Much has recently been made of what the San Francisco 49ers—at 1-6 this season—can now no longer hope to accomplish.
They cannot make the playoffs. They cannot improve on last year's record. They cannot save Mike Singletary's job.
Despite a vote of confidence from team President Jed York, many assume Coach Sing will be shown the door following a Halloween match-up against the Denver Broncos at Old Wembley Stadium in London.
Even if the 49ers can beat the Broncos—who surrendered 59 points at home this Sunday to the only team the 49ers have beaten so far—what are the realistic odds it will be anything more than a stay of execution for Coach Sing's tenure by the Bay?
Barring the miraculous, 2010 is poised to go down as a tremendous failure for the red and gold, which could well thrust them into a rebuilding period without them having reached the playoffs following their last such effort.
2010 is poised to be a failure, unless the 49ers choose to do something about it.
An old engineering adage holds: "If at first you don't succeed, redefine success." The 49ers might do well to consider this option.
Little is known about the 2011 49ers: Who will coach them? Who will play quarterback? With a collective bargaining fiasco looming, will there even be NFL football?
The 49ers have nine games remaining in 2010 with which they could stick to their guns and continue trying something that clearly is not working, or they could work toward finding some answers to these burning questions (CBA notwithstanding).
The 49ers should use the remainder of 2010 to take long look in the mirror and determine who and what they really are, and what they currently have to use to build toward the future.
Are they the "Hit you in the mouth" team Coach Sing so desperately wants them to be? Indications look strongly to the contrary. If Alex Smith is not the answer at QB, should his successor be sought through the draft or free agency, or do they have something special in Troy Smith or Nate Davis?
Will Anthony Davis figure things out? What are the roles of Brian Westbrook and Anthony Dixon moving forward? Why did the team bother keeping Dominique Zeigler, and who is this Kyle Williams guy anyway?
The 49ers could continue on their current path, and continue to wonder, or they could start giving some real playing time to the aforementioned question marks and make progress toward evaluating their future by year's end.
Alex Smith is officially listed as questionable for Sunday, but in my mind he should dress as a back-up only, and only because the team is already in London carrying just three QBs. Everyone's over David Carr already, so start Troy Smith and see how it goes.
If he falls flat, cross that bridge when you get there. When you return stateside, put Carr on a wrecker bound for the scrap heap and play out the season with the Smith boys and Nate Davis.
Everyone already knows what Frank Gore can do. While his contributions toward winning games should not be ignored, there is no sane reason to continue to give him 95 percent of the carries.
Gore should handle no more than 60 percent of the remaining carries, with Dixon and Westbrook shouldering the balance.
By year's end, you should have a much clearer picture of how good Dixon can be and whether Westbrook merits a contract extension.
Michael Crabtree, Ted Ginn Jr., Josh Morgan, and Vernon Davis: all are powerful and dynamic weapons in the passing game, but all have perhaps lacked focus and all are very easily-identifiable targets for defenses to zero in on.
There is clearly a reason why these men have the starting jobs over the likes of Dominique Zeigler and Kyle Williams, but there is no reason why Zeigler and Williams should be basically ignored.
The 49ers young receivers should start to get some reps, so the team can accurately see what they have to offer moving forward.
Who knows? With the bigger names continuing to draw the bulk of the coverage, working these two in could help open up the passing options.
It will be difficult to accurately assess quarterback, receiver, or running back play if the QB is constantly running for his life (or standing on the sideline with his arm in a sling).
The 49ers will learn nothing about Anthony Davis's potential from watching him sit on the sideline, but that does not mean he should continue to whiff at blocks taking every snap of every game.
There is something to be said for having rookies learn on the fly and take their licks to become better players, but Davis could learn something for taking a step back and watching Barry Sims or another veteran take some of his snaps.
It will be a balancing act to give him the reps he needs to gain proper form and the rest he and the offense need to develop and avoid constant discouragement.
However, right now Davis is playing way too much.
The defense presents many interesting options for shake-ups, including spelling the banged-up Nate Clements in favor of Phillip Adams or Tarell Brown.
Takeo Spikes vs. NaVorro Bowman makes for an interesting debate, similar to Sims vs. Davis.
With the improved play shown by Ray MacDonald last week, and the promise shown by Ricky Jean Francois in Aubrayo Franklin's absence this preseason, perhaps they deserve a few more reps as well.
These suggestions may seem like throwing in the towel, but think again. Not only are the odds of a playoff comeback infinitesimally small, but making these moves does not lower what little odds do still exist.
Steadfast instance on putting the supposed "best possible" team on the field every week and every play has resulted in little more than disaster through seven weeks in 2010.
Allowing the younger players on the team to get more reps could be the infusion that finally sparks more inspired play out of this thoroughly underperforming squad.
Why should Coach Sing—his job on the line—put his future in the hands of such inexperience? If things continue, he will be gone by the end of the season if not before. Nothing else has worked to this point, time has come to try a different approach.
Coach Sing, or whomever replaces him, should realize the opportunity buried within the adversity that has beset the team.
Making these moves might not right the ship, but even if they fail to do that, the 49ers will be better off for them come January.
Keep the Faith!