All of the "Crabtree likely to start" stories today - including mine - pointed out how sharp Michael Crabtree has looked in recent practice sessions. Indeed, that is probably a reason he will get the starting nod in Houston on Sunday. The bigger reason, however, is how terrible the 49ers offense has been. If the offense is humming going into the bye week, I don't think Crabtree is their top priority. The fact that they rank 28th in passing and 29th overall, however, makes them desperate for a spark, and they are hoping Crabtree will provide it
That being said, Eugene Parker must be slapping his forehead and yelling "Doh!" at the top of his lungs. When he and Crabtree finally came in from the cold, the 49ers were 3-1, were enjoying an avalanche of praise and had virtually all of the bargaining power. A week later, the 49ers suffer their worst defeat ever at Candlestick Park and immediately elevate Crabtree to the starting lineup. Parker's negotiating stance was built on the hunch that the 49ers were desperate for Crabtree. Turns out he was right, but he blinked one week too early.
I was asked on KHTK this morning by my esteemed former colleague, Mark Kreidler, whether this move would backfire on Mike Singletary, that it would lead to locker-room animosity. I answered, no, and here's why. First, I think Singletary is in full control of his team. Second, the move was willingly facilitated by the guy Crabtree will replace, Josh Morgan. Third, the move has the blessing of Frank Gore, who has taken Crabtree under his wing and who worked out with him throughout the bye week.
Of course, not everyone will be tickled. One guy who springs to mind is Brandon Jones, who was a high-priced free-agent acquisition, who looked very good early in training camp and who has all but disappeared this season. Of course, a lot of that has to do with Jones' shoulder injury, which cost him the preseason and the early part of the regular season. But Jones has been healthy for weeks now and has yet to see any meaningful action. Why? My guess is that Jimmy Raye and the 49ers just don't know what to do with him. Remember, Jones' deep training-camp receptions all came from Alex Smith, not Shaun Hill, whose strengths - to put it mildly - don't include the deep ball. Jones' skill set doesn't mesh with the 49ers' offense. Crabtree's does.
The NFL trade deadline is today. I don't expect the 49ers to make any last-minute additions ...
Crabtree questions? Offensive line queries? You can fire away at me today from noon to 1 p.m. by logging onto sacbee.com/live. If you're worried about getting busted by your boss, just pull a Costanza.
-- Matt Barrows