Over the past 48 hours, the community section for the San Francisco 49ers has been stuffed with nothing but Michael Crabtree articles. Which brings a particular question to the minds of knowledgeable 49er fans.
Do those writing about Crabtree still believe that Mike Martz is the 49ers offensive coordinator?
If that were the case, then the hoopla over Crabtree's holdout would be justified. Martz's system is fitted for the "big play" receivers, and Crabtree has seemingly been made out to be the next Brandon Marshall.
But Martz is no longer the offensive coordinator in San Francisco.
The former 49ers coordinator reportedly didn't see eye-to-eye with head coach Mike Singletary.
Therefore, Singletary replaced Martz with what you could essentially call the "anti-Martz" this offseason. New coordinator Jimmy Raye's career managing offenses has been far from spectacular when you look at his record, which falls 60 games below .500 at 65-125.
But despite the rather poor overall record, Raye's style fits in perfectly with the personnel the 49ers have on offense. With Alex Smith and Shaun Hill at quarterback, it is clear the 49ers aren't built to beat the opposition with the long ball.
However, it is not just the quarterbacks that make that crystal clear. When your best offensive weapon is your running back and your most freakishly athletic play maker is a tight end (one that has not yet produced at the pro level), the offense is not built for a playmaker at wide receiver.
With the way the 49ers offense is built, Jimmy Raye's system is essentially a perfect match. While Raye was offensive coordinator for the Kansas City Chiefs from 1998-2000, the offense was run through Tony Richardson and Tony Gonzalez.
When Raye left Kansas City, he went on to the same position with the Redskins, where the focal point of the offense was running back Stephen Davis.
Most recently, Raye was the running backs coach for the New York Jets, where he helped Thomas Jones become the most important piece to the Jets offense. In two years with the Jets, Jones has rushed for 2,341 yards and 14 touchdowns.
Although Raye has been hired as both a wide receivers coach and running backs coach in the past, the ground game has always been the heavy component of his offenses.
Consequently, when you project the style in which the 49ers' offense is going to be run this season, it is clear that the wide receivers will be the least utilized position on the field.
Even if Crabtree were to sign, the 49er offense is going to pound the rock first, second, and third.
Running back Frank Gore is set to eclipse his career numbers from the 2006 season because of the continuity in this year's offensive line, and the fact his lead blocker from that season, Moran Norris, is back in the Bay.
Gore's two most productive seasons in his four year career came with Norris as his lead blocker, and the 49ers decided to bring the Norris back this season due to a request from their Pro Bowl running back.
With a head coach and coordinator who believe in "hitting people in the mouth", along with a sturdy offensive line and a bruising fullback, Gore might just rush for 2,000 yards.
True team receivers like Isaac Bruce and Josh Morgan realize how Gore is going to be the focal point of the offense, and as wide receivers, their job is to block.
Crabtree, on the other hand, appears to be another T. O. who is all about "Me, Me, Me", and his absence at camp may actually be good for the team.
If he eventually signs with the 49ers, he will be so far behind he will be forced to ride the pine and watch how the offense is run from the sidelines. And perhaps next season, Crabtree will realize that he is just another receiver.
Now whether or not Crabtree ever fulfills his potential for the 49ers shouldn't be the biggest concern for the team. In fact, with Raye as offensive coordinator, the focus should be on whether or not Vernon Davis can live up to the hype.
For all those who have already labeled the brash tight end a "bust", you might want to do a bit more research.
In 2006 Davis was a rookie, and therefore you have to give the guy a break for not putting up tremendous numbers in his first year in the NFL.
However, the following season, Davis caught 52 balls for 502 yards and four touchdowns. Clearly a significant increase in production, despite the fact the 49ers had the worst offensive coordinator in team history with Jeff Hostler.
Therefore, going into last year, Davis was primed to have a breakout year, but the 49ers hired Martz as offensive coordinator. Martz never—let me repeat—never utilizes a tight end in his offense other than for blocking purposes.
So for 49er fans who expected Davis to catch 70-80 balls for 900+ yards and 7+ touchdowns, I'll tell you this—it's awful hard to catch 70-80 balls when the team only throws in your direction 49 times.
That's right. Davis was thrown to less than 50 times last season.
But with Raye as offensive coordinator this year, fans will finally be able to see what Davis can do with the ball in his hands. If Davis fails to perform, then there is no defending the "bust" label, but all signs point to the 49ers tight having an impressive season catching the football.
With Gore and Davis primed to carry the bulk of the offensive plays, whether or not Crabtree shows up to camp shouldn't matter to 49er fans. Whenever the young receiver signs, he signs.
If he never signs, and re-enters the draft, Crabtree will most likely fall even further in the draft, receive less money, and more likely than not, will never reach his potential. Knowing that, it is quite obvious that Crabtree needs the 49ers more than the 49ers need Crabtree.
Therefore, with the talent the 49ers already have on the offensive side of the ball, the organization needs to call Crabtree's bluff and not give in to his contract demands. If the rookie wants to be a productive NFL receiver, he'll sign sooner or later.
But until he actually signs, the media should stop pestering the 49ers with Crabtree questions and focus on the players who are actually in camp.
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