The Outsider has not yet discussed Michael Crabtree. In fact, nobody is discussing him. Not the mainstream reporters, nor the blogosphere bloviators. The mainstream OTA reporters barely mention him unless a fan asks how he is doing. The answer is always “great.” Like it’s a given … but hey, great catch by camp fodder so-and-so along the sidelines.
How can this be? Last year at this time, Crabtree’s every posture was being dissected and psychoanalyzed. And all he was doing was standing on the sidelines recovering from a stress fracture in his foot. The volume of noise surrounding him would only increase as he then proceeded with his long and painfully ridiculous hold out.
During his hold out, a great portion of the 49er blog world (and delirious members of trolling Raider fans trying to dilute the nightmare of Al Davis drafting D.H. Butterfingers) decided he was a glob of scum that the 49ers should just swab off into the sewer and fuggedaboudit. Even the ever jubilant optimist Marcos threw a hissy fit and called for his execution.
Journalists and internet bloggers from sea to shining sea were weighing in on his diva reputation. His high school coach, his college coach, and his uncle were all being interviewed and processed. Experts in Contract Law gained overnight internet cred trying to pin the blame for the hold out on one party or another, while others attempted to predict if he would hold out all year and where he would go in next year’s draft or which team he would be traded to …
Then he finally signed, jumped right into the starting lineup and produced quite well, was embraced by everyone who had thrown him in the sewer, and that was that. He became as newsworthy as our long snapper Brian Jennings.
Excuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuse me! What gives here? Why is no one discussing the tremendous impact this fellow is going to have on our 2010 season? Have we not had a superstar receiver for so long that people have forgotten what it’s like? Everyone talks about the SCO and whether Smith will be acceptably better, but Crabtree is going to catch somewhere near a 100 passes this year no matter who is crouching behind Eric Heitmann’s butt. This hasn’t happened in 49ersville for almost a decade. It’s huge.
Since 2007, opponents have been playing the 49ers with the “Stop Frank Gore and You Win the Game” defensive strategy. By and large, it’s been a pretty successful scheme. Last year, though, the 49ers inserted Vernon Davis into the equation and a bit of doubt was cast into this foolproof approach. The 49ers became the 5th best Red Zone team in the league, with Davis being a big part of that achievement.
However, getting to the Red Zone was still a stumblebum operation. Just the reverse of Mike Martz’s offense, which produced yardage between the 20 yard lines, but honked out in the Red Zone.
Which brings up an interesting point. Was the SCO just an ill-conceived Jimmy Raye game plan fashioned from the nightmare visions of the J.T. O’Turnover era? Or was it simply the least dangerous way for the 49ers to stay in the game and have a chance to win it? Least dangerous in the sense of less turnover prone and less negative yardage prone. After all, our Oline could not protect the passer. That is undeniable. They didn’t run block particularly well, either, but at least that was 2.4 positive yards vs negative yardage and a possible strip sack.
Widening the line would only have made it more porous. Putting in a 3rd WR wasn’t much help since both our options, Jason Hill and Brandon Jones were more adept at deep speed than short elusiveness and the QB did not generally have time to throw deep. This is probably why Raye liked having Delanie Walker on the field instead of that 3rd WR. In fact, he said as much, calling it a better matchup problem for the defense.
By and large, though, we just did not have a good offense and nothing we did would have been very successful. The offense lacked linemen and the key players did not have a TC or off season to develop any synchronicity. The two critical players, Alex Smith and Crabtree, were both tossed into the breach in the sixth game and expected to lead an offense they had not practiced with at all.
Some of you have probably already reached into the bin and selected some choice splatting tomatoes for a good heave-ho, but I urge you to hear me out. Crabtree, not Smith, is going to change the way defenses play us — at last. He’s the third man. As the philosophers among us are aware, it takes three to tango. The first of the holy trinity was Gore. Then came the second in Davis. Crabtree completes the fateful triangle of symmetric beauty.
The days of 8 or 9 in the box are over. The 49ers will at last move that premium cowhide leather prolate spheroid down the field to the Red Zone and on into the End Zone on a regular stinking basis. Hallelujah Momma!! You too, Dad.