49ers Blog and Q&A

News, notes and reader questions about the San Francisco 49ers

October 20, 2007
The Unwatchables

Question: I read the Niners have been held under 200 yards 39 times since the NFL-AFL merger in 1970, with 13 of those coming in Nolan's 37 games as coach. How can they expect to keep their " fan base" with such a boring, predictable offense? I know the name of the game is winning, but the Niners are no fun to watch, even when they do win!

Glen, Orangevale

Answer: If the NFL held an "Ugliest Game" contest, I would nominate the Niners' loss to the Ravens last week. That game was to football what "Rules of Engagement" was to cinema.(For shame, Tommy Lee Jones!) You could argue that it's a consumer issue. Fans pay hefty sums for tickets to be entertained. The Ravens-49ers wasn't entertainment, it was torture. Then again - the 49ers beat the Vikings last year 9-3 and I didn't hear anyone complaining.

-- Matt Barrows

Question: Hi Matt-It seems that everyone is in agreement that for the most part, Mike Nolan and Scot McCloughan have done a good job choosing personnel in both the draft and free agency. It also seems that most are in agreement that Nolan is too conservative and appears unlikely to ever be a head coach that is anything more than marginally successful. Do you think that the York/DeBartolo's would consider bumping them into the front office as GM and Director of Player Personnel and choosing another head coach at the end of this year?

Gil, Woodside

Answer: I don't think the Yorks would pull the plug on the Nolan regime after this season because of the reasons you mentioned. I do think, however, that if the 49ers finish last in offense, John York will demand changes. The guy has a stadium initiative to sell, after all. And as I alluded in the above Q&A, no consumer/taxpayer will want to pay for the ugliest show on earth. As far as Nolan in the front office - no way. The guy would go stir crazy. He loves/needs to coach.

-- Matt Barrows

Question: Matt, what is all the paranoia about? As fans we have gone from applauding the revival under Nolan to calling for his head in 6 weeks. Has Sean Payton gone from offensive savant to idiot in 6 weeks? No. The Niners need several more players at several more positions before the playoffs become an expected certainty. If this turmoil is all it takes for someone to jump off the bandwagon in hysteria, Good riddance!

Jeff, Fletcher, N.C.

Answer: I hear you, Jeff. But at the same time, this offense is on pace to set all sorts of records for futility. And you can't argue that the 49ers have the least-talented offense in the league. Not anymore. Even Tim Rattay and his band of merry men put up better numbers in '04.

-- Matt Barrows

Question: Bryant Young has been a phenomenal player and leader for the 49ers for 13 years now. How would you assess his play so far this year? Is his back in good shape and feeling fine? What probability would you assign to his return for still another season next year? Thanks, Matt, and keep the excellent 49ers coverage coming.

Paul, Alameda

Answer: Young has been playing very well, in part because the 49ers hardly used him in the preseason and because they give him plenty of rest in games. In recent years, BY has played better at the start of the season than at the end. It will be interesting to see if, with more rest, he has better staying power this season. If he does, we may hear a chant of "BY in '08."

-- Matt Barrows

Question: Matt, with Smith not being able to play, why do the 49ers insist on playing Dilfer? Our running game is ineffective therefore forcing the quarterback to throw. Dilfer has no mobility and when forced to throw he turns the ball over. Why not start a mobile Shaun Hill? And do you think that Dilfer has hindered the growth of Alex Smith with his boring style of quarterback? I think so...

Tabrez, Elk Grove

Answer: I think Dilfer has suffered through the same thing that hindered Smith in the first three games - a sleep-inducing offense. Let's see what he does tomorrow in New Jersey before we start calling for Hill.

-- Matt Barrows

Question: If Dilfer were to lead the 49ers to victory, an idea that seems highly unlikely, do you think the 49ers would keep him as their starter next week? Was there one thing in particular, i.e. timing, being tentative etc that guided this decision or was it simply Mike Nolan's great offense-oriented "gut" at work.

-Steve, Portand, Ore

Answer: Steve is asking whether Alex Smith's shoulder might continue to be bothersome (hint, hint, nudge nudge) should Dilfer come through with a big game. Dennis Erickson went down that road in 2003 when Tim Rattay played well in place of Jeff Garcia when Garcia went down with an ankle injury. That injury, which was supposed to last a couple of weeks at most, took a suspiciously long time to heal as Rattay won one game after another. As soon as Rattay foundered, Garcia's ankle healed instantly. It's magic!

But I don't think that will happen with Smith. The Nolan coaching regime is very much tied to the young quarterback. Erickson et al. had no allegiance to Garcia. As far as Smith's shoulder, the feedback was that Smith simply was not yet totally comfortable throwing the ball. Remember, the injury was supposed to take four to six weeks to heal. If he had started against the Giants, that would have been three weeks. I look for him to be back next week against New Orleans.

-- Matt Barrows

Question: Why isn't Smith used in the shotgun more often? He comes from a shotgun offense in Utah and can move around, roll out to keep away from the rush up the middle. Most of your top QB's--Brady, Peyton, Favre, etc, use the shotgun extensively. Seems like they're trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. What happened to the slant pass, quick out or 3 step drop? Don't they know that you can't execute when 5 guys are trying to block 7-8 on running plays. Thanks for your blog, love it.

Mike, Sacramento

Answer: These are all great questions, Mike, and I predict you'll start to see some of your suggestions in play. Your overall point, however, is that the 49ers need to make better use of their talent, i.e., put them in situations in which they'll excel. It seems like a very basic rule, but one the 49ers have been guilty of breaking thus far.

-- Matt Barrows

Question: More of a comment than a question...While Owen Pochman may have been the last straw that broke the proud 49er dynasty's back, Lawrence Phillips was by far the worst 49er ever. It was his missed block on Aeneas Williams that led directly to Steve Young's last concussion, forcing him to retire and essentially starting their slide from Super Bowl contender to laughingstock of the league (before Mike Nolan started to turn the team around).

Spencer, Sacramento

Answer: Don't usually post statements (this is a Q&A, after all) but Spencer has a good point. I'd like to hear everyone's nomination for "Worst Niner Ever!" Cue to ominous music ...

-- Matt Barrows


Matt was born in Blacksburg, Va., and attended the University of Virginia. He graduated in 1995, went to Northwestern for a journalism degree a year later, and got his first job at a South Carolina daily in 1997. He joined The Bee as a Metro reporter in 1999 and started covering the 49ers in 2003. His favorite player of all time is Darrell Green.


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