When Glen Coffee stunned the NFL with his retirement, the San Francisco 49ers still had three running backs on their roster. This was the number of running backs they carried through the regular season on their 2009 roster.
Nevertheless, they immediately hit the free agent market and brought in former Philadelphia Eagles star Brian Westbrook.
Westbrook, although presumably injury prone, is one of the best third down backs active on an NFL roster when he's healthy, but why did the 49ers do it?
Surely they don't think rookie sixth round draft pick Anthony Dixon isn't good enough to be a third string running back, much less a second. In my opinion, the man in question is Michael Robinson.
Furthermore, when Dixon was drafted, the 49ers didn't know that Glen Coffee would retire, so this makes twice this offseason that the 49ers have shown a vote against Robinson assuming they again carry three running backs on the 53 man roster.
Were the 49ers simply taking the best player available? Dixon was predicted to go in the third or fourth round, certainly on those grounds this idea holds water.
Robinson was originally drafted from Penn State as a wide receiver, although the 49ers brought him in as a running back. He played quarterback at Penn State, but would obviously not be competitive enough to make an NFL roster as such.
In an offseason where the 49ers already let go of low string receiver Arnaz Battle, and often injured receiver and punt returner Brandon Jones, one could only assume that Michael Robinson's status with the team is on the chopping block.
In his defense, the guy can do a lot of things and has been highly touted among the 49ers coaching staff that survived the changing of the guard to Mike Singletary. He is a team captain and is viewed as an outstanding special teams contributor.
The 49ers have given up an average of one return touchdown per season since he has been a part of the team.
I would certainly hope he is an outstanding special teams contributor. He hasn't scored a regular season TD since 2006, hasn't had a run longer than 10 yards in the regular season since 2007, and since the running back position has gotten competitive this preseason, is averaging less than three yards per carry.
Since Trent Baalke and Mike Singletary have took the helm, they have made it somewhat obvious that they don't feel a lot of the depth players that Scot Mccloughan has kept on the team are worthwhile.
It was questionable in 2009 when the 49ers released speedster running back Korey Sheets instead of Michael Robinson, but the 49ers made the surprising move to the dismay of many fans.
To make things worse for Robinson, he fumbled the ball on the first 49ers offensive play of the season and it was recovered by the Colts. I don't think Singletary will forget about that one.
History considered, it appears that Mccloughan is very adamant about his draft picks and will give them a much longer time frame than a typical GM to prove their worth. He recently proved this by sending a 2011 sixth round draft choice to the 49ers for defensive lineman Kentwan Balmer to bring him to his new home in Seattle.
Balmer, a first round draft choice of the Mccloughan controlled 49ers in 2008, appeared in 27 games and has no sacks and just 11 solo tackles to show for it.
In my opinion, Mccloughan shows he's not afraid to make the same mistake twice with this move, and a big part of the reason he parted ways with the 49ers on silent terms. After all, how could they word that without being destructive to the team? "We felt he kept excessive players on the roster that weren't up to snuff." Try again!
This year, Anthony Dixon brings too much to the table for the 49ers to release him in favor of Robinson. Unless the team counts him strictly as a special teams player against depth at another position, he will be sent packing. Is he that valuable for the special team unit? I don't think so, but time will tell.