November 22 - The Mystery of the Red & Gold
After each week of the 2007 NFL season, lugubrious 49er fans gather
around water coolers and coffee machines to seek comfort from their
fellow 49er faithful. Their beloved, yet lackluster team has done nothing
but leave them with a feeling of malaise week after week. It can’t get any
worse they tell each other as they drown their sorrows with hot coffee,
soda, and after last Sunday’s loss to St. Louis, shots of alcohol to ease
the pain. The harsh reality has now set in : it can get worse. It is getting
worse. Each week the teams defies all odds and performs worse than
the previous week leaving fans bewildered and emotionally dejected.
Luckily, thanks to a 24-0 drubbing on Monday Night Football in Week 10 by Seattle, every fan has now
finally found some resolve : it cannot get any worse. Thankfully, up to this point since the NFL’s
inception no team has figured out how to score less than zero points in an NFL game. Many teams
have come close over the years but due to each team’s effort, or lack of it rather, none has yet to break
the zero mark. So, perk up Niner fans and congratulations! You have hit rock bottom. We can only
hope that the league is not meeting in private to discuss new innovations that will actually allow
teams to lose points for overly horrific play or for coaches of 2-8 teams who still wear ties on the
sidelines for home games. (Naming no names…Mike Nolan)
The disastrous season all started with a lucky Monday night victory in San Francisco on September
9th. A certain victory seemed in order for Arizona until Cardinal’s cornerback Eric Green let a sure
fumble recovery slip out of his hands in the end zone which would have sealed the win. Despite the
exciting finish, Alex Smith acknowledged he couldn’t have played much worse in the opener. We now
have come to realize that may have been his best game of the year. It has also been noted that if not
for Green’s case of butterfingers, and Jeff Wilkins barely missing a game-winning field goal the
following week, the 49ers would be winless in 2007.
Each week the team has reached new season lows whether be it for first downs, rushing yards,
completions, yards and now after their Monday night loss; points, while posting new season highs
each week for interceptions, turnovers and false start penalties. At one point during the Seahawks
game, San Francisco’s offensive line managed three penalties in a row with two sequentially coming
as false starts. This is a feat that an offensive line comprised of a one-legged raccoon, three dancing
hyenas and one glue-sniffing orangutan wouldn’t even be able to accomplish.
I think at one point I actually saw the headline judge actually reach for his lower back in agony after
the third flag throw. It was probably the first referee crew in the history of the NFL who actually had to
see medical staff after the game with flag throwing related injuries. If the 49ers stick to their usual
game plan for the remainder of the season, we could see our first referee with a torn rotator cuff.
So where does San Francisco go from here? No one seems to have any answers and that is mostly
because no one has any questions since the exact problem is so hard to pinpoint. This makes it very
difficult to find solutions. If you put Nancy Drew, a psychic gypsy with a crystal ball, NFL football
analysts and the ghosts of Bill Walsh and Vince Lombardi in a room they would exit the room
dumbfounded, without any answers of how to right the sinking 49er ship.
So who is to blame? Everyone from head coach Mike Nolan, the offensive line, to a crazy banjo
playing fan has seen fingers pointed in their direction. (In the banjo player’s defense he happened to
have a fresh Budweiser stain on his shirt and that may have been the cause of the finger).
Third year quarterback Alex Smith has been a solid contributor to San Francisco’s last place offense,
posting a league worst 57.2 passer rating. In his defense however, the offensive line has allowed
thirty-one sacks, forcing Smith to dance around the pocket like Michael Jackson being attacked by a
swarm of bees. A beaten and battered Smith cannot be solely to blame.
For many gumshoes thirty-one sacks and a 25th ranked rushing offense would cause them to
announce their case closed and solely blame the offensive line for the poor play. This may have
worked for Frank and Joe Hardy when figuring out the “Secret at the Old Mill,” however it won’t work for
the 49ers. Essentially the same offensive line that opened up holes for 2006 NFC leading rusher
Frank Gore, couldn't even open up holes for a muskrat to dart through in 2007. With the same
offensive line as last year, how can they be the problem?
San Francisco’s’ 22nd ranked defense has some apparent holes, but since the offense goes three
and out on almost every drive, they barely have enough time for a sip of water and an encouraging
butt slap before they are back out on the field, exhausted. Sorry Nancy Drew, the mystery continues…
First year offensive coordinator Jim Hostler doesn’t seem to have any clue of how to run an offense
and his conservative approach has put San Francisco dead last in total yards and points per game.
While Hostler may be very close to the main problem, in his defense, any time he does have an
epiphany and decide to mix things up, players aren’t able to execute. How can he be to blame, when
the right plays are called and players can’t come through?
Lastly, we come to head coach Mike Nolan who is in his third season with the
team. The crystal ball gypsy has yet to finalize her report, however, it appears
more and more apparent, that Nolan, a defensive minded coach, has
absolutely no clue of how to run an offense and is the primary problem of this
At one point during the Seattle game starting tight end Vernon Davis had to ask
Nolan if he could have a pass thrown to him. Mike Nolan appeared confused
as to why Davis hadn’t seen more throws and had to ask his offensive
coordinator what was going on. He is totally out of touch with the offense and
his conservative offense philosophies will not work with San Francisco’s
personnel. He plays to win games with his defense and not lose games with his offense, however, a
22nd ranked defense and a 32nd ranked offense will not work with his methods. He also has tried
unsuccessfully to turn a speedy, spread option quarterback in Alex Smith into a pocket passer, which
clearly is not working. This would be like taking Lindsey Lohan and Paris Hilton and trying to turn
them into nuns. Mike Nolan doesn’t know how to maximize a player’s strengths and stay away from
There are so many pieces of the puzzle that need fixing and tinkering but with a new head coach this
team can start in a new direction. A new philosophy is needed in San Francisco, and once a new
coach is at the helm the pieces will then fall into place.
A turnaround this season for San Francisco seems as likely as Heidi and Lauren making amends on
this season’s “The Hills,” and with next year’s first round pick going to New England there is barely a
speck of light at the end of the tunnel for 49er fans. They can only hope that ownership will go out and
find a head coach that will finally get them back on their winning ways of the past. Until then, kick back
with your favorite Hardy Boy’s thriller and watch the NFL’s worst offense take the field and continue
their losing ways.