At Tight End- 12/20/99
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The 49ers are struggling, and it's no secret. The opposition that once feared the even the site of red and gold is now taking pleasure in the 49ers pain. It's quite humiliating but even worse the coaches haven't found the remedy yet. The good news is I have at the very least half of the cure. It's start by taking a look at the what the offense has been doing over the past weeks since Steve Young went down, and it's root is with the real "West-Coast" offense.

The 49ers are infamous for the short pass that is turned into long gains. Jerry Rice made a living on this and so did John Taylor. Sure both of the wide outs had their fair share of long balls too, but the majority of receptions were actually short passes. Truth is any quarterback can throw a 40 or more yard pass, mainly because the receiver is wide open at that point; of course there are the rare few who can throw a 40 or more yard pass into double coverage (i.e. Joe Montana and Steve Young), but this matter is hardly the concern for us.

It's a given that the short pass helps set up the long ball. Every single executive, coach and player in the NFL knows that. Lucky for the 49ers, Garcia has shown he can throw the long ball when given the opportunity. He doesn't have a cannon of an arm ala Drew Bledsoe, but his touchdown pass to Rice against the Falcons was picture perfect.

Where does that leave the 49ers, who have seen Jeff Garcia constantly dumping the ball off to Greg Clark and Charlie Garner? First off it has the wide receivers begging for the ball. Rice is seeing the worst statistics of his career, and it isn't because of the drop off in his play. Meanwhile Owens is hardly getting the opportunity to show he can make the tough reception, and Stokes, Stokes is pretty much out of the loop.

That's the problem. J.J. Stokes was once touted to be the next Jerry Rice, and while he hasn't emerged to be that, he has emerged to be an above average wide receiver who has thrown blocks this season that have sprung Charlie Garner for huge gains. Obviously Stokes is really upset with the lack of balls thrown his way and the reduced playing time.

Now what can the 49ers do to solve this problem. They have 3 great receivers who don't get the ball enough, one of which is a great blocker who is almost never getting the ball. Meanwhile the quarterback currently starting for the team is a CFL native who instinctively checks down to the short pass. Put one and one together and the answer are obvious.

The 49ers need to move JJ Stokes to tight end. It's that simple. Greg Clark has been hurting all year, and would serve well as the second string tight end. JJ Stokes would get more playing time, more balls thrown his way, and the 49ers would not suffer a loss in the blocking schemes. With that in mind it shouldn't take much convincing to get the 6'4 217 lbs Stokes to change positions.

What would be accomplished should the 49ers make this move is something to good to be true. In theory this change could spark the 49ers offense to reach high scoring levels once again, meanwhile "The Big Three" will be getting more balls because all three will be on the field at the same time. The move makes sense, and not just for this year. Tai Streets or Mark Harris will fill in nicely in the complimentary role (or possibly primary nobody knows at this point) to Owens when Rice is set to retire. In the mean time though the 49ers will have once again revamped their offense, furthermore they would once again be the trendsetters, not the trend followers. The new trend in football begins with the abolishment of a real tight end. It's evident in College Football already, and it will soon be seen in the NFL. The 49ers initiated the short pass offense to the NFL, it is only natural that they make the change that will once again change the way every team plays the game of football.
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