San Francisco's All-Pro Trio Deserve Recognition. 02/03/01 8:00 AM
The San Francisco 49er’s almost had nothing to show for a turbulent (6-10) season marked with raw rookie mistakes, controversial officiating and compounded personnel injuries that drained the very iron from this team, yet they fought with intense tenacity towards the end of the season.
Missing the playoff run for 2000 was a projected reality based on the mere facts that we were playing with as many as five rookies on defense in most of our regular season games and talented seasoned depth on both sides of the line was very thin.
We exploded offensively and raised the bar once again in what we were capable of doing, questions surrounded the offensive line and its ability to protect Quarterback Jeff Garcia right before the beginning of the season.
However not only did the offensive line do a great job of protecting the passer, they also led the way for a solid rushing attack. The line had a five-game sack-less streak going mid-way through the season which allowed Jeff Garcia to pile up impressive statistics and master a position in being nominated to this years Pro Bowl in Hawaii.
In 583 attempts, 49er passers were sacked just 25 times; the third fewest in the league behind Indianapolis and the New York Jets. That breaks down into this an average of one sack every 23.3 drop-backs, the best 49er ratio in the past 21 seasons.
In Jeff Garcia’s first year as a starter for the San Francisco 49er’s he was entrusted to carry the mantle of legendary Steve Young after his career-ending concussion and the expectations of that were very mixed in the beginning.
He was determined to make his place on this team and evaporate the ghosts around him that kept whispering to him that he was not up to the task. Jeff is a man that has unbelievable courage and inner will to succeed having these attributes and a high level of dedication and integrity like Steve Young he was able to come out firing like a pro.
Jeff Garcia set a team record by throwing for 4,278 yards and 31 touchdowns. He joins Steve Young as the only two quarterbacks in team history to surpass the 4,000-yard mark. Young did it twice: 1993 and 1998.
Garcia also set the record for most pass completions in a season with 355, breaking the previous high of 347 by Steve DeBerg set in 1979. Garcia accomplished this with 17 less passing attempts. Certainly Jeff is able to do this again should the offensive line remain strength heading into 2001.
Garcia a conservative passer and a most careful one threw only 10 interceptions this year for a passer rating of 97.6%. Joe Montana in his first year as a starter in 1981 threw for 3,565 yards, 19 touchdowns and 12 interceptions for a passer rating of 88.2% in comparison.
Jeff ignited a offense that had to score points a lot of points in every single game to carry its anemic defense that struggled early to find it’s identity, injuries took their place among the defensive players compounding the frustration the offense was imposed with.
Jeff Garcia accounted for 4,692 combined yards during the 2000 season, (4,278 passing, 414 rushing). With that total alone, he was responsible for 75.6% of San Francisco’s total offense, and became the top ranked player in the NFL for combined yardage.
In the beginning of the season controversy surrounded Jeff as in one game he was benched in favor of back-up quarterback Rick Mirer, since that day Jeff has been on a mission to displace the memories of that controversial day and rank himself into the elite corps.; Of quarterbacks in The National Football League as a whole. I observed the calmness and security he enjoyed behind a solid offensive line all season.
I observed the same intensity I would have seen from Steve Young himself in trying to make a play out of nothing at all costs, many times tucking the ball under and bolting up-field for more yardage despite the oncoming freight train hits.
Jeff represents a true Pro Bowler and I am proud to see him going and playing in his very first one and certainly not his last one. I believe we will see even more glorious seasons out of Jeff and his playmaking skills will be well tuned to the better of his records and statistics.
Jeff finished second in the NFL in total touchdowns by a quarterback. With 35 total touchdowns (passing and running), he trailed only Minnesota’s Daunte Culpepper’s 40 in combined touchdowns.
Jeff was especially sharp in the month of October. He completed 128-of-199 passes for 1,472 yards. 13 touchdowns and just one interception in that month. That breaks down into a passer rating of 106.1% during that month.
Jeff Garcia was also named the NFL’s Most Improved Player for the 2000 season by Pro Football Weekly. This was just another indication of how far Jeff had exceeded those disbeliefs and low expectations many had in the beginning of the season.
49er General Manager Bill Walsh took the unknown chance of luring the former San Jose State star from the Canadian Football League to an uncertain future in the NFL. The gamble clearly paid off for both.
“You never know if a man will be an All-Pro,” general manager Bill Walsh said of Garcia, the team’s second-year quarterback, “but I knew he’d be a player, and a significant player.”
“I think I’ve done some things this year that have kind of allowed me to create my own image, to show I can be the leader of this team, hopefully for a lot of years to come,” said Garcia.
Garcia finished third in the Pro Bowl voting behind Minnesota’s Daunte Culpepper and St. Louis Kurt Warner. He managed to beat out Philadelphia’s Donovan McNabb who was a surprising omission from the overall voting.
I am proud and honored to acknowledge Jeff as our starting quarterback of the future, he has in my eyes and hopefully many others proven himself well above and beyond all the expectations I had of him in his first year as a starter.
Wide Receiver Terrell Owens is another shining playmaker on the 49er offense that is making his first appearance at this years Pro Bowl in Hawaii. I am absolutely convinced after this season that Owens can be the next young Jerry Rice of the future.
With Jerry playing his last game in a 49er jersey due to salary cap constraints and bloated contract, he will be departing to another team somewhere in need of a veteran receiver to make that projected playoff run.
Despite missing two games this season Owens led the team and ranked second in the National Football Conference and Fifth in the National Football League with career high 97 receptions. He also ranked fourth in the NFL while setting a career high with 1,451 receiving yards.
With a total of 13 touchdowns, Owens trailed only Minnesota’s Randy Moss 15 for receiving touchdowns. Owens was named to the first-team All-Pro team for the 2000 season. Owens is the first receiver other than Jerry Rice since John Taylor (1988) to receive that honor.
Terrell went on a tear this year including controversy and a suspension after celebrating multiple touchdowns in Texas Stadium against the Dallas Cowboys on their beloved star at midfield. Creating a sticky situation for 49er management and the NFL as a whole.
The 49er’s are 6-3 when Owens scores more than one touchdown and are 23-11 overall when he scores at least one touchdown. The most intriguing thing about Owens to me however is what he does after catching the ball, he makes enormous yardage after the catch which is what a true west-coast style of offense needs from it’s premier wide receiver.
In one game during the “Battle of the Bay” against the Oakland Raiders Owens caught a pass and weaved through a group of defenders to score a 31-yard touchdown on a 15-yard pass. He also displayed the speed he possesses in a game against St. Louis as he took a seven-yard pass from Garcia and turned it into a 53-yard touchdown.
Terrell has the uncanny ability to make defensive backs simply graze him after he catches the ball, his out and right pick up speed from a standstill has left me breathless time and time again in his running routes.
Terrell has the size and strength to compete and forcefully manhandle many of the defensive backs that are in the NFL today, he uses that leverage to separate himself from close coverage and increases his likelihood of making the immaculate reception.
Jerry Rice has been most beneficial to Terrell in the sense that he has worked hands on with him for a number of years and he has transformed those teachings to excellent production on the field of play.
In all senses of the word Jerry has openly admitted that it is now the time for Terrell Owens, it is his time to shine in the limelight and carry the baton in receptions on this team and be responsible in making the difference in every game.
Owens totaled 161 yards after the catch on his 13 touchdown receptions this season, including a season-best 46-yards after the catch against St. Louis. He led the team in receptions, receiving yards and touchdowns. He also led the 49er’s in broken tackles. The five-year veteran averaged 4.1 yards after the initial hit by a defensive player.
With 33 touchdown catches over the last three years, Terrell ranks fourth in the NFL in that category: Randy Moss (43), Cris Carter (34), Marvin Harrison (33), Owens (33) and Antonio Freeman (29).
Owens continues to redefine the wide receiver position and has played the receiver in the west-coast offense almost to perfection, everything he does on the field legitimizes that legacy and he shows incredible fortitude to accomplish and break records sometimes without even realizing it.
Owens had five 100-yard receiving games in 2000; the one everyone most remembers is his record-setting effort against Chicago at home, in which he had 20 receptions for 283 yards.
Owens became the 49er’s most dangerous weapon over the 2000 season as evidenced by his incredible plays. The five-year veteran registered 22 plays that went for 20-or-more yards. Owens had five touchdowns that covered 30-or-more yards.
“ It lets you know the amount of talent we have on this team,” said Owens, who finished fourth in the wide receiver Pro Bowl voting behind Randy Moss of the Vikings, Isaac Bruce of the Rams and Cris Carter of the Vikings. “I’ve said it all year: Jeff Garcia has some great weapons on this team and a number of players could have made it off this squad.”
Certainly when it comes to big plays and crunch time Terrell is always stepping up to the plate, he has made key receptions and scored in critical situations when the game has swayed back and forth. I find him to be most invaluable to the prosperity of this team and his emergence to step into Jerry Rice’s role comes at a perfect opportunity as demonstrated this season.
Combining with 49er Pro Bowl inductee running back Charlie Garner, Terrell was a perfect compliment to the breakout season Charlie experienced behind an offensive line that worked hard all season to create opportunity for the running game.
With 23 touchdowns between them, they both combined to score 47% of San Francisco’s touchdowns, including 52% of the team’s receiving touchdowns and the majority of big plays on offense.
When you want to talk about offense in 2000 all you have to think about is Charlie Garner and Terrell Owens as being the most potent weapons at Quarterback Jeff Garcia’s disposal. The appreciation for their step forward and into the limelight of this season’s Pro Bowl in Hawaii speaks more then words can say.
Terrell Owens averaged 23.6 yards per touchdown and increased that to 35.3 yards per touchdown over his last 10 games of the season. With the majority of Charlie’s touchdowns on the ground, Charlie averaged 8.1 yards per touchdown, including a 22.6-yard average for receiving touchdowns.
49er Running Back Charlie Garner once again came into 2000 as the starting running back due to Garrison Hearst’s troubling ankle injury that is still questionable to this day after multiple surgeries. He was once again labeled as not being a durable and long-lasting running back, he was able once again two season’s in a row to destroy those misconceptions.
Garner has done what only three other running backs have done in team history; rushed for 1,000 yards in back-to-back seasons. Garner closed 2000 by rushing 258 times for 1,142 yards and career high seven touchdowns. The 49er’s have now produced a 1,000-yard rusher in four consecutive season’s-the longest streak in team history.
I have always come out in support of Charlie Garner this season he once again dazzled me with his outstanding running abilities in the gut up the middle and in his outside rushes with his “juke and jive” posturing moves that left linebackers and safeties fallen to one knee.
He commands respect and is in contention for offers due to his unrestricted free agent status, a lot has been said with San Francisco forced to shave over $13 million off its salary cap this year it leaves little room to resign a quality back that commands $3-4 million dollars.
However I am in support that he at least is tendered a quality offer and everything should be done within reason to resign him as he has delivered as promised time and time again. The status of Garrison Hearst is still a mystery one that could have a bad turnout to our detriment and his, in order for us to have a proven veteran running back on our roster Charlie in my opinion is that person.
Charlie was a great barometer in the sense of the 49er performance in their win-loss-column this season. In the six 49er wins this season, Garner averaged 21.1 carries, 85.0 yards and .83 touchdowns per game. He also averaged 4.0 receptions and 32.3 yards per game in the victories.
With 1,789 total yards from scrimmage, Garner ranked third in the National Football Conference and sixth in the NFL. He had 1,142 yards rushing and 647 receiving yards to his credit. The 49er’s were 3-1 when Garner carried the ball 20 times or more, and when he carried 18 times or more, the 49er’s were 4-1.
No matter where Charlie ran the ball this year he made positive yardage largely in due to a terrific offensive line that was grossly underrated and belittled all season as not being bulky enough to do the job.
Garner when rushing between the tackles this season, rushed 181 times for 934 yards, he carried the ball 77 times for 208 yards off-tackle. On top of that Charlie had a career-day this season against the Cowboys Garner set a career-high team record with his 201 rushing yards on a career high and team record 36 rushing attempts.
Garner is the very first 49er running back in team-history to eclipse the 200-yard mark. He also caught three passes for 34-yards to establish a new career high with 235 all-purpose yards.
Charlie Garner was the fourth ranked player in the National Football Conference for total first downs with 81 (53 rushing, 28 receiving). Garner trailed only Marshall Faulk (120), Ahman Green (90) and Stephen Davis (83) in the National Football Conference and 10th in the NFL.
“For me personally, I think I have a good fit here and I’ve been playing well, so I wouldn’t want to change that,” he said. “At the same time, I recognize that they’ve got things they want to do upstairs.”
Garner has expressed an intense desire to be included in the roster in San Francisco for the 2001 season, he has made no secret that he has enjoyed his two years as a 49er and wants to continue to do so. General Manager Bill Walsh has been critical of Garner’s performance towards the tail end of the season indicating he had worn down and was less than productive.
The reaction from Garner and his agent was harsh and with astonishment, as Garner was beginning the process of negotiations on contract restructuring. The cat and mouse game was and still is being played between both camps on his future.
The running game to the 49er’s has been the icing on the cake for many years as we have been able to run the ball with high quality backs almost at will. The future of that trademark could come into doubt should the 49er’s not resign Garner to an extension even at a higher salary.
Charlie’s front-man fullback Fred Beasley is also a restricted free agent and is one of the last elite fullbacks in the NFL. Fullbacks are becoming a dying breed of player, as teams are not willing to keep one on their rosters in place of a more versatile offensive player.
Beasley has a knack for finding the end zone especially on third down inside the 20 near the goal line. The third-year fullback scored his career high sixth touchdown of the season on a one-yard plunge at a game in San Diego. His six touchdowns are the most by a 49er fullback since William Floyd scored six times in 1994.
Garner and Beasley turned into two of the best receivers out of the backfield that the 49er’s have ever had. Garner had 68 receptions for 618 yards and three touchdowns, while Beasley had 31 catches for 233 yards and three touchdowns.
Fred Beasley is the road grater in front of Garner and is the versatile secret offensive weapon we can use at our disposal as the safety option should the main play break down and fail.
For 20 consecutive seasons the San Francisco 49er’s have sent a player to the Pro Bowl in Hawaii. This year three young athletes from our fold will make their appearance for the very first time. I cannot help but salute these three individuals for all their hard work and endless efforts towards achieving success not only for themselves but also for the team as a whole.
There should have been more 49er’s in this Pro Bowl many thought Defensive Tackle Bryant Young and Guard Ray Brown would be considered, I honestly wish they had received more votes then they had.
However there are also many others that turned out to be surprises in not entering the Pro Bowl this season all around the NFL. I am looking forward to their performances in being finally recognized once again nationally for all to see.
San Francisco faces many challenges ahead this season as we enter phase two in the rebuilding process, we will once again contribute to the Pro Bowl pool this year as even more players should strut and show their talent at it’s very finest. I am thankful that once again I will be there to witness it.