San Francisco 49ers: The Breakdown of NFL Labor Talks Is a Crushing Blow

Dan MoriCorrespondent IMarch 12, 2011

Jim Harbaugh's Job Just Got A Lot Tougher
Jim Harbaugh's Job Just Got A Lot TougherEzra Shaw/Getty Images

The San Francisco 49ers can't catch a break. In the year they have the No. 1 overall draft pick, there is no guaranteed lock, so they end up selecting Alex Smith.

Now, in the year when they most need a full training camp and all the time they can get to put together their team, it's not going to happen.

This is the article I hoped I would never have to write. No team in the NFL will be hurt more than the San Francisco 49ers because of the breakdown of labor negotiations and resulting lockout.

I am not going to go into all of the details between the players union and the owners because we have been inundated with it for the past several weeks. The bottom line is the two groups cannot decide how to come up with an equitable split of $9 billion.

Once again, it's the fans that get the shaft. 

Now, with the complex issues in the hands of the lawyers, there will be no resolution in the foreseeable future. That is a brutal punch in the gut to the San Francisco 49ers.

The players union has decertified and a class action lawsuit is on the horizon to block the lockout. The owners have already moved ahead with the lockout and teams can no longer have any contact with the players.

The 49ers are one of eight teams to hire a new head coach for the 2011 season. Four of the eight new head coaches were assistants for the team where they are now the head coach. Those organizations will have some continuity.

Three of the other new head coaches were either NFL assistants or an NFL head coach with another team, so they all have NFL experience from 2010. The only team that has a head coach from college and the top two assistants from college is the San Francisco 49ers.

Jim Harbaugh will not have the opportunity to work with his team in spring ball. There will also be no OTAs (Organized Team Activities) for Harbaugh and his staff to see and work with the players.

Most importantly, as a new head coach without a quarterback, Harbaugh needed all the time possible to select and get his quarterbacks ready to play. He will have to install a complex new offense, complete with new terminology and teach it to a group of players that have had the most bland offense in the NFL.

Consider the other teams in the NFC West. All of them are immediately ahead of the 49ers. St. Louis has Sam Bradford at QB and will run the same system they ran in 2010.  

Seattle may or may not stay with Matt Hasselbeck, but Charlie Whitehurst has been in Pete Carroll's system for a year now. Even if the Seahawks go with a different quarterback, the other offensive players will already know what's going on.

The Arizona Cardinals also have players that know their system, no matter who may end up as their quarterback.

Only the 49ers will be starting completely from scratch: a completely new playbook, new terminology and nobody even knows who the quarterback will be. 

In addition, with several young players and others who seem to lack focus, Harbaugh's job was not going to be easy under the best circumstances. Now, he is faced with terrible circumstances.

This work stoppage is a huge disadvantage for the 49ers.

I now believe that since negotiations have broken down, the entire process will bog down. My prediction is that this impasse will not be resolved until somewhere around Sept. 1. 

If this is the case, teams will have a much shorter time to prepare for the season with an abbreviated training camp. There will also not likely be the full complement of a 16-game schedule. The NFL will be scrambling to get things rolling quickly once there is a new labor agreement.

The San Francisco 49ers, with no quarterback, a new head coach coming in from the college ranks and the top two assistants also coming from college, are doomed to failure in 2011. This is if there's even a 2011 season, which also is in doubt.

I feel for Harbaugh, the entire 49ers organization and the 49er Faithful, as this labor strife could not have come at a worse time. The Niners are now destined for a poor season because of the time constraints that will be put on them.

I just hope that Jed York and 49ers fans will understand this and give Harbaugh more of a chance to rebuild this team. He will not be able to fully get the job done this year due to the shortened training camp and no ability to work with his team until an agreement is reached.

I totally believe that Harbaugh is the right man for the job in San Francisco. We will just need patience as there will be growing pains that need time and repetition to improve.