Amid high expectations for the 2010 season, the 49ers have started 0-5. This is not ideal. Although they have not been mathematically eliminated from playoff contention, there's not much hope.
Bad news is tiresome to report, and staying positive when your team can't win a game to save it's season can be downright masochistic.
A fan's best bet is to either hit the panic button, or start looking forward to the off-season when the torture stops.
Push the Panic Button
The following is a biased, but honest, take on some dramatic and desperate steps the San Francisco 49ers should consider to get back in contention. It's cliché and all, but desperate times do call for desperate measures.
Alex Smith has excelled in only one situation. Typically this means bringing the 49ers back into a game just in time for them to lose it. Since the 49ers are sticking with him, it would behoove them to run the only system he is suited for; the spread offense.
Although Smith struggles under center, he often excels from the 'gun. Why is this? Pretty much it's because his drop backs suck. He simply doesn't have the footwork that good under-center quarterbacks have. Smith's mobility and athleticism are otherwise beneficial, however.
Smith is fast, and coordinated when moving laterally, and he has good cuts when running forward. Not as gritty as you're typical mobile quarterback, he still can evade tacklers and pick up first downs when coverage runs deep.
It's the system that made him the top pick six years ago, after all.
Load up the Smith wagon completely.
Smith needs to be loaded with everything from here on out. It's all on him. The five losses are already on him as well, but not entirely. Every loss from here on out needs to be considered his own personal failure. If another player fumbles, he needs to man-up and raise his voice like the older-brother figure his young offense needs him to be. Alex is the one who's going to get in trouble for everyone else's mess.
Rest the rookies
They are rookies, after all. I understand that Singletary is looking down the road at how they will be helped for next season by working hard now, but at some point they need a break. They are still not acclimated to a 16 game season at the pro level. It could do them some good to view the game from the outside for a while.
The 49ers have ten offensive linemen on the roster. A couple of them on the bench would probably like a chance to play on offense.
Smash 'em hard, crab-cake style.
For all the big talk about the big running game, they have been pitiful on the ground. If the offense is going to run the ball so obviously, they should go all the way with it. Maryland style.
Running from a standard I-formation isn't working.
Load up the line, and backfield with beef. Stampede the opposing defense. The bigger tight ends, Vernon Davis and Nate Byham, are still healthy. They have a trio of good running backs who can do more than block. If you're going to be stubborn in running situations, do it right.
Between the Spread and the Maryland, there's still room for unpredictability. For examples, Brian Westbrook on a draw out of the spread, or Vernon Davis on a sneaky release from the Maryland-I.
Attempt "something similar" to a 46 defense
When Mike Singletary took over the 49ers as head coach, many fans envisioned a reemergence of dominating defense in the Bay area; they have not escaped mediocrity.
Many fans assumed this due to Singletary's experience as a linebacker for Buddy Ryan's legendary 46 defense.
What has transpired, however, is a lackluster 3-4 defense.
Run by Greg Manusky, the goal was to bring pressure from 3-4 formations that made it difficult for opposing quarterbacks to read the coverages. They also wanted to stop every team's running game.
Opposing quarterbacks carved the 49ers like a Christmas ham, however, and the run defense ranks near the bottom of the league.
There are plenty of factors one can site for this failure. One stands out, however. Franchise nose tackle Aubrayo Franklin has not been his normal self. Last year, he would push the pocket and take on double teams. It seems like he's lost a step this season.
There are plenty of beasts on the line though. Between Justin Smith, Ricky Jean Francois, Isaac Sopoaga, Ray McDonald, Demetric Evans, and Franklin; they should be able to handle and platoon a four-man front.
Add in the fact that Travis LaBoy, and Manny Lawson have the ability to play defensive end, or linebacker, and you've got to be able to design some decent defensive schemes up front.
Buddy Ryan's son, Rex, is currently enjoying some good success with a similar 46-type defense in New York.
The 49ers certainly do lack the shutdown corner they'd need to execute this type of aggressive system, but they could compensate.
Taylor Mays is an awesome athlete at safety, and could cover a lot of the field, even from four yards off the line.
Nate Clements has been the Alex Smith of the secondary, and if he can get his head together and stay consistently aggressive, he should be adequate for a similar system.
The have the league's premier linebacker in Patrick Willis, and a reasonably strong supporting cast of linebackers in Takeo Spikes, Ahmad Brooks, Parys Haralson, NaVorro Bowman, Lawson, and LaBoy. This versatile group should be able to hold their own in such a system.
Naturally, Mike Singletary should oversee the installation of the new system, given his experience in Ryan's system.
Everything but the kitchen sink
Blitz, baby, blitz! They have not gotten nearly enough pressure on opposing quarterbacks this year. Sure, they've knocked a couple around, but none were ever shaken up for more than a quarter.
They barely got to Drew Brees with one good blitz from Patrick Willis, but that doesn't win a game for you.
They never really came close to Matt Hasselbeck or Kevin Kolb.
Of course the times that they have brought pressure, they have overplayed the backfield and had backs run right past them on screens. Zone blitzing must therefore be employed, as the 49ers have the tacklers to stop dump-offs.
Bold changes like this don't typically occur mid-season, but it's not next season yet.
Recall that when Singletary took over Mike Nolan's spot as an interim head coach, he immediately cut out the 4-3 qualities of the defense to simplify it. They then focused on execution, and cohesion as a unit to a reasonable amount of success.
Also note that when the situation dictated, the 49ers adopted qualities of a spread offense last season.
It's not too late to get brave. This isn't (quite) over yet.
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