Will the Real San Francisco 49ers Please Stand Up?
The San Francisco 49ers came into the 2009 season as a run-first, run-second, pass-if-necessary type of football team.
Why did they start the season that way? Because their best player wears a jersey with No. 21 on the back.
Wait, check that. Everyone who claims to be an NFL fan knows that the 49ers offense is led by Frank Gore.
Over the last few seasons, Gore has given the 49ers a running game equal to a Grade A steak.
However, over the last few seasons, the 49ers have had a quarterback equal to Grandma's over-cooked turkey on Thanksgiving.
Now to begin the season, the 49ers marched out to a 3-1 record with the combination of over-cooked Turkey and Grade A steak.
Of course, the larger portion of the meal was Grade A steak, and the over-cooked turkey did just enough to keep the total meal positive in the minds of the consumers.
However, when the over-cooked turkey started to fail to get the job done, the team turned to Uncle Alex's turkey, which is significantly better than Grandma's, but still nowhere as tasty as Papa's Grade A steak.
Instead of keeping the ratio of steak and turkey relatively the same, the 49ers over-estimated the quality of Uncle Alex's turkey and began to cook more of it than Papa's steak.
Why would they make such an idiotic change in ratio? Perhaps Aunt Crabtree's impressive gravy made the family feel more like turkey, but that still doesn't negate the fact that the steak is still the tastiest food available on the table.
For those of you who can't follow my food analogies, let me explain in football terms.
When a team's running back is their best weapon on offense, it doesn't matter how much the passing game improves mid-season, the running game should still be the focal point.
In the last two games, the Grade A steak (Frank Gore) has been just as scrumptious as ever. With touchdowns in back-to-back games and yards per carry averages of 7.0 and 5.5 against the Colts and Titans respectively, how come the family has decided to cook such a small amount of the steak?
Over the last two weeks, Gore has run the ball just 28 times, 13 carries against Indianapolis and 15 carries against the Titans.
Mike Singletary stated that his 49ers team would win games with a strong running game and solid defense.
If that is the case, then why has the 49ers offense gone away from the running game?
For his career, when Gore receives 20 carries or more, the 49ers are 14-3.
Simply put, giving Gore the football equals success.
What does giving Alex Smith the football equal? Well, it equals some impressive passing plays and many, many mistakes.
However, Smith currently gives the 49ers the best chance to win. If the 49ers are forced into a situation where they need to pass and pass often, Smith is the best-suited quarterback they have.
But on the same note, just because Smith is a better quarterback than Shaun Hill, it doesn't mean the 49ers have to become a pass-first team.
Smith in the lineup allows for a much better all-around offense. With the former No. 1 pick under center, the 49ers have a passing game that can actually make big plays.
And Smith's passing ability is important for the 49ers to have on the field. In order to succeed offensively, every NFL team needs a balance of run and pass. When Hill was at quarterback, the passing attack was ineffective. With a more athletic quarterback now on the field, the passing game has been much more productive.
Yet the ratio of run/pass should only be adjusted slightly with the improved passing attack.
When Hill was at quarterback, the 49ers were a run-first, run-second, pass-if-necessary team.
With the change to Smith, the 49ers should be a run-first, pass-second, run-third type of team.
San Francisco still has the same group of players they had at the beginning of the season and their running game is still the best part of their offense.
Now that the passing game is improved, it makes sense to throw the ball more often than they did earlier in the season, but the running game still has to be the epitome of the offense.
Until the 49ers return to the true identity of their offense, the losses will continue to stack up.
For the sake of Thursday's contest with the Chicago Bears, let's hope Gore goes beyond the 20-carry mark.
After all, that equals success in 49er land.
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