Michael Crabtree: 5 Reasons The 49ers WR Has Been a Huge Disappointment
Okay, "Huge Disappointment" is a slight overstatement, but it's safe to say most 49ers fans have been at least a little bit let down by Michael Crabtree's performance thus far as a 49er.
To get to the root of it all, however, one must step back, and look at the whole picture. The source of the disappointment is much bigger than the receiver himself.
The Infamous Hold Out
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The term Diva was attached to Michael Crabtree shortly after he was drafted by San Francisco. With the tenth pick of the 2009 draft, the 49ers believed a gem of a wide out had fallen to them when the Raiders opted to draft Darrius Heyward-Bey over Crabtree.
When it came time for players to take the field, however, Crabtree would not be seen in red and gold until mid October of that year. He did not attend any mini camps, training camp, pre-season games, or the first five regular season games of his rookie year for that matter.
Crabtree's work ethic has been in question ever since, and although he shows flashes of great potential, he won't be of great value to the team until he starts putting in the necessary hours and reps. Yes, it takes more than a foot-long sandwich to make it in the NFL.
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The hype around Crabtree was so overloaded, that expectations became extremely unrealistic. He was great in college, but college is college.
Crabtree was the most potent weapon on Texas Tech's spread offense, so naturally his numbers looked amazing on paper. He was dominant, and he was clutch against the college defensive backs he faced each week, but the reality is corners and safeties in the NFL are much faster, hit much harder, and are much, much better overall.
Stiffer competition has stifled Crabtree's advancement thus far, and he (and his coaches) will need to work extra hard to keep his routes crisp and his game sharp if he's going to emerge as the Prow Bowl caliber threat the 49ers need him to be.
49ers Fans Are Spoiled Rotten
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Being a quarterback on the 49ers comes with a ridiculous pair of shoes to fill. Expectations are typically unrealistic, as they are forged in the shadows of Joe Montana and Steve Young.
Naturally, there is an even bigger pair of cleats that we can safely assume will never be filled, ever. The greatest wide receiver of all time, the incomparable Jerry Rice made his mark on football, and has given many 49ers fans a very unrealistic opinion of how great a player at the position can be.
In 1992, an already extremely accomplished Jerry Rice held out for 37 days. Rice called the holdout one of his biggest mistakes he'd ever made. Rice was suited up and ready to go by the season opener, however. Crabtree's holdout came before he'd ever taken a single NFL snap, and lasted over a month into the regular season.
Whoops! There we go again. People really shouldn't compare Crabtree to the incomparable Jerry Rice.
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Crabtree has seemed cocky and complacent at times in his early career. This attitude won't work, especially given the shaky quarterback situation San Francisco has endured.
A great receiver makes his quarterback look good. Crabtree has been part of why Alex Smith has looked so bad at times. Crabtree has quick, late hands that extend and snare passes at the last moment, making his action difficult for defenders to predict. Those quick, late hands have been an issue a couple times this year, popping up sure catches, and watching them get turned into interceptions.
Crabtree had the issue with both Alex and Troy Smith. Carr didn't really ever make it that far with the plays he ran.
More experience and a lot more practice will be required before Crabtree gets on the same page of whoever ends up throwing him the ball.
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Probably the most frustrating issue surrounding Crabtree is his upside. He has the attributes and tools to be a successful, and probably great NFL receiver.
He's reasonably big. He's nice and fast. He's considerably strong and powerful. And Michael Crabtree has played the game since he was young, so his understanding of the game is highly advanced.
The plays where he has looked good, Crabtree has looked real, real good. But those weeks are simply too sporadic to get Pro Bowl consideration in the NFL.
The 49ers did find themselves as run first team, and haven't spread the ball much at all. Perhaps the coaches are limiting his success much like they limited Alex Smith's abilities by trying to force him to play away from the systems that made him a success.
Give Him Time Though...
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He's young and crazy still, but as Crabtree ages, expect his game to mature as well. Over time, he should learn to love the practices more, be a more outspoken locker-room leader, and everything he does will imporve.
The onus falls on fans as well though, and the Faithful need to remember to stay realistic about this young man in the wake of past greatness.