The San Francisco 49ers made two offensive linemen their first-round picks in the 2010 draft: Anthony Davis and Mike Iupati. Davis had more upside than Iupati, but his attitude was a question mark. So, far it looks like the article Trent Baalke's First-Round, Five-Gallon Bucket of Fail, was the correct assessment.
While it seemed logical at the time to trade up for Davis and select Iupati, there hasn't been much improvement with the offensive line and with the 49ers center, Eric Heitmann, injured, starting both rookies right away has been a big mistake.
Davis has been consistently called for false starts and also called for an unnecessary roughness penalty on Shaun Smith of the Kansas City Chiefs on the opening drive of the second half that cost the 49ers a good chance at points.
Though the penalty was justifiable as Smith was grabbing Davis below the belt, he still should have been able to keep his composure.
Hindsight is always 20/20 and right now it is looking like Baalke's decision to select two offensive linemen was the wrong move. The truth is Baalke should have been on the phone with the San Diego Chargers and talking about trading picks to bring in Marcus McNeill who was designated the franchise player by the Chargers.
Why? McNeill is still young at 26 (won't be 27 until November), in his first two years in the league he was selected to the Pro Bowl, and at 6'8", 335 lbs. he adds size to the 49ers offensive line at left tackle. That would have meant either drafting Davis or Iupati would have been a wise choice.
Instead McNeill held out with the Chargers and has just recently signed a contract, but if Jed York was truly looking to build a winning team he would have been able to open up his wallet and sign McNeill to a long term contract to anchor the offensive line.
Even if the trade meant losing one of the first-round selections in the 2010 draft, it still would have been better than just having the selections of Iupati and Davis.
Now, Davis and Iupati aren't the only linemen that aren't playing well. Chilo Rachal has been horrible this year and has at times been replaced in the lineup by Adam Snyder who's a capable backup, but not the solution.
Another problem with the line is that Mike Singletary wants to run the football, but the offensive line isn't getting much push, which means that Frank Gore is not able to find running lanes, putting the 49ers at a disadvantage because it means more yards to make up on second and third downs.
Honestly, a starting offensive line of Joe Staley, Eric Heitmann, Baas, Davis/Iupati, and McNeill is better than the offensive line of Staley, Baas, Davis, Iupati, and Snyder/Rachal.
Even if the 49ers hadn't traded for McNeill what other linemen would have been better suited off in free agency? Tyson Clabo, Alan Faneca, Deuce Lutui, Ryan Lilja, Terrance Metcalf, and there are a few more on the list which can be found here.
Every year for the 49ers it's the same: The offensive line continues to struggle and there's been a patchwork attempt at fixing the solution. Not all of the struggles by Alex Smith are on him, as a majority of the time he is not protected.
Though there are sometimes when the fault is on Smith for trying to make a play out of nothing such as the intentional grounding penalty he took against the Atlanta Falcons and the fumble returned for a touchdown in Week 5's game against the Philadelphia Eagles.
Davis and Iupati eventually will be good, but "eventually" is the keyword. The 49ers need an offensive line right now and one that will be consistent. When was the last time the 49ers had a Pro Bowl-caliber offensive lineman?
The answer is 2006 and that was Larry Allen at the age of 35! Before that the last lineman under the age of 30 was Jeremy Newberry in 2002 at the age of 26 and he had another Pro Bowl selection in 2001.
In total the last decade for the 49ers the only linemen to make the Pro Bowl have been Newberry, Allen, Ron Stone, and Ray Brown. Only one of the linemen that made the Pro Bowl was under 30 years of age! Allen again was 35 when he went, Stone was 31, and Brown was 39.
Not many years left in the league for the three linemen that were over 30. So, is it really is a wonder why the 49ers, since 2001 including this year, have a record of 62-87, which is a winning percentage of 42 percent?
The only two winning seasons were in 2001 and 2002, when they had linemen make a Pro Bowl!
Larry Allen's 2006 Pro Bowl came on a seven-win 49er team, which was one of the better seasons as of late.
So, it's easy to see why the 49ers have struggled! The offensive line has not been fixed and until the line is composed of Pro Bowl-caliber players, a winning season is not going to be coming anytime soon.
If the 49ers truly wanted to make the playoffs in 2010, there should have been an effort to acquire an offensive lineman that would make a difference now, not 2-3 years down the road like Davis and Iupati. As the saying goes, "You're only as strong as your weakest link." Well, the 49ers' weakest link has been the offensive line and that has not changed since 2003!
Until the offensive line is improved the 49ers will continue to frustrate their fans.
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