What your view of sports and life would be if you had too many concussions
In this series, we here at Dubsism investigate troubled franchises and assume the role of general manager in order to return these franchises to past glory. In today’s installment, J-Dub will tackle the challenges facing the San Francisco 49ers.
The bottom line here is the San Francisco 49ers are the biggest disaster in professional football. For those of you wanting to point to the winless Cleveland Browns, forget it. The Browns aren’t a disaster; they’re a sick old man whose glory days were a half-century ago. Think Hyman Roth from The Godfather movies; the guy who Michael Corleone said “has been dying of the same heart-attack for 20 years.” That’s the Browns.
On the other hand, the 49ers are more like Sonny Corleone. Five years ago, they were beating the shit out of people with a trash can lid, and today they are Sonny five minutes after the toll booth. They haven’t bled out yet, but unless somebody starts plugging some holes in a big hurry, not even the mortician with all his “powers of restoration” will be able to give the 49ers an open-casket funeral.
The 49ers have so many problems, they make an episode of “The Kardahsians” seem normal. “Disaster” doesn’t even do it justice. Imagine two mile-long freight trains filled with burning nuclear waste colliding on a bridge being struck by the Titanic while being crashed into by the Hindenburg whose in-flight movie was “Zoolander 2.”
That’s why we’re here, and here’s what our own J-Dub would do to rebuild the San Francisco 49ers.
1) Fire General Manager Trent Baalke
This is step #1 because Baalke is the definition of “root cause.” The collapse of this team stems back to the fact Baalke is the reason Jim Harbaugh left San Francisco. When you are the head of an organization, it is your job to work with all the people who report to you. You’re not there to build a mutual admiration society, you’re there to get results. Harbaugh is a proven winner, and because Baalke let his ego get in the way, Harbaugh split.
To top it off, Baalke replaced one of the best football coaches in America with a guy who is probably managing a Jiffy Lube today. The main reason Baalke hired Jim Tomsula was Baalke’s ego requires him to have a “company man” who will do his bidding. That’s the reason I still can’t figure out the Chip Kelly hiring, but it doesn’t matter, because…
2) Fire Head Coach Chip Kelly
Recently, I used a classic movie to illustrate what happens when an organization has arrogant and incompetent leadership. That’s a pretty solid description of what’s happening in San Francisco right now. Getting rid of of Baalke is Step #1, and giving Kelly his walking papers is Step #2.
Nine times out of ten, ego-driven guys like Baalke would never hire another ego-driven guy like Kelly. This is why the Jerry Jones-Bill Parcells relationship in Dallas was so short-lived. But the only thing which makes stranger bedfellows than politics is desperation. Believe me, hiring the talking turkey-loaf known as Chip Kelly was pure desperation.
Three years destroying the Philadelphia Eagles told everybody in the league that Kelly was not an NFL coach. Everybody except Baalke, who knew that Kelly’s rep as a college coach still played amongst the casual 49ers fan base; they remember his Oregon teams routinely handling Stanford and Cal. But those days are over, as are those of both Baalke and Kelly in the Bay area. As far as a replacement is concerned, the “ABC” rule is firmly in play – “Anybody But Chip.” A more substantive list comes after I see who is in play come “Black Monday,” but if the Buffalo Bills pull a Bills-type move and fire Rex Ryan, he won’t stay unemployed long.
There’s two caveats to that.
First, there are three types of coaches who aren’t failures. There’s the guy who takes a team from terrible to borderline good. Then, there’s the guy who gets you over the “hump;” the guy who takes who from “borderline good” to the top of the football mountain. The third kind is “all of the above;” the rarest of all…the the guy who can take a team all the way from the outhouse to the penthouse. Rex is the first type, and that’s just what this team needs.
Second, if Rex Ryan is my new head coach, I’m hiring an offensive coordinator who gets complete control of the offense. Again, this all depends on what happens after the season, but Philadephia Eagles’ offensive coordinator Frank Reich is high on my list.
Another possibility is offering Dallas Cowboys offensive coordinator Scott Linehan another shot at being NFL head coach; the proviso being he builds a run-oriented, ball-control offense like he did in Dallas with a rookie running back and a 4th-round quarterback. The next few points will explain why.
3) Open Tryouts at Quarterback
Christian Ponder and Blaine Gabbert are both free-agents. I wish the best of luck to both of them, because they won’t be getting their mail in San Francisco anymore. Then there’s Colin Kaepernick. Thanks to his renegotiated deal, I can be out from under his stupidly big contract after this season. Despite what people may want to think, that’s the biggest thing wrong with him as football player. The 49ers gave him way too much money for what he is.
I’m not making that mistake again since the renegotiated deal gives me a “get out of jail free” card allowing him to opt for free-agency. Believe me when I say he’ll take the free-agency option for a very simple reason. He has a choice which really isn’t a choice. He can test the market and see what it will bear him, or he can stay in San Francisco, in which case he is never going to be anything more than a well-paid guy on the practice squad.
Time for the turd in the punch bowl. We all know about Kaepernick’s politics, and frankly, I don’t give a damn about that, other than to say if you’re going to be a distraction off the field, you’d better be pretty damn good on it. Kaepernick isn’t that good, which means he isn’t the guy I can build an offense around.
The spoiler alert for what’s coming is that if you don’t have a “franchise” quarterback, you build an offense which doesn’t need one. Face it, not everybody gets a Tom Brady. Without getting into the details of what that means (that comes later), my minimum requirements for my new quarterback are an experienced guy who can handle a simple, ball-control offense. That means I’m going to sign a cadre of free-agent back-up quarterbacks, and they get to compete for a chance to run a “ground and pound” offense which won’t require them to be the “franchise” guy.
The contracts are all provisional, which means whoever wins the starting job gets a pay bump, the guy who wins the back-up job gets a smaller bump, and the guy who finishes third gets a set of steak knives. All I need for a quarterback is a guy who has NFL experience and can handle running a simple offense. There’s a ton of guys playing back-up now around the league whose contracts are coming due, and there’s three in particular I’ve got my eye on for this role.
All three of these guys were pretty damn good college quarterbacks, and they are all perfectly capable of running a simple offense. The best way to turn a C-student into an A-student is to make the homework easier, and you can no longer tell me you can’t win in the NFL with a simple offense. The Raiders, the Dolphins, and the aforementioned Cowboys all prove that point. Jones has the most experience on-field NFL experience, but between college and the pros, all three of these guys can do what I need.
Most importantly, I’n NOT drafting a quarterback. I can get all three of these guys for around what I would have to spend on a first-rounder. I’ve got far too many other holes to plug to blow big money on an unproven commodity.
4) Draft Running Backs
Carlos Hyde is the best running back this team has, and he’s an unrestricted free agent after 2017. I’m not opposed to keeping him, but the approach offensively is going to change dramatically. I’m going to have a stable of running backs, pour money into the offensive line, and believe me…this team WILL run the football.
As far as the draft is concerned, there’s two guys I have my sights on; to go with the versatility of Hyde, I want at least one guy who can pound it between the tackles (Leonard Fournette, LSU) and a guy who can beat anybody to the corner (Donnell Pumphery, San Diego State). We all know the screwy nature of the draft, and we also know the 49ers are picking high no matter what. I’m not married to those guys in particular, but I have to come out of this draft with running backs of those types, and depth in the offensive and defensive lines. If that means a Belichickian series of draft-day moves, then so be it.
5) Build From the Line of Scrimmage Out
You just saw me mention depth at the line position on both side of the ball. This team will be built from the line outward, starting with the offense. There a couple of reason why this all starts on the O-line.
The first is that good offensive lines take time to gel as a unit; maybe as long as two years. That’s why this team needs to acquire veteran guys now, and let them cure into a cohesive unit.
Another reason is I already have one of the most crucial pieces. Quality left tackles are hard to come by, and I already have one of the best in Joe Staley. Since we must never forget this is also a money game, I’ve got Staley wrapped up for three more years.
We also can’t forget that free-agency is the classic “bitch goddess;” while she gives with one hand, she takes with the other. In other words, while the clock ticks on Staley, there’s plenty of solid guys I can get now; veterans who fit the new mold, can lead a run-based approach, and gel as a unit sooner rather than later. Just like the running backs, I’m not locked into any of these free-agents, but it gives you an idea of what I’m shopping for.
Again, I understand the fluid nature of the draft and free-agency, so nothing is set in stone as far as specific player personnel decisions, but all such moves will be made according to this philosophy. For example, this is a draft with a rich amount of talent at in positions on both sides of the ball, and if somebody were to make an offer I can’t refuse for what is most likely the 2nd overall pick, who knows what could be possible?
Here’s the bottom line: There’s no way this team contends next year no matter what happens. There’s so many problems with this team they can’t all be fixed overnight. That’s why the defense is a challenge for another day. But there’s a big difference between digging a hole and building a foundation. The digging stops today, and the building starts tomorrow. At first, this team won’t be pretty, but by building around controlling the ball and the line of scrimmage, this team could easily go from one win to six in one year (just keeping Colin Kaepernick off the field is worth two wins over the Rams alone). Such an improvement could easily lay the foundation for a team which could win ten or more in three years.