Ok, so perhaps the 49ers are not truly working towards a winless season, but after such a slow start, is it that far fetched? Right now even the Arizona Cardinals are more successful than the 49ers. The team has injuries galore, and that is not an excuse for winning, but it certainly could factor in on a winless season. The coaching staff really does not have the team playing well, the team is not prepared, turns the ball over like crazy, and commits too many penalties. Flat out the 49ers will be lucky to avoid a winless season.
Now I know that many will comment that the team looked ok out there. That the problems are just with the offensive line, and that the team moved the ball well. That however ignores far too many of the struggles that the team had this week, and have had throughout the season. I am certainly not throwing a book at the season, and saying it is all over, but right now, the way this team is playing, they will be lucky to win a game. There is no doubt that the problems of this team center around the offensive line. When the quarterback – whoever it is – has time to throw, the team moves the ball well. When the running backs have holes to run though, the team runs the ball well. And when the team moves the ball well, the defense does not spend as much time on the field, and can perform well. But to blame just the offensive line would be short sighted.
Both quarterbacks, Ken Dorsey and Tim Rattay may have bright futures. But right now, neither is a true NFL quarterback. When it comes to avoiding pressure and making the tough throws, not turning over the ball, and essentially doing what a top level quarterback should do, they fail. I am not talking about the situations where the offensive line may as well not be there, but in the times when they see normal pressure – the type of pressure any quarterback faces behind any offensive line. There is no way the 49ers can win if the team’s quarterbacks can not perform under normal levels of defensive pressure.
Kevan Barlow is not the running back the team thought he was. He misjudges the holes, and is the only starting running back I can recall that falls backwards and sideways at the end of a play – but never forward. Despite some good performances this year, I do not believe Barlow can ever live up to the hype that surrounds him. Fred Beasley is having a rough season, and that is mainly due to the failures of the offensive line. Terry Jackson is actually doing a fairly good job as the backup running back.
The 49ers receivers are not weapons. That may not be their fault though. The quarterbacks have had a very hard time getting the ball to the receivers, and when they do, they often put the receivers in a compromising position. Tight end Eric Johnson leads the team with receptions, but has suffered tremendous punishment in so doing. The 49ers have to find a way to get the ball to their receivers, they have to get Rashaun Woods on the field, and they can not continue to subject them to such punishment.
Redzone and third down offense has been a problem since last season. That was no different this past week as the 49ers made mistake after mistake when they had opportunity. The 14 points the team did score came after they were already blown out and St. Louis had already let up a little bit.
Until this week, the 49ers defensive line had been playing better than I thought it would. Anthony Adams looks like he has some talent and Bryant Young has had a good season. Still the tackles are not producing sacks. Defensive end John Engelberger has done ok, but the tandem of Andre Carter and Brandon Whiting have been weak. The defensive line did not perform well this week. They were no match for a big and strong Rams offensive line (not surprising considering their past inabilities against bigger lines). The linebacking core is typically a bright point of the team, but they were silenced this week against the Rams. Unable to stop the pass, disrupt the quarterback, or even stop runningbacks from making their way into the defensive backfields, this group had its worst two outings over the past two weeks. The defensive backfield has been shaky at best. The safeties, particularly Tony Parish are not playing up to expectations, and the team is making do with a marry-go-round at cornerback. Mike Rumph is probably lost for the season, and Ahmed Plummer is no match for the elite receivers in the NFL (as was evident in this weeks game).
What bothers me most though, and I know that I have been harping on this issue since last season, is the coaching staff. They have been unable to fix the turnover problems, unable to protect the quarterback, have shown poor time management, and poor judgment, all this plus my belief that this team lacks discipline. The call to punt instead of attempting a 48 yard field goal resulted in a 30 yard field position change. That is it. It was an awful call by the coaching staff not to attempt to get points on the board early, particularly after being shut out the week before. I really do not believe that the team made the right decision in choosing Dennis Erickson as its future coach.
This weekend’s game was flat out embarrassing. It made me as a 49ers fan ashamed of what the team has become. It really made me believe that the 49ers could be the first team to have a winless season. The past eight quarters that the team has played have been the worst eight quarters of football I can ever remember this team playing. Something has to be done to right this ship. There has to be a chance in the performance of the coaching staff, and in the performance of the offensive line and the quarterbacks. Until that happens the 49ers will continue to lose. It really is that simple.