Friday, December 08, 2006

The Awkward Years

The Packers have an interesting comparison in the 49ers this year. Some might say that they're on the same trajectory, just a year behind schedule. There are enough differences to argue that point, but there are enough similarities there too. A great bar conversation with the appropriate amount of Leinie's is right there for the taking. Consider:

After a decent run in 2001 and 2002 the 49ers removed their coach. Mariucci had led them to a couple 12-4 records and a playoff berth or two. He had also not been a threat in the playoffs to win much of anything so he got the axe. As he deserved. The Packers did the same with Mike Sherman. He won a few titles (in the weakest division in the league) and when the talent level was diminished (by his own terrible draft choices) his coaching ability was revealed to be below average and he also got the axe.

The 49ers then went and hired Dennis Erickson. He's never had the ability to coach, his only success came in college. Coaching in college is not a challenge worth discussing. I mean, Pete Carroll can barely break .500 in the pros but in the world of NCAA football he's a genius. The 49ers realized their mistake and whacked Erickson after a 2-14 run in 2004. Thankfully the Packers hired an NFL assistant and not some amateur from the college ranks.

The 49ers then hired Mike Nolan. Largely unknown and a questionable choice. His team struggled to a 4-12 record. During that season they managed to lose games with astonishing regularity. They also were not remotely competitive in several games. The coach seemed incompetent and many fans called for his head (and the GM's too). Check out these game scores from last year.

Philly 42 - SF 3
Indy 28 - SF 3
Washington 52 - SF 17
NYG 24 - SF 6
Seattle 41 - SF 3

Brutal right? I think we know what their fans went through last year. This is our second year in a row dealing with this sort of craptitude and we're all searching for wins on the horizon. The 49ers will probably end the year at 7-9. Nothing to be proud of but in today's nfl you can jump from 7-9 one year to 13-3 and super bowl champions the next, either way it's progress and the team can reasonably expect to improve next year.

In this crazy world with the internets and constant scores and updates on the sports ticker it's understandable why fans would have no patience. But nothing good comes from rushing. Consider the New England Patriots in 2000. Their new coach had just gone 5-11 and his only head coaching history had gotten him run out of Cleveland. They could have fired him and tried a new guy. They didn't and now they've got three trophies to show off.

I'm not crazy enough to think that Mike McCarthy is the second coming of Belichek. I don't know what he will be. Neither does anyone else. The only way to find out is to give him a second year. This isn't Ray Rhodes part II. There was talent when Rhodes was coach, Sherman left the cupboard bare for the current group. Mike III and TT have my support for this and next year. After that it's up in the air.

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