San Francisco 49ers Breaking the Mold

Brian O'FlahertyContributor IDecember 27, 2009

SAN FRANCISCO - DECEMBER 27:  Alex Smith #11 of the San Francisco 49ers passes for a touchdown past Dewayne White #99 of the Detroit Lions during an NFL game at Candlestick Park on December 27, 2009 in San Francisco, California.  (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)
Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

Since the 49ers lost to the Seattle Seahawks on the road, they have been on a mission.

They have made a commitment to build back what they have wanted all along; and what they want is not centered around the shotgun “spread” offense.

Despite Smith having the best performance of his career, despite throwing for over 300 yards for the first time, despite the fact that the 49ers killed themselves with special teams blunders in Seattle, despite losing only at the last minute, the 49ers decided that this loss in Seattle was a good enough reason to abandon the entire idea of a spread-offense and Alex Smith led attack.

This idea was reinforced the very next week, with the victory over the Arizona Cardinals; a win in which the 49ers defense caused a near record amount of turnovers. The 49ers abandoned their spread attack, because the defense bailed the offense out an historic number of times.

The 49ers want Smith to be just as good dropping back into the pocket as he is from the shotgun. They want to be just as dangerous out of the I-Form. They want to run consistently and effectively.

But he isn't, they aren't, and they don't.

They are trying to “break the mold.” They want to go with the opposite of what has worked, they would rather go with their “visions” of offense and put every single game squarely onto the back of the defense.

So far, the defense has delivered seven times this season.

One-Sided Victories

The 49ers have won some games this season, but how have they won these games?

With DEFENSE, and not much else.

“Lackluster,” is the best word to describe this “balanced” offense. It is an offense that lacks rhythm, lacks excitement, lacks points.

“Boring” offensive teams are few and far between in the NFL playoffs. Don't take my word for it, go ahead, sit on your couch and watch them. Don't worry, any and all “boring” offensive performances will soon be rewarded with elimination of those teams from the playoff show.

Make sure you have a comfortable couch, because that is where you will be sitting for many years to come watching playoff football until the 49ers offense becomes exiting again.

Currently, the 49ers are a team that depends 100% on their defense to generate turnover after turnover and stop after stop to give them a chance to hang on and slug out another drab, tough, uncomfortable win.

This is not playoff football; and even if it was, barely breaking through into the playoff picture in this scenario should not be the goal either.

The good teams have good offense. The good teams DESTROY teams like the Cardinals and Lions when they obtain six-plus turnovers.

This is not a good team right now, and it won't become one until both sides of the ball are able to help win a game.

Some teams have done it with pure defense and little else, but those teams “broke the mold,” and relying on a historically powerful defense to eke out a Super Bowl should not be the 49er way of the future.

Fortune favors the bold

The NFL is not a league of “mistake-avoidance.” It is a league of play-making.

But there are two sides to this coin.

What is an interception? It is a bad throw? Or is it a great play?

That question usually depends upon who you are playing. “Talent” does not guarantee success. All talent does is provide the OPPORTUNITY for one to take a risk, and ergo have a chance to make a play.

I argue that “fortune favors the bold,” and that the team which pushes the limit of risk taking, is the team that is most likely going to win.

Yes, it IS a double-edged sword. But here is the main point...

IF you have the talent, then the amount of risk you take must INCREASE. However, if you don't have the talent, then the amount of risk you take must DECREASE.

For example, you are in Las Vegas playing poker, and let's assume that you are a pretty good poker player; better than 95 percent. Now let's say a well known professional poker player sits down at the table and goes heavy into a hand. Should you be more likely to fold, or should you be more likely to play just as aggressively against this player?

If the other player is better than you, you should fold to save your money. The reasons should be obvious as to why this is.

Now, this works for poker, but what about football?

Well, in football, you don't have the choice to fold. You play whatever opponent is in front of you, and you either win or lose, there is no linear or otherwise, variance to consider.

Therefore, if you decide to play it safe, and take few risks because you have less talent, you have already committed to the idea that you are the worse team that needs to play “mistake free” to win.

This type of thinking is fine, if you need to win one game, and yes, in the NFL you take every game, “one-at-a-time.” BUT, if your team wants to develop into something special, if it expects to be a playoff team, if it wants its players to get better and better, then it must play and practice AS IF it is already a playoff team. A playoff team with the talent to take risks and get away with it.

Like as in poker, if you don't play at the professional poker player's level and at least TRY to beat him, you will forever be folding to him (because it is the best play to make at the time), and you will never get to his level because you will never gain the experience necessary to learn what it takes to play at his level.

Arguments about the 49ers talent can be made, which is fine, but irrespective of talent, if a team or its quarterback is not looking to take risks, then it will never be able to grow into the so-called playoff team it wants to become.

The 49ers experimented with a powerful looking offense for one or two games this season, but they abandoned it because they do not feel they have the talent to mold themselves into that kind of offense. However, what they are molding themselves into now, is even FARTHER away from their playoff dreams.

The 49ers will either break this mold, and go back with Alex Smith's spread offense attack, or they will mold themselves into something far less then “special” for years to come.

The only other way, is to try their “visionary” offense with another quarterback, but that is a whole other topic...