September 29 2002
By Bryan Hersh of 49ers Paradise
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When you think of the 49ers, and their offense, you think of Jeff Garcia, Terrell Owens and Garrison Hearst, all three of whom of course being skill players which were in the Pro Bowl last year. A little theorizing should pin these three at near the top of the league’s statistics and certainly leading the team. Of course if you’ve been paying attention this season, you’ll know that none of these players are league leaders, and only one, Jeff Garcia, is a team leader; and you have to wonder whether the only reason he is leading the team, is that he is the starting quarterback, and no other player has the opportunity to accumulate such stats.
Terrell Owens’ name isn’t even found on the top 30 players in receiving yardage; the same can be said for receiving touchdowns and receptions. Garrison Hearst is ranked 23 in rushing yards, and doesn’t even have a touchdown run (though he has a receiving touchdown). Jeff Garcia is the 26th ranked quarterback in passing yardage, the 27th ranked quarterback in passing touchdowns and his the 28th ranked player in passer ratting (down over 20 points from his last two seasons). Obviously if these key players statistics are so poor, there is a problem with the 49ers offense; still the team is 2-1, and has a chance of fixing what ever is wrong.
It may surprise you to learn that Eric Johnson, the teams tight end leads the team with receptions, receiving yards, and longest pass play. Having a receiving threat at tight end is ever so important in the West Coast Offense, but having the tight end lead the team in receptions is a problem.
You may also be surprised to learn that it is Kevan Barlow who leads the team in rushing yards, and average per attempt - not the starting back Garrison Hearst, who despite six more attempts has rushed for 28 fewer yards and averages 1.1 yards less than Barlow per carry. Barlow also has a rushing touchdown. In all fairness to Hearst, the 49ers have really only started rushing the ball with intent in the third game of the season, leaving Hearst in many times to try and open some things up early, that Barlow can exploit later in the game.
I am certainly bothered that the 49ers offensive skill position players, who have Pro Bowl talent have only been performing on par with the rest of the league. I feel that in regards to Garcia and Owens, its attributed to the lack of patience Garcia has shown to let his receivers get open down field - this is also why I believe Eric Johnson has more receptions than both the starting receivers. I feel that the team lacked commitment to the run game until week three, and I hope that is why Hearst is having such a rough season. What ever the cause, the 49ers better get it fixed over their bye week and into their week of preparations for the Rams. There is no way they can be a contending team with their backup running back, and starting tight end leading two key categories of statistics.