Anthony Dixon has made the switch from No. 33 to No. 24, but is it a good idea?
Little more can be said about the San Francisco 49ers' Week One drubbing at the hands of the division rival Seattle Seahawks. The 49ers came to play (at least initially), but were not in control of their emotions, leading to an embarrassing and humbling defeat.
That game is over, and the 49ers must move on. But one thing in particular caught my eye on the opening kickoff on Sunday.
It was odd indeed to see No. 24 lined up on the kick coverage team, since Michael Robinson, who wore that jersey from 2006-2009 was cut a week earlier and later picked up by the opposing Seahawks. I began to question who it could be.
The FOX announcers quickly pointed out the No. 24 for the 49ers now belonged to rookie running back Anthony Dixon, who had worn Roger Craig's former No. 33 jersey throughout the offseason. Two questions immediately arose: why switch numbers, and why to No. 24?
My regular readers will recall this is not the first time I have postulated superstitiously about the inherent luck or lack thereof in a particular jersey number, and if anyone were to switch numbers after roster cuts, particularly a promising rookie, No. 24 would not be anywhere near the top of the list.
Dixon takes over No. 24 from Michael Robinson, a former college quarterback during a resurgent era at Penn State. The 49ers drafted Robinson in the fourth round of the 2006 draft and converted him to a running back. Though he would ascend to the niche role of special teams captain, Robinson never managed to contribute appreciably on offense, and this lack of versatility eventually led to his release.
Robinson took over No. 24 from corner back Mike Rumph after Rumph was traded just prior to the 2006 season (similar to the way that the number transitioned from Robinson to Dixon four years later). Rumph was a collegiate stud for a talented Miami squad that perennially contended for BCS Championships. He helped them win a championship in his senior season, enticing the 49ers to invest a first round pick on him in 2002.
He had mixed success in the NFL, amassing 105 tackles, 7 passes defensed, and 3 interceptions in 36 career games as a 49er (19 starts). His stats were not atrocious, but were clearly disappointing given the expectations the team had for him coming out of college. He progressively saw less playing time in the twilight of his tenure with the 49ers, mainly due to injuries, until he was traded to the Washington Redskins before the start of 2006 season.
Both Rumph and Robinson clearly failed to live up to expectations, and while neither was truly a bust, their combined lack of productivity has clearly attached a stigma to No. 24 for the 49ers throughout the dark days of the team's more recent past.
Anthony Dixon wore No. 24 collegiately at Mississippi State, where he demolished tough SEC competition on his way to nearly 4,000 career yards. That probably explains his interest in shedding No. 33 for the newly-vacated No. 24, but the stigma surrounding that number is nonetheless notable.
Also notable was the fact that while wearing said number in his pro debut, Dixon's play closely resembled that of his predecessor, Robinson. Dixon saw action only on special teams and made no tangible contributions. Most of that can be attributed to the fact that it was his first career game and the 49ers were fighting from behind for more than half of it, but the coincidence is still evident.
Dixon has plenty of time to develop and if his preseason play is any indication, he may be the one to finally break the curse of No. 24, and in so doing help the 49ers break back into the postseason.
We can only hope after Sunday's opener made that journey a bit more arduous.
Keep the Faith!