When the San Francisco 49ers found Michael Crabtree still available at the 10th spot of the 2009 NFL draft, it seemed they had found a long-term solution for a big problem—how to stretch defenses from cramming the middle of the field against running back Frank Gore and tight end Vernon Davis.
The excitement was palpable in the Bay Area during the spring of ‘09. Apparently, that was one-sided. Crabtree held out, missing all of training camp and the first five games of 2009.
When he did return, he went in as a starter and had a nominal impact in his first game, Oct. 25, 2009, in a loss at Houston (five catches for 56 yards). Not great, but then Davis came away with three TDs in a seven-reception, 93-yard game.
The Niners seemed to have that rare combination of interior and exterior threats. Though it took Crabtree five games to score his first TD, the offense had more spark than the previous three years. Crabtree’s presence on an offense that had Davis and Gore to go along with a stout defense against the run constituted the optimism for the 2010 season, which many had picked the 49ers as the NFC West favorite.
Then came the meltdown season—five straight losses to start, quarterback controversy, players quitting or retiring, a secondary accused of aiding and abetting opponents’ pass schemes and, in the end, a fired coach. Overall grade: F, at least against expectations.
Now Crabtree is in a walking boot due to an injured left foot, the same foot that suffered a stress fracture that led Crabtree to miss the 2009 pre-draft workout slate. He’s expected to miss all of training camp, the first for new coach Jim Harbaugh. Not sure of what to expect, the Niners signed some insurance in the form of Braylon Edwards, who like Crabtree is a large (6’3”) receiver who has great potential.
Now, it is fair for 49er fans to wonder if Crabtree’s days are numbered. No one who has watched the team the last two years denies that the former Texas Tech wideout has the physical skills to play well in the NFL. But here are six reasons why Michael Crabtree’s days may be numbered in the Bay Area.