Fool's Gold: What Happened To the 49ers' Offense?

Mihir Bhagat@mihirbhagatSenior Analyst IIIMay 19, 2010

Once upon a time, the San Francisco 49ers had the most potent offense in the league.  

Head Coach Bill Walsh, an offensive guru, coached Joe Montana, Jerry Rice, Dwight Clark, and Roger Craig to three Super Bowl rings during the 1980s. Later, George Seifert won two more with the similar cast.

Fast forward to the state of the franchise today, and you are left scratching your head wondering what happened.

Now, instead of building upon the legacy of the past, the 49ers of the previous seven years have been labeled by inconsistency and incompetence.

If you look at the big picture, there are various factors that have ultimately resulted in their downfall.

It’s fair to point fingers and say that the instability amongst the coaching staff can be detrimental to the development of a team’s potential.

The offensive coordinator is currently Jimmy Raye, their seventh in eight years. The frequent changes at the position are a primary reason why the offense has been unable to surpass 23rd best in the league.

The 49ers of the 80s, on the other hand, were coached by offensive coordinator Mike Holmgren, who eventually became a Super Bowl-winning head coach.

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In my mind, the issues with coaching have led to their lackluster roster, which, up until last year, was deprived of any proven playmakers other than Frank Gore.

The offense certainly doesn’t have two future Hall of Famers like they had in the glory days.

Of course, all hope should not be lost. After failing to live up to his expectations as a former No. 6 overall selection, Vernon Davis emerged as an elite tight end. In addition, last year’s No. 10 overall selection, Michael Crabtree, is set to have a breakout season at receiver.

Moreover, their former No. 1 overall pick, QB Alex Smith, is coming off a career year and has finally established himself as the unquestioned starter heading into the upcoming season.

The enticing possibility of creating a formidable trio is definitely something to be optimistic about.

Even though the team has some key pieces of the puzzle in place, they are yet to form a true identity.

If you put their draft moves along with the front office and coaching staff’s traditional philosophies into consideration, it is evident that they wish to transition into a physical, smash-mouth, run heavy offense.

However, if you look at Smith’s unique skill set, and watched them play in the back half of last season, then you would realize that the team is more effective utilizing the spread offense.

Unlike the past, there is apparently much confusion in what direction the offense is headed in. The 49ers used to be famous for implementing the West Coast offense, a scheme made famous by Bill Walsh, which features an efficient, quick passing game designed to control the ball.

Today, they struggle to settle on a system that works and one everyone can agree on. 

As a loyal, die-hard 49er fan, I wish them the best of luck moving forward. In fact, I’m confident that they will soon be traveling on the path of success. Hopefully, they will continue to improve and form a dynamic dynasty of their own. 

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