Hot on the heels of the Big Dood's bangin Big Blue preview comes the Bizman with a scintillating San Fran reminisce. Should be noted that while eternal frenemies the Almighty Bizman aka II-Dope and Furdz aka Sam Boomz have had their fair share of disagreements dating back to their infamous battles on the crooked streetz of (trife-life-get-your-dome-checked) Tribeca, they both shared love for Niner football and Joe Cool back in the dizzay. So much so that a young Boomz forced a young Coachie 2 peep Joe Montana QB for a mediocre Chief team on Monday Night Football whilst lounging in a lavish Quebec City hotel room.
Anyhoo, the bizman speaks:
The San Francisco 49ers. Remember them? I’ll bet it’s been a minute since you’ve given them a second- or even a first- thought. They’ve been Team Irrelevant for a good five seasons now. But man, remember when?
I am what you could generously call a lapsed 49ers fan. When I started watching football around the 1986-87 season, I had no rooting interests. My dad didn’t have any particular allegiances beyond liking the local teams to win. Of my two best friends in elementary school, one was a Giants fan, one was a Jets fan. Meanwhile, I came to realize that these teams were on television every single week and were boring me. (This, it should be noted, absolutely holds true for me now as well. Familiarity bred contempt, but I have managed to lessen my dislike of the omnipresent local teams to a practiced degree of indifference, although I’m always up for a bad loss just so I can read the Armageddon-Is-Coming sports section in the Post the next day.)
I can’t pinpoint exactly when I decided to follow them, but after seeing highlights and a few playoff games, I saw that the Niners were different, were more exciting than the same boring old conservative NFC East teams. Look at all this passing!
[Sidebar: I like passing. It is a little-known fact (inexplicably so) that the pass opens up the run, but it is an even less-known fact that, as my extensive, hands-on Tecmo Super Bowl research will attest to, the pass opens up the pass, which leads to scores galore.]
So, let’s go Niners. What the hey. And it was a mighty good run, other than some rough playoff defeats at the hands of the Giants and ‘Boys. You could almost always rely on a good show- Montana’s brutal efficiency and Rice effortlessly open, Young’s brutal efficiency (and crazy running!) and Rice effortlessly open, Roger Craig and an underrated string of excellent pass-catching RBs (“Stillllll” Watters, William Randolph Hearst, Garner “More Yards”). Down to third-string? No problem! The Niners even had the White Willie Beamen in Steve “Shh, It’s” Bono. Bill Walsh left the sidelines? No problem! Enter George Seifert, a terrible college coach many years back (at Cornell, no less!) under whom the offense ran as smoothly as a Big daddy Kane silk shirt....
Sure, their last Super Bowl title (and appearance) was in 1994, but they remained a perennial playoff team. Young was forced to retire and in stepped Jeff Garcia, whose current sad incarnation (cut by the Raiders!) should not overshadow the fact that he was fee-nominal in his prime. 2001- 32 TDs passing, 5 rushing (!). A then-inoffensive T.O. took the mantle from Rice and owned the league, posting double-digit TDs three straight seasons. Thing was, they seemed to lose to the Packers in the playoffs every year, except for that one fantastic game where Young found Owens in the end zone for the winning score as time wound down (essentially Owens’ “I have arrived” moment).
The last hurrah was in 2002. After the Niners’ furious, highly improbable, long-snapper-crying, no-penalty-call-assisted comeback against the Giants in the wacky 39-38 playoff game (yeah, you like that, Shockey, standing there looking stupid on the sidelines), they were absolutely throttled by the eventual Super Bowl champion Bucs. By midway through the first quarter, I was thoroughly deflated (and disgusted with the team’s lack of effort).
Coach Mariucci was fired and replaced by in-over-his-head Dennis Erickson (yeah, he was great with the Seahawks, too). In 2003, the Niners lost five games by 3 points or less and finished 7-9. And then things really went bad.
T.O. managed to run Garcia out of town, then wrote his own ticket to Philly. With Garrison Hearst breaking down, there went the offense, just like that. Poof, gone. The replacements were Tim “Picks Ay-Day” Rattay, nobody at wide receiver, and Kevan “Lower than Low” Barlow. Not exactly Montana/Craig/Rice.
Years and years of skillfully (but perhaps not completely legally) skirting the salary cap finally caught up to the team, and free agency was no longer a viable option. Drafting went south in a hurry. Over the next five seasons, the Niners finished in the in the top 25 in defense and in offense one time each. Once! There are only 32 teams! No receiver topped 850 yards. Alex Smith? One first overall pick and $25 million guaranteed later, he’s on the bench. Nate Clements? On a team where everything is a problem, $80 million for an overrated cornerback may not be the best start. Brandon Lloyd? Lots of dudes can jump, doesn’t mean they’re any good.
In all honesty, I had to research exactly what happened in the years since 2002, because I had almost completely stopped following the team out of sheer boredom and my concurrent rising interest in fantasy football. In my mind, the Niners are much more fun as the top team in Tecmo (way better than the Giants, child please, Brent Jones will always catch that pass over the middle on the blitz), banned from competing against almost all squads because they were too damn good.
Last season offered a glimmer of hope with the firing of Mike Martz, a strong finish under a coach who seems to have some idea what he’s doing (Mike Singletary gave a motivational speech in my office a couple years ago, and no, he did not drop trou) and the great fortune of landing the top wide receiver in the land with the #10 pick in the draft (come on, Crabtree, just take the money!)
However, the reality is that the division is no longer a cakewalk (Rams don’t count, they belong in the UFL) - the Cards are a real team, the Seahawks have more than three healthy players- and the Niners, for the most part, are still not good. Unlike Martz, Singletary seems to realize that Frank Gore is by far their best player and should be run into the ground. The defense is coming around, and Shaun Hill is serviceable at quarterback. It’s still a wasteland at wideout, unless Josh Morgan finally becomes, you know, good. As a fan, boy oh boy is this team boring. You cannot even argue that anyone on this team is worth watching (including Gore). Who’s gonna break the big play? No one, that’s who. Not hearing it.
I’d be Michelle Shocked (shocked!) with an 8-8 record. A repeat of last year’s 7-9 sounds about right, but 6-10, given the talent level, should not surprise at all.
Now, back to my fantasy squad.