The 49ers will fly east today and spend Christmas Eve and Christmas Day in hotel rooms in a cold city a long way from home. The Rams will spend these days and eves at home with their wives and kids, or girl friends, roasting chestnuts on an open fire — presuming these little blazes have not been outlawed in St. Louis yet.
One team would seem to have an advantage here, but given the violent nature of football, I’m not sure which one gets the advantage. It might be the Niners, who will have more time to focus on the game and more incentive to take the field a little ticked off.
IF they are bonded over winning this game. But not if they are muttering “two more effing games and I’m out of this mad house.” This is the Outsiders and we have not yet developed a “rat” inside the red and gold complex, so we’ll have to wait till Sunday to see which team shows up.
That has pretty much been the case with every game this season. Watching Pittsburgh methodically destroy the Panthers by half time last night, a little envy crept into my soul. You know what team the Steelers will put on the field each week. A team that knows how to play football. We had a team like that ourselves, long, long ago. Now we have a team that goes from stinko to wonderful to stinko from week to week, with the stinkos far surpassing the wonderfuls in their splendor.
This franchise can’t even get losing right any more. Losers lose with regularity and predictability and winners do the same, but the Niners can’t get an identity sustained from one week to the next.
If the team played in a normal division, the season would have been over by the bye week. Mike Singletary would have been fired. And we’d be talking about individual accomplishments. The 2010 Niners don’t even have anybody with an individual accomplishments type of year. Patrick Willis, Michael Crabtree, Vernon Davis, and Dashon Goldson have all had lesser years than last year. Frank Gore is the one constant on the team, and he is on IR. Nobody has “stepped it up” this year. Not one player.
It’s tempting to think that the team bought into Singletary’s code last year, like most teams do with a new coach, and this year they got a little sick of it. All the blather that comes out of his mouth about “leadership” has no doubt lodged some ironic thoughts in the minds of the team and, if any of these guys actually did get a college education while prepping for the pros, a lot of eyeball rolling. After all, the first person to melt down this year was Singletary himself, who went so ballistic in the locker room after the opening day Seattle loss that he had to hold a team meeting after arriving back home to, essentially, apologize for losing his mind. One week later, after the loss to the Saints, he overworked the team and sent them out on the field exhausted against the Chiefs. 0-3 and falling.
Now Singletary is making sure everyone knows he is THE COACH by visibly inserting himself into the game plans via the coin flip QB strategy. Cute. If the team wins, he can take credit. If they lose, he can blame the QB.
Blaming the QB has become a cottage industry in San Francisco since 2005. Good soldier Alex Smith has been the perfect QB to heave under the bus for any and all ills of the team, dust him off, stick him back out there, and toss him under again as needed. Why does it take 14 games for Singletary to figure out he doesn’t have a super star QB? More to the point, why is he complaining about it? He’s the one who insisted the QB wasn’t the most important player on the team. How has that changed?
It’s changed because Singletary has fallen off his Impose My Will pedestal and is now just another coach trying to save his job for another year. When you need to save your job, and your team has underperformed, you need a scapegoat. Say what you will about Alex, and most have, but for four of the past six years, he has performed scapegoat duty with tremendous aplomb. Perhaps it’s what he does best. At least you know what you are getting when he enters the game. If the Oline can block, he will be good. If they can’t, he will stink. And he’ll do it whether there are pats on his back or tread marks.
And so, as we break for Christmas and the Game of the Century on Sunday, peace to you all and we’ll be back on Monday with a euglogy or an astounding I Can’t Believe We’re Going To The Playoffs head shake. Will a weird season get weirder, or finally just sputter off the road and croak? It’s in the stars. But not over Bethlehem. Of that we can be sure.