The Best Seat In The House For All Your News On The 5 Time World Champion Niners

The Best Seat In The House For All Your News On The 5 Time World Champion Niners
A review and commentary on the history & lastest events surrounding the 17 time NFC Western Division & 5 -Time World Champion San Francisco 49ers. From 1946 and the All America Football Conference to 2009 and the road to a 6th Super Bowl title - For true fans of the scarlet and gold! Enjoy!

Thursday, September 20, 2007

What's That Saying? When You're Good, You're Lucky? Nolan Hopes So

The Niners stand atop the NFC West at 2-0, but is it a temporary lead at best after the unconvincing way they have won. They are 2-0 despite having the last-ranked offense in the league. They are 2-0 despite giving up seven sacks in two games. And they are 2-0 despite averaging 3.6 yards per rush. They have been very conservative on offense, throwing the ball just 48 times (sixth fewest in the league) and averaging a league-low 5.25 yards per attempt. Even though Frank Gore has yet to reach 100 yards rushing and is averaging well under 4.0 yards per carry, the 49ers are 2-0 because Alex Smith managed to overcome a forgettable performance in the opener and drive them with baby steps to the go-ahead score against Arizona with 22 seconds left and because the Rams missed a 56-yard field-goal attempt in the final minute after muffing a punt to set up the 49ers' go-ahead kick.

Coach Mike Nolan has dismissed the close victories as character builders; however, the 49ers know they have been lucky and that it won't last with games against Pittsburgh, Seattle and Baltimore coming up. Against the Rams, Nolan chose to run the ball late in the game and play for the go-ahead field goal rather than even try to get to the end zone. That led to questions about whether he is coaching too conservatively. Is he coddling Alex Smith too much?
"I'll say this," he told reporters in his press conference, Monday, "there are times to be conservative, and I think that's a great choice. And there are times not to be. I don't think fourth-and-1 at the 43 is conservative. I don't think kicking three onsides is conservative, or two fake punts. But at the same time, those things can be foolish decisions, too. I'd like to think that we do things because the odds are in our favor. And, typically, that's exactly what we do.

Nolan is most certainly feeling pressure from ownership to deliver a playoff berth in this, his third year at the helm. His attitude and philosophies with regards to his coaching staff choices and franchise reputation have been a welcome and necessary change from the forgettable Dennis Erickson era. Even his draft picks have been excellent, calculated picks aimed at growing from within, which was basically a must with the 49ers recent salary cap issues....except for one. I think Nolan is afraid he may regret his first draft pick as an NFL head coach in Alex Smith. Most people in the winter and early spring of 2005 expected USC superstar QB Matt Leinart (left) to leave college a year early and be the number 1 pick in the draft. Nolan probably even had that in the back of his mind when he took the job.

Well, Leinart thought better of leaving the glitz and glamour of Southern Cal and went back to school, leaving the Niners sitting atop a draft board that is undoubtably one of the weakest in recent years. Proof of this can be seen in the fact that the only other first round QB taken in 2005 was local Cal Bear product Aaron Rodgers, who subsequently stayed on the board until pick 24, when Green Bay tapped him as Brett Favre's heir apparent. Many believe it was a toss-up for the 49ers as to who they would select with that pick, having really only Smith or Rodgers to pick from. The draft in 2004 featured Eli Manning, Phillip Rivers and Super Bowl XL champ Ben Rothlisberger, and last year's draft had Vince Young, Jay Cutler and Leinart. All six of those quarterbacks have solidified their careers and appear to be "franchise" type players for years to come.

Smith, however, has not shown the same momentum. Granted, he has entered a situation with far less talent around him, and did make subtle strides last year, but still... There was no where for him to go but up after his horrible rookie campaign. Much was said about Norv Turner's creative play calling helping Smith, and the fact that Jim Hostler would run the same system after Turner's departure to San Diego, but that has not been the case. For whatever reason, Hostler, and Nolan by extention, seem unable, or unwilling to test Smith to see if he can lead this team with his arm, putting all the pressure on Frank Gore and the ground game. This only adds to my earlier thoughts this summer about how it is maybe only realistic to expect Smith to be a "manager" of the game, ironically, just like his current back-up, Trent Dilfer. If in fact Smith is not going to develop into a "franchise" type QB, then shouldn't Nolan and the team find that out now by testing his passing capabilities to their fullest? They went out and drafted a legit target for him in Vernon Davis, acquired Darrell Jackson and Ashley Lelie, yet don't use them. Smith has yet to have a 300 yard passing game in his career, but is supposed to be one of the smartest, most athletic QB's in the league. He may only have an above average arm, but hey, so did Joe Montana. As well, the argument about all themoney invested in Smith and not ruining him won't fly in his third year, either. The money is spent either way, so find out what you have in him now, and if changes need to be made, figure it out while the talented defense is still young and Gore is still just entering his prime.

Mike Nolan has done an excellent job overall of restoring respectability to this once proud franchise and making them relevant again. However, he needs to get his money's worth out of Smith. $49.5 million is a lot of money for a guy that is only expected to hand off and attempt 10-15 passes per game. See what you have Mike and make this offense two dimensional, because otherwise, games like this week in Pittsburgh will have you continuing the trend against elite teams of trailing by two touchdowns before you even get off the bus.

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