The Decline of Bay Area Sports
I’ve been dreading this, but after Monday night’s debacle in Seattle, it’s time to pull back the curtains and take a long, hard look at the wasteland that is the 49ers, and Bay Area sports in general.
The 49ers are awful. Losing 24-0 is pretty embarrassing, of course, but a deeper dive into the statistics are even more telling. They converted just one third down in 12 chances. They had a total of 173 yards on offense, which is of course putrid. Sadly, it continued the season-long streak of the entire team not managing a single game of 300 total yards. That’s despicable, and it takes a team effort – coaches and players alike – to achieve that kind of putrescence.
I know that offensive coordinator Jim Hostler gets a lot of heat, but frankly, they’ve called interesting offensive plays of late, and failed on almost every one of them. Alex Smith either floats the ball past the receiver, or that wideout – especially Darrell Jackson – drops the ball. (What’s with D-Jack? I always loved him in Seattle from a fantasy perspective, but the guy has hands of stone.) Frank Gore has been injured, and there haven’t been many lanes to run through when he’s been active.
The defense is solid but spends so much time on the field that they end up giving up too many plays, and at times they look unable to stop anyone. Again, the real problem is the line – as the saying goes, being a quarterback is pretty easy when you have all the time you need to find an open receiver. Whether it’s Matt Hasselback, Joey Harrington or Eli Manning, the 49ers can’t tee off on a soul, and while their secondary is good, no one can cover folks for that long.
Often, I worry about the play calling – the team doesn’t so much seem as needlessly conservative as I’d thought early in the season, but they really seem to miss opportunities far too often. It’s easy to second guess, but the coordinators seem sloppy. Mike Nolan – and I should express here and now my total condolences on the passing of his father, another former 49ers head coach – is, I believe, a good head coach. But as Ira Miller wrote in a recent column, it’s not clear that he – or most any head coach – should serve also as the GM.
I watched the Broncos-Chiefs game for awhile this weekend, and what struck me was that before the season, no one would have listed Brandon Marshall or Dwayne Bowe as exactly the kind of receivers the 49ers should have, but they are – big, physical and with great hands. The Niners certainly have had the draft picks to grab a good wide receiver, but haven’t done so in years.
And of course, the Patriots have the 49ers #1 draft pick this year – looking like a top five pick at that. While I know the team can benefit from a lower salary burden in the draft, they need to spend each and every pick on the defensive line, offensive line and wide receiver. Two of each with the balance at DL, and they might find some players to right the ship starting next year. Because this season is virtually over.
What’s sad is not just the collapse of my favorite team in all of sports, but the general decline of sports in the Bay Area in general. The 49ers are terrible and the Raiders aren’t much better. The Giants might be unwatchable next year (it’s insane – INSANE – that you don’t hear their names in the Miguel Cabrera or A-Rod discussions), and the Warriors really seem to have self-immolated with the Jason Richardson trade, losing a lot of the momentum they created in the playoffs. The A’s are in the best shape – and they finished 18 games out in the AL West. (Note: I think the Sharks are supposedly good, but San Jose isn’t in the Bay Area, and hockey isn’t a sport I care a whit about.)
Now, let’s be clear – I’m not expecting a return to maybe 20 years ago, when the 49ers were winning Super Bowls, the Giants met the A’s in the World Series and the Warriors were making the playoffs. But this is just pathetic, and painful and embarrassing. This is one of the great metropolitan areas in the country – nay, the world! – and we can’t field a single competitive sports team.
What team will right the ship first? I’d bet on the A’s, as they are the team who has proven they can win quickly and on the cheap. But I’d love it to be my 49ers or Giants.