There’s a 49er football game Monday night, but it will be somewhat overshadowed by the hoopla surrounding the final game to be played at Candlestick before the team moves to Santa Clara next year. If the Cardinals lose Sunday in Seattle, as expected, the Niners will already have qualified for the playoffs before the game even begins.
Joe Montana Dwight Clark, Ronnie Lott, Eddie Debartolo — all these legends and probably a few more will be on hand for the pre-wrecking ball festivities. Mostly lost in the rampant reminiscing will be the hard reality. As Clark said, “It was a dump. But it was our dump.”
Opposing teams don’t seem to share the nostalgia. To them, Candlestick is just a dump. And a place where they got their butts kicked a whole lot more often than not.
Monday night’s opponent, the Atlanta Falcons, would love to spoil the festivities, but nobody is giving them much chance to succeed in this party-pooping endeavor. They are mercifully nearing the end of an epic fail season. From Super Bowl contenders to NFL bottom feeders almost overnight.
One member of the Falcons is quite familiar with epic fail seasons, and fittingly, his experience was gathered right here at good old Candlestick. This would be Atlanta’s DC Mike Nolan, who was fired as 49er HC right before the 8th game of the failed 2008 season. Atlanta will probably need to fire somebody this offseason to slake their fans thirst for blood, and Nolan seems like a good candidate once again. His defense is ranked 27th in the league. And the HC Mike Smith has enough past success to avoid the guillotine himself.
Still, if you’re going to wander through life as a Mike Smith, you need to get edgy somewhere along the line. Something that makes people go, “Whoa! You’re THAT Mike Smith.” Nothing conjures up a yawn faster than Mike Smith (see Jones, Jim for a vivid example of how to turn a yawn into a scream). And indeed Smith’s teams have been mostly notorious for bland and gutless performances in the postseason. So, if Atlanta gives me a call and asks for my advice, that would be it: fire Smith. He needs a more anonymous job like tight ends coach. This “face of the franchise HC” bit is way over his head.
Hopefully, Monday night will not be the occasion Mike goes all Jeff Fisher on us. Fake punts, trick plays, onside kicks, twenty lateral kick off returns — the whole gamut of weird shit that could seriously disrupt this Candlestick farewell ceremony. Let’s hope Mike just stays in character and glumly leads his troops out on the field and stands there like a statue watching them get dismantled. One last big ass beat down — now that would be the appropriate way to close down “the dump.”