Monday, December 27, 2010

The Mutinous Rabble


Last night, whilst running a few errands, I noticed that head coaches on the hot seat, on fire, and inflames were the major themes of the evening on Sports Talk Radio. This was also the rage on the NFL Network. It looks like we are preparing for a firestorm of firings in the coming week. Mark Clayton of ESPN says 10-11 coaches will fall in total by the end of this week. That means about 33% of the teams in the league will fire a head coach.

I hate to toot my own horn, but I was forecasting this more than a month ago.

Mike Singletary fired

So the other shoe has dropped and Mike Singletary has been fired. I say fired in the past tense because they did the job on him last night, not after this week’s final game. When I saw this news, I was once again struck dumb by the horrendous turn around in the 49er organization this season.

At the beginning of the season, the 49ers were expected to enjoy a cup-cake walk to the NFC West title, and Mike Singletary was the face of the franchise. Everywhere you drove in the SF bay area, including San Jose, Mike Singletary’s face was visible on some bill board or poster somewhere. It wasn’t always a 49er advertisement, but it usually was. Mike was the super star of the team, and the reason to believe in a turn-around.

Now there are broken dreams and flying machines laying in pieces on the ground. The turnaround came, but it went in the wrong direction. There will be a new GM and a new head coach in San Francisco soon. The GM will be hired first, and that GM will select a coach. We’ll see if this turns out to be the Big Tuna or someone else.

The 49er Problems are deep and chemical

I live in the NFC West. I have been a Ram fan for more than 30 years now. I keep a close watch on the 49ers. My best buddy in life happens to a 49er fan. This is a biting irony, I know. I observe the 49ers very closely, in the same way that the CIA used to keep surveillance on the KGB. I know these guys pretty well. They are the prime enemy. Know yourself and know your enemy is the saying,

What I say to you now, I say in a spirit of scientific objectivity, not spite. The 49ers problems are a lot worse than Singletary or the QB situation. Further, I would question whether Singletary was a problem at all. You may have just fired a non-problem, even a solution provider.

Most would reply that Singletary lost control of his ship, and the 49ers became a rudderless shipwreck as the season went along. I don’t quite see it that way. I think Singletary had a mutinous rabble on his hands, and they took the ship from him. Yes, he probably mishandled an already terrible quarterback situation, but this was not the key to 49er defeat. He could have handled the QBs well, and the 49er Bust-Collective would have lost games anyway.

The key to 49er defeat is a collection of undisciplined, strong-willed divas on offense, who want to do what they want to do, and don’t get along with each in the process. That offense was a rabble. You only need to witness the conflicts that have occurred recurred between Frank Gore, Vernon Davis and Michael Crabtree to see what I am talking about. This group has no chemistry together. Surely it was never this way with Joe Montana, Jerry Rice and Roger Craig. Surely, it was not this way with Steve Young, Jerry Rice and Ricky Waters. Waters was a Diva elsewhere, but not in SF. Certainly, this internal conflict doesn’t make it easy to succeed as a QB with the 49ers, even if you have a good candidate.

Then there is the grand and sweeping problem of the 49er Bust Collective. During Sunday’s game, you had not one but two all-out bust #1 overall draft pick QBs, sitting on the bench, backing up a late-round, once-cut QB who was starting. Alex Smith, David Carr, Troy Smith… What a mess. Of course, the key issue here is that the 49ers have wasted 6 years waiting for Alex Smith to come around and bear fruit. It ain’t going to happen, so it is time to move on. It was really time to move on two years ago, but 49er organization has been very stubborn about giving up on Alex Smith. It cost them dearly over the last several years.

Now for the billion dollar question: If a leader as tough and single-minded as Singletary could not control that offensive rabble, then who can? I don’t think it can be done. The rabble, as currently constituted, will not be controlled. This is the problem the 49er organization needs to cogitate during the next several weeks while they are selecting a coach. You have had two highly professional and highly respected head coaches in a row in Mike Nolan and Mike Singletary. You even had Mike Martz in there for a time, and no man has successfully controlled that rabble yet.

Some, like Colin Cowherd would pile on the blame on the QB situation. Respectfully, I don’t think so. Certainly your Quarterback problems are terrible, but 49er problems won’t end with the acquisition of a franchise QB.

You can trade for the #1 pick and select Andrew Luck. You can hire Jim Harbaugh also. I doubt that will change things in 2011… if there is a 2011. No, the problem is lousy offensive chemistry, and not so great defensive chemistry. Certainly the defense is way ahead of the offense, and more talented also, but will they continue to be without Mike Singletary? I wouldn’t bet on it. I expect the offensive chemistry to remain lousy and the defense to get worse. We’ll see what happens.

Respectfully, you should consider dismantling your offensive unit, with the exception of the offensive line. If I were the new boss, I would release Alex Smith, David Carr, and Troy Smith. I would trade Frank Gore for anything I might get for him. I would try to acquire a ransom for Vernon Davis and Michael Crabtree. I would assemble as many picks as possible and do a full-rebuild in 2011. I would clean house on the offense side and see what I can do, rebuilding around a new QB.

Knowing them, they will select a QB #1 overall. I wouldn’t do that. I would look for Jake Locker later in the 1st round, or maybe the 2nd. I wouldn’t put all my eggs in one basket. I would distribute my picks around all the offensive skill positions. I would use my several picks to try to reconstruct and reform that offense completely. I would also consider restoring the West Coast Offense, which seems to work best in your home stadium conditions at Candlestick.

I would try to hire a good 3-4 coordinator, perhaps Wade Phillips, and leave the defense intact.

Rough ride ahead

Any which way you slice it, the die is cast. The 49ers are going to look like the 29ers next year. I think it is going to be a bust-up and rebuild situation. Certainly, any man willing to take on these problems will want the authority to fix it and fix it good. Any way you slice it, the 49ers should be in for a bumpy ride next season. I would expect it to get worse before it gets better.

The current epoch of 49er history can be compared to the early-to-mid 1970s 49ers. Certainly, those were not bad teams. Only a couple of monumental performances by Roger Staubach kicked those guys out of the playoffs. Then they blew up the ship, had a couple of really bad years with O.J. Simpson and Jim Plunkett before building a history with Bill Walsh and Joe Montana.

Right now, the 49ers are at the end of the mid-1970s.

All of this bodes well for the Rams

The augurs say this omen portends good things for the Rams. The Cardinals have landed. The 49ers, who looked poised for a good epoch, are burning as we speak. The Seahawks are still a franchise QB and some change away from competition. You can’t imagine my surprise as I look at things and realize that we might well be the favorite to win the division next year… if there is a next year.