Just for the sake of the Niners psyche

December 13, 2010

First…..congrats on the win against Seattle and a very generous Matt Hasselbeck who obvious was in the giving spirit. Not to dismiss the interceptions by the Niners, but most of them were served up on the proverbial holiday platter.  The Niners showed up when they had to, and all in all handed a big L to the boys from the Pacific Northwest. Speaking of being handed a big L, the Kansas City Chiefs were on a big high heading into a showdown with their AFC West foe, the San Diego Chargers. The Chargers sent the K.C. crew back to the city of great BBQ with their heads in their hands and collective tails between their legs with a 31-0 beat down.  The Chargers are playing very well right about now as they seem to, every December. They are currently leading the NFL in total defense and are second in total offense.  The Niners travel to SD on Thursday to jump into this uninviting pool. They’ll face one of the very best signal callers in the NFL in Mr. Rivers, who has Vincent Jackson back to heave it to.  The Chargers running back by committee is also capable of inflicting a lot of damage.  While the Niners did win a big one against the Seahawks they were vulnerable to a number of long pass plays because a. their secondary just seems a step slow and b. because they continue to be a team that doesn’t harass the opposing quarterback very well (1 sack against Seattle). The Niners best “watch a whole lot of film” which the Head Coach apparently loves to do to see what they can do both offensively and defensively against the  Bolts. If they can’t, they may be looking at another Green Bay type game where they get totally dominated. That would not be the best thing to happen heading into St. Louis for THE most pivotal game of their year.

MN

So……who wins the NFC West?

November 30, 2010

Lets take a look at the three “wanna be’s” final 5 games.

The Niners are 4-7 with these games remaining:

@Green Bay

Seattle

@San Diego

@ St. Louis

Arizona

The Rams are 5-6 with these games remaining:

@Arizona

@New Orleans

Kansas City

San Francisco

@Seattle

The Seahawks are 5-6 with these games remaining:

Carolina

@San Francisco

Atlanta

Tampa Bay

St. Louis

The Niners have, in this observer’s opinion, have far and away the toughest road to hoe. First they are a game back of the Rams and Seahawks. Second, they have two terribly tough road games, at Green Bay, and at San Diego to play. The away game in St. Louis is also very tough. The Rams are 4-2 at home this year and will be quite ready to return the loss to the Niners that was pinned on them at Candlestick. I predict the Niners lose three of their last five, and finish 6-10.

“On paper”, the Seahawks have the easiest road to the NFC West title, but their play of late isn’t exactly making  ESPN ‘s highlight show. Four of their last five games are at home and their road game is against the Niners.  Atlanta is a very tough draw and I’d expect a loss to there, but all the other games are imminently winnable. The question is, can Pete Carroll and Co. get their act together?

The Rams have road games in Seattle and Arizona which both are clearly winnable. The reigning Super Bowl champs on the road will be too much of an obstacle I would think. Kansas City and the Niners at home are both within their reach, especially the Niners.

So who wins the NFC West? My couple of nickels is on the St. Louis Rams. Who would have ever thunk it!

MN

“It’s on me”

November 23, 2010

This is apparently Coach Singletary’s new strategy to the demise of his team.  He implored reporters at his Monday post Tampa Bay game loss that any question about the team not performing well would be answered with…..  “it’s my fault.”  Turn overs, my fault. Lack of execution, my fault. Poor offensive line play, my fault. Lack of offensive creativity, my fault. Troy Smith being completely controlled, my fault.  This is kinda silly, really silly. It’s almost as bad as a coach or a person saying “nothing is my fault.”  I don’t know if any reporter asked the coach if with all these “my faults”, should be excused from his position? One could certainly make that argument as the owners of the Dallas Cowboys and the Minnesota Vikings certainly did.  Coach Singletary has also asked that we all the “wait until Monday night.” We assume this means his Niners are going to take it to the hapless Arizona Cardinals?  Wow, I can hardly wait for this clash of the titans. I think it’s pretty crystal clear to all of us that the Singletary led Niners is not the long term solution. The coach is an honorable man, a spiritual man, a committed man. He just isn’t well equipped enough to manage the on field performance of an NFL football team.  But this issue runs deeper that the head football coach as we have talked about on a number of occasions. The Niners really have to get some strong football minds both on the field and behind the desks in Santa Clara. If this can happen, things can start to change pretty rapidly. Just look at the Atlanta Falcons, New York Jets and Kansas City Chiefs for tangible examples.

MN

Not to diminish Troy Smith’s performance

November 16, 2010

But, please raise your hand if you were not impressed with rookie QB Sam Bradford of the Rams in the game last Sunday. This dude is the “real deal.” Very quick release, sees the field incredibly well for a first year player at the most demanding position in sports, and in possession of a big league arm. Rams management and fans have to be jumping for joy knowing Bradford will be manning the helm of the Ram offense for the next ten or more years.  And to think that Bradford is doing it this year with his probable starting wide outs, Mark Clayton and Donnie Avery, on the Rams injured resereve list.  I thought Bradford showed incredible poise against the Niners, especially behind an offensive line that isn’t exactly the Indianapolis Colts.  Another Big 12 rookie, Colt McCoy, is also showing up big time after being given the reigns at Cleveland.  While not having the physical tools that Bradford has, McCoy is a very smart guy and extremely accurate thrower. Like the Rams, the Browns are on the rise with their rookie QB. Is is nice to not have to completely lament that the Niners wish they had gotten a Bradford or a McCoy in the draft instead of an Alex Smith, now that Troy Smith has emerged as a player and a leader that gives them a chance to win games, not contribute to losing them. Sorry Alex, the party is over.

MN

A Mirror Image?

November 9, 2010

My good friend on our show, Jerry Walker, has a saying that I will paraphrase: “I root for two teams each week, the Niners and whoever is playing the Cowboys.”   I couldn’t agree more accept I would include ‘whoever is playing the Rams’, but I digress.

With that in mind, I thoroughly enjoyed the shellacking the Cowboys suffered at the hands of the Packers on Sunday Night Football.  With the subsequent firing of Wade Phillips today, the joy of knowing the Cowboys are in complete disarray overcame me, if only for a while.

In thinking about the demise of ‘America’s Last Place Team’, it occurred to me their downfall was the result of three primary things:  So-so drafting, poor coaching and a non-football-man, Jerry Jones, as the General Manager. This formula hasn’t, doesn’t and won’t work in the NFL.  Does this sound a bit scary to you?

MJ

A Smith by any other name?

November 8, 2010

With the immergence of Troy Smith, for one game, it would appear that there is the potential that we have seen the last of Alex Smith as a starter for the Niners. The oft injured QB is on the shelf for the foreseeable future and even if healthy, it would be hard for Coach Singletary to go back to him if Troy Smith wins a few games, which our schedule dictates is a possibility. And what a shame. It would have been hard to concoct a worse recipe for disaster than the one that befell Alex.

 Young quarterback drafted #1 by a poor team.

 Unprepared for the NFL by virtue of his college style of offense.

 Named the starter on day one.

 Veritable inexperienced head coach.

 No offensive line.

 No receivers.

 Different offensive coordinator each year with the team.

 Brutal injury to non-throwing shoulder.

 Called out and questioned by his head coach.

 Questioned by some team mates.

 Has to take a pay cut to remain with the team.

 Etc., etc., etc.

Enter another Smith. Does it really matter? It couldn’t be worse.

MJ

Thank goodness for the SF Giants!

November 6, 2010

The Giants recent exploits have taken virtually all the Bay Area athletic spotlights off everyone else, including of course, the Niners.  Mike Singletary should send them flowers. Despite the win in London over a foundering Denver team, the Niners still are not inspiring any confidence in this observers opinion that they have turned any corners or have become a team that can consistently execute ……………and win.  Hopefully the Troy Smith experiment will prove to be more that a one game wonder.  Offensive coordinator Mike Johnson has ostensibly opened up more of the playbook to T. Smith, and it will be interesting to see what becomes of that. It would sure be nice to see the Niners stretch the field more and keep opposing defenses more honest.  With Vernon Davis and Ted Ginn, the Niners should indeed to able to come up with some balls that travel more than 20 yards.  One very positive thing that I think we all saw with Troy Smith in the Denver game is that he kept his head and eyes downfield when he was being chased or pressured.  This resulted in him being able to see if there were indeed reasonable opportunities to throw the ball, or run it himself.  When the the “other” Smith got pressured, all too often his first instinct was to just get rid of the ball. On way too many occasions that strategy resulted in a very poor throw or an interception.  The second half of the season has so many implications for the Niners.  Troy Smith could become a starting NFL quarterback going into next year. Mike Singletary and Mike Johnson could retain their employment.  Hell……….the Niners could even win the NFC West.  Or……all of those things could go in the complete other direction. If nothing else, the next eight weeks should be pretty interesting to observe on any number of fronts.

MN

The NFC West is there for the taking

November 5, 2010

Can you imagine before this season started that after the first half the St. Louis Rams might well win the NFC West? Well they certainly could, as could the Seattle Seahawks, and the Arizona Cardinals. And yes,  even your San Francisco 49ers could be holding up the NFC West championship banner at the end of the season. The NFL’s weakest division by far, is completely up for grabs.  The Niners have five of their eight second half games against NFC West foes. Two with St. Louis, two with Arizona, and one with Seattle.  The Niners also have an entire extra week to prepare quarterback Troy Smith and the rest of their team for the November 14th tilt with the Rams at the ‘Stick. This game will speak volumes about the second half Niners. Can Troy, Mike Johnson, and the offense begin to really be a unit that can consistently score some points and keep turnovers and penalties to a minimum? Can the defense rise up and play a more dominating role in the second half as we thought they would all season?  We’ll certainly see.  The NFC West opponents are all teams that the Niners should be able to line up against with no problem. This isn’t exactly like playing the Patriots, Ravens and Steelers. The Rams game is of course especially pivotal, as it is at home and will jump-start the second half season,  if the Niners can get a W.  A home conference loss to Sam Bradford and Company would show that the Niners have achieved little if any traction from their win in London and their extra week of preparation for this game.  And Jed York might have to retract his “we’re going to win the NFC West” proclamation.

MN

Troy Smith for President

November 2, 2010

Well, maybe that’s going a wee bit too far, but it sure was nice watching  a player who played with some passion, determination, and bravado, as opposed to Alex Smith, who just looks like the proverbial deer in the headlights virtually every time he gets the ball in his hands. Seems like Alex’s career with the  Niners is over if that other Smith can deliver any sort of success over the next 8 games of the year. I can’t imagine that Singletary would even think about starting Alex when his shoulder is healthy again, but then again I couldn’t imagine that Coach Sing wouldn’t shake an opposing Head Coach’s hand (Atlanta’s Mike Smith) at the end of a game. It’s also is clearly the end of the line for David Carr, who had a very short career as the number one backup. Why on this big green planet would the Niners sign a guy who a TV announcer said during the Carolina game has no support from the offensive coordinator, nor the Head Coach apparently, to throw the football?  If all of the aforementioned is true, the Niners will clearly be in the market for a quarterback or quarterbacks next season. The “experts” tell us 2011 is a deep college quarterback draft led by Stanford’s Andrew Luck.  Then there’s Nate Davis in the bullpen. Can he become a viable NFL signal caller?  I still wish the Niners had pursued Donovan McNabb in last years off-season, but then again, I wish for a lot of things.

MN

Battle of Coaches on the Hot Seat

October 30, 2010

The Niner-Denver battle on the Themes is going to make the loser Head Coach even more vulnerable to be excused from his job. Maybe Mike Singletary and Josh McDaniels are already gone?  Singletary’s player resume and rhetoric worked for a while after Mike Nolan was sent packing, but it isn’t now. His team is playing poorly on both offense and recently (and surprisingly) on defense. They have also accumulated 22 penalties in their last two games.  The Niners consistently look confused and disorganized. McDaniels  raised the controversy flag up the flagpole almost immediately after being hired. He shipped Jay Cutler and Brandon Marshall out of town, and certainly didn’t endear himself to a lot of Denver fans by selecting Tim Tebow in the first round of the 2010 draft.  But worse, is McDaniel’s record against AFC West opponents since he’s been in Denver. It’s 0-4, including last weekend’s thrashing at the hands of the Oakland Raiders.  It’s hard to see these once proud franchises foundering so much. It’s not all about the Head Coach, but a whole lot of it is. Thus far Mr. Singletary and Mr. McDaniels just ain’t getting it done.

MN