995...
What is so significant about these dates? Let me give you a hint: Joe Montana, Roger Craig, Dwight Clark, John Taylor, Ronnie Lott, Charles Haley, Merton Hanks, Steve Young, Jerry Rice, Brent Jones, Ricky Watters, Tom Rathman, Bryant Young, Dana Stubbafield… You still don’t get it?
These are the dates that immortalized the San Francisco 49ers. These are the dates that made average players, good players; good players, all-stars; and all-stars, Hall of Famers. On these days, the San Francisco 49ers became champions.
Don’t you miss those days? I know I do…
I also know that since 2002, the 49ers have been a miserable organization- equivalent to the Detroit Lions.
What has happened? Why have we become irrelevant?
A soft/weak offensive line; injuries; an inconsistent, mediocre defense; a change in regime and most importantly, Fake leaders: Puppet Head Coaches! Dennis Erickson had a great knowledge for the game, but never made a successful transition from College, to the NFL. On the other hand, Mike Nolan, son of former 49ers Head Coach Dick Nolan, was brought in to bring toughness, and leadership.
There was only one problem… he didn’t have any power! His decisions were always “under the microscope”. Additionally, his “shelf-life” was based on QB Alex Smith’s progress; unfortunately, injuries and a lack of experience postponed QB Alex Smith’s & Head Coach Mike Nolan’s coaching career. What’s next?...
Hold on one second… there’s someone at the door.
“Mike Singletary!!!...The Legend!!!”
Okay, yes… I know that was extremely corny. But people, recognize what this man is bringing to this organization.
Coach Singletary brings credibility to the staff and demands respect- respect for the organization, the fans, the NFL, the coaching staff, their opponents, their teammates, and most importantly, themselves. What's also special about Coach is that he is a Hall of Fame player; he knows what it takes to win and knows what it takes to have a successful career.
Our 49ers are filled with young stars that sometimes need a drill sergeant, but at the same time, they will need guidance- Singletary is a players’ coach who brings all of that to the table. We had great leaders (Dick Nolan, Bill Walsh, George Seifert), with credibility that led us in the past; Singletary can be the same kind of leader!
It starts from there folks- with the boss/chief/conductor. He sets the tone, the beat, the rhythm, and the harmony; it’s on the players to “sing” the melody.
Coach Singletary, himself, makes this 49ers team relevant this year- 2009, and in the future.
Unfortunately, we do not have fifty-three Mike Singletary’s running around. That wouldn’t be fair…
We do have a bunch of special players…
The question is: Will these players “melody” sound like “Rosanne”, singing the National Anthem? Or, will they sound like Whitney Houston (singing the National Anthem at the Super Bowl)? After years of re-building, and how we finished the 2008 season… I can see the light at the end of the tunnel!
The 2009 San Francisco 49ers are led by Running Back Frank Gore, and Middle Linebacker Patrick Willis. Both of these players are the “heartbeat” of their respective side of the ball.
You’re probably saying, “We already knew that… Duh! Is that it?”’
Your right! For the past few years, those two have been the only bright side; the only joy for the 49ers. This year is different…
Our defense is young and nasty; topped with some “veteran sprinkles”.
The leader: Patrick Willis. He is a special player; we know that. What the average fan doesn’t know is how talented this defense really is. What is key to the success of this defense are the linebackers: Patrick Willis, Takeo Spikes, Manny Lawson, and Parys Haralson.
In our 3-4 defensive schemes, it is imperative that Parys & Manny live up to Coach Singletary’s expectations, and reach/exceed their potential. They are both special players, with rare tools: size, intelligence, speed & power. If they can “ferry” these tools to Sunday, the 49ers defense will carry this team to the top of the NFC West. No pressure, right?
Additionally, since the 49ers chose not to add any pass rushers via Free Agency, former 1st round pick Kentwan Balmer must take advantage of this promising opportunity; he is the pre-season starting defensive end, alongside veteran Pro-Bowler, Justin Smith.
This team must… and I reiterate MUST, get to the QB! Even if you bring back Ronnie Lott, Merton Hanks, Deion Sanders, Eric Davis, and Tim McDonald; without a pass rush, this team will be eaten alive on a weekly basis- 2008, all over again.
Unfortunately, we do not have that Pro Bowl secondary. We do have a bunch of athletic and talented football players; not “prima donnas.” It is vital to have a No. 1, lockdown cornerback; we have that in Nate Clements.
Regrettably, veteran CB Walt Harris tore his ACL in pre-season practice last week. For two days, we had a huge hole in our secondary. On that third day following the injury, the 49ers welcomed in former Pro Bowler, Dre’ Bly.
Walt’s injury was terrible, but could this be a “blessing in disguise?” Walt Harris has a lot of heart, and great instincts, yes. But, his speed, and man to man cover skills were digressing- his age had caught up to him and he was getting beat time after time during the 2008 season. With this signing, our secondary just became a lot better.
Look, football games aren’t played on paper. This defense has to translate their great skills from the scout sheet, to the field. Ultimately, if this team doesn’t put pressure on the QB, and don’t capitalize on opportunities, this team will finish with the same record as last year. We can’t have that this year. This team needs to ascend, not regress.
It sounds as if I am putting the entire 2009 season on the shoulders of the defense. Of course the offense has to make plays, but as we all know, defense wins championships. Don’t get it twisted, though… this 49ers offense must play well, in order to win.
As I said earlier, Frank Gore is the leader of the offense. He is the focal point, and the player who will receive most of the touches (rushing/receiving). Even though he has put up some respectable numbers (through injury-riddled seasons) since his rookie year, what has plagued his personal growth, and the 49ers offensive growth has been the lack of balance- passing vs. rushing.
Defense’s, for three years, has stacked the “box”- bringing defensive backs up to the line of scrimmage, in order to stop Frank. Why, you ask? Or how can that be a successful strategy? Because the 49ers haven’t had a productive passing game since 2002- when we had Jeff Garcia, running the offense.
Since 2003 Tim Rattay, Ken Dorsey, Trent Dilfer, Alex Smith, J.T. O’Sullivan, and Shaun Hill have all attempted to lead this 49ers to a championship.
We all thought that Alex Smith was going to be the “man” when we drafted him with the 1st pick of the 2005 NFL Draft. Unfortunately, his age entering the league (19), change of coaches/coordinators, and injuries has stumped his growth. J.T. O’Sullivan was former 49ers O.C.’s “needle in the haystack” in 2008.
He was sole responsible for 22 turnovers (11 fumbles/11 interceptions) in 9 games. That is obviously not the ingredients/recipe for success. Starting from week 10 to week 17, the 49ers ended the year with a 5-2 record with Shaun Hill leading the way.
As a QB in the NFL, you do not have to have the arm of Peyton Manning, or have a celebrity singer as a girlfriend to be successful; all you need to be is efficient—take care of the ball, and lead your team. Shaun Hill might not have an attribute that catches your eye, but what he does have is toughness, and the “eye of the tiger.”
What this team has been craving for has been a playmaker- someone who can take over games, through the air. Crabtree is that guy! He was head and shoulders better than every defensive back who guarded him, and better than every WR in college.
Not to make excuses for our lack of consistent QB play, but we haven't had a legitimate WR in years: Rashaun Woods, Arnez battle, Antonio Bryant, Brandon Lloyd all have tried to be that No. 1 guy.
Even thought Bryant is pretty good, he is not a No. 1 WR. Crabtree is that special kid, that has the combination of attributes of Rice/Owens. He has the route running/intellect/hands of rice and the play-making/strength/breakaway speed of Owens.
Just like Owners are kicking themselves for letting Moss drop in the 98 draft, owners will be kicking themselves over the 09 draft. He will make Hill/Smith better and more confident- knowing they can throw the ball to a certain area, and Crabtree will go get it.
Crabtree is a beast and I can't wait until the season starts!
Also, it’s worth adding that Glen Coffee is a mean S.O.B.. He is the perfect complement to Mr. Gore, and defenders will pay dividends if they try to get in front of him when he's running down hill.
Obviously, I expect a lot from the 49ers in 2009. This team has tasted defeat for one too many years and it will come to an end this year. Losing is terrible, yes. But, if you have character, you can learn and gain wisdom from each loss.
Coach Singletary has installed character into these players- they have swiftly taken upon the personality of their coach. When you can turn anything negative into a positive, the outcome is always prosperous.
That being said, if this team pays attention to the details, and believe in themselves, this 2009 season can be the beginning of something special in San Francisco.