In the previous post, this knothole peeper suggested that the 49ers’ success or failure in 2011 depended on the improved performance of the defense, which finished 2010 ranked 16th in the league. This observation was immediately and viciously attacked by a surly igloominity who shall remain nameless. This distant cousin of our dear friend SomeTimidity suggested that the onus for success resided on the thrice broken shoulders of Alex Smith.
After visiting my shrink to patch up my wounded psyche, it occurred to me to look it up! The nice thing about looking things up is that you can announce data if it supports your view or simply fail to bring up the fact you looked it up if the data is not supportive. You might quickly discern by my bringing this up that it did and I can.
In the 2010 season, 8 of the top ten defensive teams made the playoffs. The only two who didn’t were the Bucs, a victim of tie breaker rules, and the Chargers, a victim of Norv Turner. However, of the top ten offensive teams, a full and decisive one half, or 5 to you math flunkers, did not make the playoffs. Of the five who did make the playoffs, three of them also had top ten defenses. The only two top ten offenses, without great defenses, who made the playoffs were the Eagles and the Colts, both squeaking in at 10-6.
The NFC West, of course, somehow defies gravity and the Seahawks made the playoffs despite being ranked 23rd on offense and 25th on defense. So there is hope in SF even if no improvement occurs on either side of the ball at all.
Statistically speaking the 49ers should have won the NFC West last year. There are several prominent citizens we can blame. If Nate Clements doesn’t fumble that interception at Atlanta, Niners win the division. If Smith hits that three yard pass to Moran Norris in Seattle, ditto. If Mike Singletary has a stroke and misses a game or two, muy bueno.
But classically speaking, which is a dead language in the Bay Area, you need to have a top ten defense to close out games more than you need a top ten offense to put them out of reach. Either of these is good to have, though, no doubt about it. Expecting the Niners to improve from 24th on offense to 10 is simply less realistic than hoping the defense goes from 16 to ten. And a tenth rated defense is more likely to get you into the playoffs than a tenth rated offense.
In addition, it truly was the defense that most failed the team last year. The offense fell from 18th to 24th, but the defense plummeted from 4th all the way down to 16th. The combined dismal efforts by both units, which had very nearly the same personnel, especially on defense, speaks volumes about the loss of faith the team had in Singletary and his stone age approach to modern football.
Stats schmatz, you might say, and I would too in a pinch. What might be more significant to the Niners success this year would be Matt Hasselbeck signing with the Titans. It wouldn’t hurt to see Sam Bradford break a shoulder, either. Not that we would stoop to such inglorious cravings, in better times, but playoff starvation does bad things to your value system. We’ll take anything that gets the team over that endlessly elusive hump-T-dumpster and back into the big top.
With that rambling preambling out of the way, I say the Niners should do some gambling in FA and get two premier players for the D. In previous seasons, the team was not one or two players away from being a contender, but rather needed to shore up the depth and build through the draft. At this point, however, an impact player or two might just vault the team into contention.