"The Only Yardstick for Success is Being a Champion" - Bill Walsh

Monday, October 26, 2009

Does Mike Singletary Have the Power to Change?

...a SF 49er Observer Editorial.

Mike Singletary -- A Man at a Crossroads

There is a classic scene in the movie "The Godfather II" in which Michael Corleone (Al Pacino) attempts to dissuade his wife Kay (Diane Keaton) from leaving him and taking the kids with her. He looks her right in the eye and says, "I can change...I know I have the power to change". He knew he would never change his philosophy, but to keep things running smoothly, he was willing to at least give the appearance of being capable of making important changes.

We now have Mike Singletary in the role of Michael Corleone and 49er fans in the role of Kay. Yesterday's embarrassing offensive performance against the Texans in the first half in the 24-21 loss, had to have made it very clear to Samurai Mike that his dream of having a team that goes out and hits them in the mouth applies only to his defense. His "smash mouth" power running offense that will dominate a team on the ground is only an illusion with this group.

This 49er offensive line has made it abundantly clear that it is not physically capable of being a dominant power running team and pass protecting at the same time. It also exposed Shaun Hill's limitations within such a system. So where does Singletary go from here? First, he must elevate Alex Smith, who gave his finest performance as a 49er QB to the starter position. But that is only the beginning.

Not often is a team capable of changing horses in mid-stream in such a defining way. I have been a Shaun Hill supporter for a long time but it has become clear that his ability to move the team was more suited to a Mike Martz offense which also left him exposed to 7 step drops and mucho sacks. Unfortunately for Shaun, the vanilla offense Jimmy Raye developed for Singletary's dream became a nightmare and he looks nothing like the confident QB who played so well in the past.

Singletary must adapt his offense to the talents and abilities of his players and he is very lucky. This offensive roster is tailor made for a wide open spread formation that uses 3 and 4 receiver formations. Michael Crabtree is sensational and he and Josh Morgan could well be the star receivers of the future for this team. Getting Brandon Jones and Jason HIll off the practice squad and into their receiver roles is vital to offensive success. These four receivers should get the majority of playing time. Isaac Bruce is ready for Social Security and should be limited in his action in this his final season.

The tight end position is outstanding. Vernon Davis is turning in an All-Pro season, and Delanie Walker does everything well, from blocking to receiving to running back kicks. With these two guys performing so well, that makes six (6) very good receivers for Smith to choose from.

As to the backfield, we know that Frank Gore is a great runner who gives 100% all the time. Frank is also an excellent receiver out of the backfield, a role that both he and Michael Robinson can handle very well. Both are good blockers and top notch receivers. Last season, MIchael caught 17 passes for 201 yards for a 11.9 average per reception which was good enough for # in the NFL among RBs. Apparently, Singletary forgot to pass that message along to Jimmy Raye and this year the team has ignored Robinson much like Nolan did.

In my opinion, Glen Coffee is only a decent runner who is a so-so blocker and who makes too many rookie mistakes. Glen needs to sit and watch and I'd put him in cold storage.

A spread offense with Gore and Robinson as the featured backs utilized often as receivers and in the Wildcat role would be an ideal mix with and complement to the excellent wide receiver corps. Gore is already taking direct snaps and Robinson is a former QB who can pass and run the option. These two featured in such a way provide versatility and defensive problems for other teams expecting to face a smash mouth offense.

I was dismayed at Jimmy Raye's play calling until they replaced Hill with Smith and changed the offensive philosophy. It then became very apparent to me that Jimmy knows what he is doing and was only keeping the offense as vanilla as yogurt to please his boss. The 49er offense in the second half vs. Houston reminded me of the Niners of old, who would move up and down the field at will with sharp, crisp passing.

There is one more change Singletary must implement now. There is a kid sitting on the bench in Nate Davis, who has shown in what little time he was able to get on the field, the exact talents needed to run a successful spread offense. He has a rocket arm, yet has demonstrated the ability to take something off his passes. He has poise and confidence and may well be the future star at QB for the Niners. The team had no fear in getting the rookie Crabtree on to the field right away. Give Nate an equal opportunity.

When Joe Montana was a rookie, Bill Walsh sat him for awhile, then he started inserting him in games with specific plays in mind designed to achieve success. Bill did this to build his confidence and prepare him for the next season when he knew he would be the starter. Alex Smith may well be the man to play the role of Steve DeBerg, who was a top passer but lacked the ability to pull off the big win. Alex deserves his chance now, but Singletary needs to prepare for the inevitable and elevate Nate Davis to #2 QB.

OK, Mike. The ball is in your court. You still have a smash mouth defense. It's time to show your gentle side, Mike, and instead of running over your opponents, just slice and dice them. Do you have the Power to Change, Mike? The whole world is watching!

Copyright @ 2009
All Rights Reserved

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Michael Robinson to Return Kickoffs vs. Houston

Last week it was Delanie Walker. Then, the Chronicle reported that Glen Coffee would be the man. Now, Matt Maiocco reports that it will be Michael Robinson as the kickoff returner with Coffee the upback. Good luck, Michael.

Copyright @ 2009
All Rights Reserved

Monday, October 12, 2009

Singletary Faces Major Turning Point

After being just two seconds away from an undefeated 4-0 start, the 49ers came crashing to earth on Sunday as the Atlanta Falcons humiliated them 45-10 at Candlestick Park. For the first time this season, we were able to see what an outstanding job Mike Singletary has done to date with a team whose weaknesses were exposed for all to see.

Now facing a bye week ahead, and with the prospect of both the Arizona Cardinals and Seattle Seahawks returning to form, Mike Singletary is faced with some major decisions. On the defensive side of the ball, the 49ers are sound and talented. Manny Lawson has been inconsistent, and the secondary has had its good and bad moments, but the unit as a whole is among the league's upper echelon. Patrick Willis and Takeo Spikes have been sensational, and Justin Smith and Isaac Sopoaga have been staunch against the run.

Aubrayo Franklin, after an excellent start to the season, had a terrible game yesterday, and Dre Bly should be cut. His hot dog performance and insistence that "Dre does what Dre does", proves that he is an individual playing on a team and there is no room for that kind of childish behavior on a winning TEAM, With just a few adjustments, the defense will remain solid.


The fly in the ointment for the 49ers is the offense. That they have been able to go 3-2 with Jimmy Raye's plain vanilla offense is remarkable, but it's time to play PROFESSIONAL football and this offensive scheme may be fine for a Pop Warner league team lacking a good QB, but it has no place in the NFL.

Let's pick the offense apart. First, the offensive line is just that -- offensive. To say that Shaun Hill has little or no time to pass is an understatement. Eric Heitmann and Joe Staley have been adequate, but the guard play of David Baas and Chilo Rachal has been very disappointing. Right tackle has been inconsistent with Snyder and Pashos both having mediocre performances. Elevating Alex Boone from the practice squad may be a good move as he will be a future starter and needs to get some reps.

At wide receiver, it is obvious that the Niners lack a breakaway man like they faced in Roddy White of Atlanta. Josh Morgan has disappointed, not only because he dropped a certain TD pass vs. the Rams, then made the excuse that the ball was "coming down like a punt", but because yesterday he was not running full out in an attempt to catch a pass. Anything less than 100% effort is unacceptable.

Brandon Jones has yet to set foot on the field and Jason Hill is apparently in somebody's doghouse but gives great effort on special teams and is, in my estimation, the best wide receiver we have active at this time. Arnaz Battle has never been great, and Isaac Bruce is ready for Social Security and shows it. The best receivers right now are the Tight Ends, Vernon Davis and Delanie Walker.


As someone who shares a birthdate with Singletary, I have insight into his thought processes. He's a Libra to whom balance is essential in life. Mike can see both sides of a situation and is motivated by fairness and discipline. His decisions are always made with the best interest of his team in mind and he will make sacrifices to see that his goals are met.

Now the 49ers are at a fork in the road. They are moving in the right direction with the Playoffs and eventually the Super Bowl as the goal. Yesterday's blowout exposed the weaknesses, and unfortunately, the biggest weakness is at QB. I love Shaun Hill. He is a leader, determined, and excellent game manager, and tough. However, he does not possess the passing skills to take an NFL team to a title. That fact became obvious to me yesterday for the first time. I wanted him to succeed badly, but he just doesn't have "it", and "it" is what is needed at the position to take the Niners to the next level. Continuing with Hill as our starting QB is only delaying the development of this team.

Mike is now faced with a dilemma. Shaun Hill is a serviceable quarterback, an excellent game manager, a fairly accurate passer with a soft arm, and a leader. Alex Smith came to the 49ers with great physical ability but no natural instincts for the position. Alex continues to take way too long to set up and deliver the ball. He makes very slow decisions which results in a very slow delivery. His passing is scattershot at best and while he has a strong arm, he is and continues to be very inaccurate. The game has never slowed down for Alex. He will NEVER be a top quarterback for the 49ers.


As we enter the Bye week, the future of our receiving corps has come to camp. Michael Crabtree, if he is anywhere near as good as expected, will bring the excitement and explosiveness to the receiving corps that is needed. With Jones returning from injury and Jason Hill and Morgan ready to go, and with the return of Frank Gore, this offense should be ready to reduce the vanilla bean running scheme and go to the air with effectiveness.

Enter Nate Davis. In two preseason games he has demonstrated a rocket arm, and makes plays that the other two guys simply cannot; he is mobile and can make throws on the run the others cannot, and he makes excellent decisions. I don't care that he has only faced backups -- his ability is right there for all to see.

Most important of all is his poise. In four years, Alex Smith has continually shown that deer-in-the-headlights quality that frustrates 49er fans. Many blame his failure to excel at QB on the 49ers. They say he has been ruined by them due to having too many offensive coordinators, a poor supporting cast, etc. I say that is baloney (bologna to my Italian readers). In reading the forums and comments of many of the newer and younger 49er fans who don't even have a clue as to our winning tradition, beg and plead not to rush Davis into the fray and ruin him like we did Alex. I read comments saying he's our QB for 2010, 2011, and even 2012.

Why wait? Do the names Flacco, Ryan or Roethlisberger ring a bell? All were highly successful in their rookie season.

If I were Mike Singletary, I would get
Nate Davis and Michael Crabtree together and have them start working on their chemistry right now during the bye week. They are the touchdown combination of the future for the 49ers and it makes no sense to finish this season with either Hill or Smith since neither is the future of the 49ers.

I am now in my 64th season as a 49er fan, having seen every quarterback in Niner history from the great Frankie Albert up to not so great Alex Smith, and consider myself to be a pretty good judge of quarterbacking talent. Nate Davis possesses the most talent and ability to be seen in a 49er quarterback since Steve Young. It makes no sense to hold him back. The only way he is going to develop that talent is to PLAY. We discovered a gem, let's polish it and put it on display. It is time!

Copyright @ 2009
All Rights Reserved

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Get Used to It

Here is what's coming at wide receiver:

Copyright @ 2009
All Rights Reserved

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Samoan Tragedy

A Sad Story Out of Miami

Dolphins DT Paul Soliai lost 12 relatives in the recent tragedy in American Somoa. In times like this we all need to take a step back and realize football is just a game. My prayers go out to all those who lost loved one in the recent events in Indonesia and American Somoa. Our prayers are with them.

It has also come to our attention that Isaac Sopoaga has not been able to contact his family. Our best wishes for Ice and the welfare of his family.

Copyright @ 2009
All Rights Reserved

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