Heading into the 2010 season, the 49ers were favorites to win the NFC West. I listened agreeably to Mike Greenberg predict an eleven win season on Mike and Mike in the Morning in early September. This was the year the 49ers would turn the corner.
The division is in shambles, I thought. Kurt Warner retired from Arizona and Derek Anderson is one of the worst starting QB’s in the league; the Seahawks can only win at home and are a staple of mediocrity at nearly every offensive position with a new coach that failed to prove himself in his prior bout with the NFL; the Rams are in shambles with a no-name wide receiving core and a rookie QB about to take his first snaps.
Well, now the Cardinals are first in the division at 3-2 after somehow managing to off the Saints, with Arizona’s only offensive touchdown being scored by left tackle Levi Brown.
Even at 0-4, the 49ers were only two games back from the Cardinals and Seahawks. A week five match-up at home against the Eagles seemed like a reasonable spot for the 49ers to begin turning things around, with Eagles QB Kevin Kolb making his first full-game start against a 49ers defense that knows how to pressure the quarterback.
Many analysts took the 49ers to get their first win, and they were wrong, again.
The 34-27 loss to Philly on SNF game seemed like a repeat of the 49ers 25-22 Monday Night Football debacle against the defending champion Saints in week two. Alex Smith and Frank Gore accounted for all five 49ers turnovers as once again San Fran squandered multiple opportunities to take control of the game. A last minute drive for a game-tying field goal was undone by another Smith INT.
Now the 49ers are in the gallows with an 0-5 record that has spawned mention of Head Coach Mike Singletary’s career being in jeopardy. The team already fired offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye after their week three loss to Kansas City, and Singletary would likely be next on the list.
It seems unlikely that Singletary will be able to retain his job unless he miraculously turns San Fran’s season around to the tune of a postseason ticket. So what is the likelihood that this might happen?
No team in NFL history has every started the season 0-5 and made the playoffs.
Last year, the Tennessee Titans started 0-6 and managed to finish 8-8, but still missed the playoffs. Although the Titans late season run was essentially against all odds, a similar turnaround by the 49ers (even a 7-9 record in the lowly NFC West) would likely get them in the playoffs.
To accomplish the feat, the 49ers will need a lot of elements to fall into place, while benefiting from some luck. The potential for the impossible begins with the schedule.
The NFL is as wide open as ever this year, so it is difficult to define contenders. Looking at the schedule, the 49ers most trying contests will likely are at Green Bay in week 13, and at San Diego in week 15.
Still, Green Bay has been inconsistent and just got news of the loss of stud TE Jermichael Finley for the year. For San Diego, the absence of LaDanian Tomlinson and Vincent Jackson has them looking like a different team.
The remainder of the schedule consists of five divisional games (two with St. Louis, two with Arizona, one with Seattle), and games against Oakland, Carolina, Denver, and Tampa Bay. The now reformed Cardinals are the only one of these teams to finish above .500 last year.
It is difficult to say that all of these opponents can be beaten by a team that has yet to win a game, but it might just be true.
The 49ers have a plethora of offensive weapons, a potentially dominant defense, but are undoubtedly the most inconsistent series-by-series team in the league right now.
Alex Smith has demonstrated that he has the talent to sustain drives and execute, but his inconsistencies are the most apparent of all. Smith no longer has room to work within a learning curve, and the remaining games (if he’s not pulled earlier) will probably decide whether he is a start-worthy QB in the NFL.
Smith has been able to connect with Michael Crabtree in recent games, and both players look more in sync after their play was criticized by Singletary a few weeks ago.
Frank Gore and Vernon Davis’ big play abilities go without saying, and LB Patrick Willis has secured his status as one of the top defensive anchors in the league.
Do the 49ers have the tools to overcome the division deficit? Of course. Will they? Who knows. The only thing that is certain is that 49ers fans will have no need to contemplate the issue further if San Francisco can’t take down Oakland at home Sunday afternoon.
About the Author
Written by Zachary Stanley
By the end of the fall I will have obtained a Bachelor's degree from Ithaca College. I have been blogging for quite some time and am greatly enjoying my various responsibilities in this field. I am currently a Feature Celtics Columnist and a Featured Sports Contributor for two different sites. I am also a couple weeks from opening up my new blog site, CelticsNotes.com.