Yeah I said it… 10 and 6… I even said “quote me”. I was so sure of myself, in my mind there really was no reason why I shouldn’t have been. After all, the 49ers were coming off of an 8-8 season and all signs pointed to the team finishing the 2010 campaign with 9-10 wins.
Alex Smith and the San Francisco offense would conduct business under the same coordinator for a second year in a row, something that hadn’t occurred in the last six seasons. The defense, last season’s strong point, would only continue to evolve and find success behind one of the best linebackers in the league and an aggressive coordinator in Greg Manusky. I truly saw nothing to lead me to believe that this wouldn’t happen, nothing at all.
Of course it didn’t happen, and after a 0-5 start the 49ers find themselves in the precarious position of attempting to put it all together and rise from the ashes of this horrible start. Eleven games to fix the problems on offense and realize their true potential.
Eleven games for the defense to right itself and become the pillar of the team as it was in 2009.
Can it even be done is the question that comes to mind. If the 49ers somehow manage to make the playoffs, a feat that in all likelihood will only be accomplished by winning their division, they will become the first 0-5 team in NFL history who earned the right to play in January.
This appears to be an almost insurmountable task. However looking at the quality, or lack thereof, of the NFC West, the hill which must be climbed does not seem to be as steep. After opening with five straight losses Mike Singletary’s team is a mere three games out of first place.
Sure they are the worst team in the worst division in football right now, but I see a resurgence coming in the form of a battered and beaten down quarterback who has no choice but to change his mind set.
I see it in an offensive coordinator, who going into the third game at the helm of this unit, is beginning to see ways to exploit opposing defenses.
Believe it or not I see it in a head coach who I believe truly wants this team to win, wants them to see what it feels like to make the playoffs, and compete for a championship. He has done it himself and therefore knows what it takes as a player.
Singletary has never done it as a head coach and unless he makes some changes to not only his philosophy but his overall running of the team he never will.
If the 49ers are going to make anything out of this season, and believe me they still can, Singletary will be required to remove himself from anything to do with game planning or play calling.
He will need to allow Mike Johnson and Greg Manusky to call each and every play as they see fit. No head coach ever has relinquished these duties fully, so who better to be the first then Iron Mike?
You see, Singletary is a bit of an anomaly because he already has admitted at least once that his greatest attribute as a head coach is that he has surrounded himself with people who are smarter than he is.
If that’s the case Mike, let them do their jobs, especially Johnson who may be one of the top up and coming offensive minds in football. He needs to be allowed to operate the offense in a way that is going to generate points and culminate in wins.
Jimmy Raye was fired for not producing results with an offense that was being run the way Singletary wanted it to be. It was never going to work. Point blank, I believe Raye was a bad coordinator, but I also believe he was made to look even worse because of Sing’s philosophy.
Johnson must not be hamstrung by the same viewpoints. He must be allowed to work without restriction or consequence. This offense has the ability and talent to be one of the top in the league if three things happen; the aforementioned, establishing a more dominant and consistent run game behind Frank Gore, and one other glaring issue… Alex Smith.
Smith has been at the forefront of fans displeasure for years now. His fault or not, the sixth year quarterback remotely has not come close to his #1 overall draft status. He has played with fear, confusion, and lack of fortitude for most of his career. He has been shuffled through offensive systems with reckless abandon and has been hurt for roughly half of his career.
This season was viewed as his last chance to make his mark in San Francisco and possibly football altogether. He has failed miserably thus far.
Smith has shown flashes of brilliance this season; the Monday night game against the defending champion Saints and last week’s matchup against the Eagles are the two games that stick out the most.
When placed under pressure Smith has performed remarkably and led touchdown drives that would make Bill Walsh proud. It hasn’t been all wine and roses though, hence the 0-5 start. However, one has to be optimistic about what this offense can do if Smith opens it up the rest of this season.
Sundays contest against the cross bay rival Raiders is when it has to begin.
There is no alternative at this juncture of the season. Smith has to be aggressive and pass the ball downfield. We’ve all seen what can happen when he plays without 100-gallons of caution in his system.
He performs well and the offense scores points as a result. He has nothing to lose now. Either he starts winning games or he’s gone as the starter at season’s end and possibly even sooner.
Smith himself has admitted to playing too cautiously, something he attributes to his league leading nine interceptions, not to mention the team’s five losses. It’s this attitude and play that must disappear, making way for a more forceful Alex Smith.
He cannot flounder when the pocket collapses around him or make atrocious decisions with the football when he is flushed outside.
Most will say there is no chance for this team to win its division and make the playoffs for the first time since 2002. I would tend to agree for the most part, but the questions begs, when was the last time you saw so many pundits still giving an 0-5 team a chance to do so? I can’t remember one. In all honesty, if there ever was a team that held that distinction and could pull it off, I believe it’s the 49ers.
Time will tell.