The results of last week’s re-draft results are in. As always, the votes are decidedly one-sided, despite my best attempts to persuade otherwise. The pattern thus far seems to be that fans prefer offensive playmakers to everything else. Offensive line needs be damned! The fans want a show. Who wants to build a defense, when the team can win in a shoot-out? In all seriousness, I bet this speaks to how tired fans have grown of monotonous offenses.
Recap: I actually thought that the Rodgers/Smith vote would be more of a contest. Perhaps that is evidence of my naiveté, but I simply don’t see how Rodgers’ career turns out any different from Smith’s. In fact, I would venture so far as to say that Rodgers’ career would be worse. What other quarterback, or any other player for that matter, would be able to maintain their confidence?
Vincent Jackson’s selection makes a lot of sense, but the more prudent choice has to be Michael Roos. Are we forgetting how bad Kwame Harris was? What about Jonas Jennings?
The 2005 Season
August of 2005 was meant to be a reawakening. Recent failures were forgotten and a more distant past was remembered, if not revised. New head coach Mike Nolan was the savior, if I can call him that. He brought structure and youth. But, more importantly, he brought a pedigree and sport coats (44 long and a right arm that’s just a little longer than his left). He would not just recreate the style and success of his father — former 49ers head coach Dick Nolan—but he would build on it, or at least that was the impression 49er fans got.
The season started auspiciously as the 49ers defeated the defending NFC West champion St. Louis Rams. I was only able to watch the final moments of the game, in which victory was sealed with 52 seconds remaining by a Mike Adams interception. What I remember most about the game was not the interception though, nor the ensuing celebration. Instead, what I remember most was a pervading feeling that is, well, unnamable to me now.
Whatever the name, the feeling is reminiscent of a scene from the 1994 blockbuster It Could Happen to You, but not the one in which Nicolas Cage (as Charlie Lang) wins the lottery.
Rather, I guess you could say I felt as Bridget Fonda (as Yvonne Biasi) felt after Cage had fulfilled his promise to share half of his lottery winnings.
But it wasn’t the feeling of elation that I shared with Fonda, and I certainly had no desire to throw myself into the arms of an unsuspecting police officer. Instead, it was that of fulfillment illustrated in the scene that followed the great hoopla of the $2 million tip. It is the scene in which Fonda is eating macadamia nuts alone in an empty apartment, on a coach that sits two. There, on that couch, alone, she lets out a sigh — not of relief, but of recognition that maybe — just maybe — everything is turning around.
You see, like the 49ers (these redrafts are becoming rather cathartic), I too was determined to make the latter half of the decade one of great fortune. I had left the barren Chico wasteland — and the reminders of those friendships missed and of those unfulfilled — for Southern California. The 49ers too chose Southern California in choosing Smith, eschewing Rodgers and Chico in the process.
2005 was supposed to be better, and it certainly started that way.
But the euphoria was short lived: the 49ers would go on to lose their next five games. And, fans of the team would learn that transitional periods are never easy (I suppose It Could Happen to You teaches this same moral), while I became acquainted with the perils of roommate shopping via the MySpace personals.
Though they’d gain two victories over the previous season’s total, the 49ers would prove to be a far worse team, especially on offense.
Perhaps this declination should have come as no surprise since the roster had not undergone any sort of upgrades. Well, there was the addition of Jonas Jennings, but he would only play three games before succumbing to injury (Jennings, by the way, would never play a complete 16-game season).
The rest of the offense might as well have joined Jennings on injured reserve. Alex Smith would end up with one touchdown and only 11 interceptions. Kevan Barlow would set a career low for yards per carry (3.3), and Johnnie Morton would decide that he stood to gain more in MMA fighting than in the 49ers offense.
Nolan’s influence did affect the defense slightly. I’m not sure if it was his “bend don’t break” philosophy (which would drive fans crazy for the next five seasons) that would yield 6,259 yards and 428 points, or if it was the lack of talent.
In early January, the Green Bay Packers would tab the 49ers offensive coordinator Mike McCarthy as their new head coach. To which, 49er fans everywhere would let out a collective, “What the F…”
How the man who coordinated one of the worst offenses ever would be offered such a position still escapes my comprehension.
Regardless, the subtraction of McCarthy would mean the addition of an equally ingenious coordinator and quarterback guru in Norv Turner. It would also mean a true departure from the West Coast offense. Of course Turner’s offensive failings in Oakland were no secret, but his digit system had proven successful in Dallas and Washington. And, it matched Nolan’s run-first philosophy.
Turner’s hiring brought a considerable amount of excitement because of how he had helped transform an 0-11 Troy Aikman into a Super Bowl winning quarterback. Aikman even acknowledged the fact that he would not have “won one Super Bowl, let alone three, if it hadn’t have been for Norv Turner’s arrival in Dallas.”
Newly acquired quarterback Trent Dilfer further incited the enthusiasm, claiming that Norv was “the perfect coordinator for Alex.”
”Norv has forgotten more football,” Dilfer continued, “than most of us will ever know.”
In order to maximize Norv’s football acumen, the 49ers started to assemble a team that resembled the Cowboys of the 90s. In Dallas-West, Smith would star as Aikman, Gore as Emmitt Smith, Eric Johnson as Jay Novacek, and newly acquired receiver Antonio Bryant as Michael Irvin.
Prior to the signing of the combustible Bryant, the 49ers traded an equally volatile receiver in Brandon Lloyd for the 84th overall selection in the 2006 draft and a fourth round pick in the 2007 draft, which is a surprising amount (especially in light of what the Bears got Brandon Marshall for). Nolan too was surprised, noting that it was “a strange thing to be [ranked] 32nd on both sides of the ball and still have guys after your players.” Nolan would later justify the Bryant acquisition, saying that Bryant’s competitiveness, unlike Lloyd’s, was “a good thing.”
The 49ers also signed their very own Larry Allen in Larry Allen, and signed Mark Roman to fill Thomas Everett’s shoes — and fill them he did.
They would ultimately say goodbye to two of their best pass rushers in Julian Peterson and Andre Carter, while hoping to find replacements in the draft that were better suited to play in a 3-4 alignment.
The 2006 Draft
The selection of Vernon Davis came as a surprise to most, as the 49ers had been rumored to covet Ohio State’s A.J. Hawk and Texas’ Michael Huff. Given their lack of talent on defense, the team would trade their second and one of their two third round picks to acquire the 22nd overall selection, which they would use to select their pass rusher, Manny Lawson.
Of course, would they have drafted a pass rusher first and speedy receiver second, the 49ers could have drafted Tamba Hali and Greg Jennings. But who’s keeping track.