Are The Dysfunctional Forty Niners Back On Course For The Super Bowl?

Tom BaumbergerCorrespondent IMay 3, 2010






A few weeks ago I read a recent article comparing the Raiders and 49ers. I can't recall where I found it. It may have even been here on the Bleacher Report. If there is an article with foot and ball used in the same sentence, I'm there.

The subject matter was which team is more dysfunctional. The author of the article pointed to the 49ers being the more dysfunctional team. It pained me to do so but I was in complete agreement. They pointed toward many of the same reasons that left me disillusioned by the end of the 2009 season.

Seldom were player issues mentioned but more so were management deficiencies. Poor draft choices, poor player management, game management, and a quarterback controversy among other things.

The first two games last year had me convinced that the Niners could make the playoffs. The Vikings game was a heartbreaking loss. The team rebounded with a resounding win the following week. They finished the first four weeks 3-1. I'll take a 75% win ratio any day of the week. Twelve and four will get you in the playoffs most any year.

The team had a swagger. It was evident on the sidelines and on the field. Then there was the implosion that was the Atlanta game. Then there were the Texans. Enough of a recap, the 2009 season left many 49er fans bewildered. What happened?

I live in the southeast. I think it's safe to say that college ball is more popular than pro football. Maybe not but it is more popular than shrimp and grits. It starts at about 8:00 pm on Wednesday and ends about 2:00 am on Sunday. I'm hooked. I digress.

I've watched most of the guys develop from young college players to becoming 49ers. The 49ers are loaded with talent. While they may be young and sometimes inexperienced, all these guys can bring it. In my opinion the main reason the Forty Niners did not make the playoffs last year was largely due to on and off field management errors.

The 2009 team reminded me of the late 70s era Niners. Those teams lost almost every game, but only by a couple of points. So many times they were close but no cigar. A year or so later Bill Walsh made a couple of good draft choices and the rest is history.

As a fan sitting outside the fishbowl that is the NFL I wonder sometimes why things are done. Maybe not why they are done but who decided those things.

Who decided to throw a pass for a touchdown instead of taking the sure 3 points? Who drafted a wide receiver when we clearly needed an offensive tackle? Who released the second all time kick return specialist? Who had a tight end running back kicks while a bonafide kick returner sat on the sidelines? Who released that kick returner only to see him run a kick off back for a TD the next week? A TD scored for another team.

While our kick return game suffered, who left a running back with kick return abilities and burner speed on the practice squad? Who kept that player on the practice squad until he was poached by the Dolphins? How did we go from a 75% win ratio to a 50% in 3 easy lessons? Why are we still close but still no cigar?

While it may be a game, at the end of the day football is a business. Poor personnel management results in poor business performance. Personnel management questions I had last year made me wonder if I would ever see the Niners in a championship game again. The military term for what I began to see is dissention amongst the ranks. You can see it when a drill team isn't on cadence, and so goes a football team.

As a long time Niner fan I have been waiting for them to return to being the prolific championship team we grew accustomed to in the 80s and 90s. As we all know that has been a long wait. At the end of the 2009 season I would have to say that I didn’t see much promise for the future. Probably more of the same mediocre 50% record for a while.

Prior to the draft, many articles I read pondered the success of the draft without Scot McCloughan. My mind is filled with topics on that subject. None of them are good.

Will Trent Baalke be named the permanent GM? I for one would like to see the combination of Mike Singletary and Trent Baalke running the 49ers. While it is still early I think they have the 49ers back on track and focused.

When asked who made the final draft day decisions Baalke emphatically stated that he did based on strong recommendations from Mike Singletary. To paraphrase Baalke, he said Singletary advised him but the final decision was always his. Asked if the draft decisions were decided by analyzing needs of the team or by selecting the best player available, Baalke replied a little of both. Paraphrasing him again he said that they addressed the needs of the team by analyzing who was the best player to fill that need.

Using the Undrafted Free Agent market to the best of their ability the Forty Niners have tapped a deep well of top college talent. Several key needs were addressed with the signing of our UDFA players. I see many of them making the 53 man roster.

I can't remember when I have been this optimistic about a group of rookies. This year we drafted or acquired by UDFA a lot of talent. Many of them are from southeast schools. I watched them tear it up last year in college ball and I can't wait to watch them do it wearing a Niner jersey.

Only one question remains unanswered for me. Can Alex Smith live up to the expectations of a 1st round overall pick? If he does, look for the Niners to be in the Super Bowl in 2011, and deep into the playoffs in 2010. All of the players are now in place for us to get to the Super Bowl.

It’s time for Alex Smith to step up and drive the bus.