Coming into the 2009 offseason, NFL analysts were dissecting the San Francisco 49ers and the various holes on the roster. Most of the discussions were centered around the offensive line, free-safety position, and the pass rush.
Now, clearly each of these three areas were in desperate need of an upgrade, but one particular play last season could have turned things around for the 49ers.
If the they had scored from the two-yard line on the final play of a Monday Night contest against the division-leading Cardinals, San Francisco would have split the season series againt Arizona, giving the red and gold a legitimate chance to win the division.
But the loss essentially eliminated any chance to catch the Super Bowl-bound Cardinals.
The play in question was a power-dive to Michael Robinson, who fell short of the goal-line by a full yard.
It was later revealed that the 49ers' coaching staff was unclear on how far out of the endzone its team was on that play.
But regardless of the ball placement, it was clear that the 49ers did not have confidence in their No. 1 back Frank Gore to punch the ball into the end-zone.
Instead, they gave the ball to Robinson, a converted former quarterback at Penn State.
If San Francisco was willing to give the ball to a former quarterback-turned-mediocre tailback on such an important play, it must have had very little faith in Gore's short-yardage capabilities.
If that is the case, one would think the team would bring someone else into the fold to fill that role. But the fact that they have yet to fill that hole over the offseason is quite puzzling.
Perhaps rookie runningbacks Glen Coffee and Kory Sheets will take over on short-yardage situations, but neither one fits the bill of the protoypical bruising back that is necessary for those types of downs.
It is clear that neither Robinson nor practice squad player and annual preseason standout Thomas Clayton are going to be counted on in key situations.
Knowing this, who are the 49ers going to turn too?
Enter Deuce McAllister, who is still a free-agent and thus would not command much money at all for, say, a one-year deal. When healthy, he is a proven tough-nosed runner who can fill that hole as a short-yardage back.
Because of his increasing tendency to land on the injured reserve list, it would be unwise to bank on McCallister as Gore's sole backup.
However, if McAllister were to stay healthy, platooning him alongside third-round pick Coffee would make an effecive one-two punch in case Gore goes down.
Bringing in another runner is paramount as Gore is clearly the engine of this 49er offense, and although he has been rather lucky with injuries in his NFL career, he had major knee issues while in college at Miami, Florida.
Not to mention, last season was the first in which Gore missed a couple of games with an ankle injury—not entirely uncommon for a player whose legs are routinely pummeled by 300-pound linemen.
The way things stand, if Gore were to go down with an injury that forced him to miss any extended amount of time, you can kiss the 49ers' season goodbye. There is absolutely no way they can recover from losing their franchise runner with the current roster.
The 49ers would be missing a tremendous opportunity at bolstering their backfield if they failed to bring in McAllister.
And who knows, that one short-yardage/goal-line play could be the difference between the playoffs and yet another 49ers season ending in December.