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Article Title: Hitting rock bottom
Article Date: December 29th 2004
By Sydney

In San Francisco at Monster Park 49er fans debate the season in fine fashion with verbal insults and slogans depicting new ownership and management changes are needed to feeling consoled that we’ve clinched the first pick in next year’s NFL draft. Getting another eyeful of where the team has headed at this point in the season, fans left early yet again after witnessing the massacre and destruction left by the Buffalo Bills in defeating us 41-7.

I was not looking forward to this game with any real anticipation because I knew from the statistics and what the Buffalo Bills needed was a victory to stay alive in this year’s playoff race. It would be as predicted a smashing success for the Buffalo Bills against a team that stands in with no real firm direction, purpose or future under it’s current ownership and management.

The defeat at the hands of the Buffalo Bills came on a day where the 49er organization supposedly refers to its fans as being the most important source for its existence. It came on Fan Appreciation Day. I would like to be one of the many that say Thank-You Dr. John York for all you’ve done to get us where we are right now.

Even among the ranks of the 49er players themselves resentment and frustration is real and evident as this season winds down to its welcomed end. Players injured for extended periods of time yearn to get back out on the field to help their teammates but are relegated to witnessing the agony like us. They stare from the sidelines in disbelief that this team is just as bad as the media and critics said they would be after carving off 11 veteran players from the roster in the off-season.

Owner Dr. John York and General Manager Terry Donahue have offered little condolences to sooth our emotions and pent up frustrations on the season. They have thrown salt on an open wound in suggesting that Dennis Erickson will still be around next season as long as he agrees to trim a few assistant coaches at that. Blame for the season starts a long time ago back under the previous ownership but mismanaged and compounded by the current ownership.

Is Dennis Erickson to blame for this season’s (2-14) record? Clearly not all of it but his coaching techniques and his staff’s inability to work and make improvements with the players at hand are clear flaws that need to be corrected. We can all make excuses with knowing he was handed a bad deal when this organization decided to purge the roster and sacrifice the season in one swift stroke in judgment.

But as a head coach it is still your ultimate responsibility to work with what you have and to show gradual improvement in everything the team does out on the field. There is still talent on the roster it needs to be coached and corrections need to take place on a week to week basis starting at training camp and continued evaluation right up till game time and thereafter. If changes are needed they should be implemented and revaluated again if need be.

What we’ve seen under Dennis Erickson is very little of this throughout the season. We’ve seen a starting quarterback in Tim Rattay go from one injury to another proving to be a liability to the team in staying durable and being able to slip from danger now and then. We have witnessed his inaccuracy and tendencies to turn the ball over and over and over again with no decision to correct it but to be patient.

Ken Dorsey starts only when Tim Rattay is so unable physically to perform and fails in high fashion under the same circumstances that Tim does because he plays behind an offensive line that has given up on the season and fails to mesh and gel like a unit determined to prove its critics wrong.

Again coaching comes into play with both quarterbacks and with not tweaking the offensive line so that pass protection is secured and the quarterbacks have the proper amount of time to make quick decisions.

Saying goodbye to Jeff Garcia no matter what anyone else thinks doomed the season for what it is. Even by keeping just Jeff Garcia as one of the most mobile quarterbacks in the league two to three victories more would’ve been practical and possible on that ability alone. Progress would’ve been bettered measured and so would have the coaching staff been evaluated for what it really is and is capable of doing.

Not to say that Jeff wouldn’t have been injured himself with an offensive line decimated like it has been and executing so poorly due to personnel changes and season changing injuries. We have been so unable to make the adjustment from a Jeff Garcia to a Tim Rattay, and we’ve taken away some of the most lethal offensive weapons we had at our disposal in Terrell Owens, Tai Streets, Garrison Hearst, Derrick Deese and Ron Stone.

This coaching staff headed by Dennis Erickson does not run the true “West Coast Offense,” as interpreted by the mastermind himself in Bill Walsh. It is a hybrid of it and a very weak resemblance of it under Erickson’s watch. We need to get back to the basics and founding principles of what made this organization so successful under the watches of Bill Walsh, George Seifert and even Steve Mariucci.

Today veterans of the old dynasty from Joe Montana to Tim McDonald and Ray Brown shake their collective heads at the state of their beloved organization under Dr. John York’s watch. They curse and moan the sentiments of thousands of 49er fans that change is needed and financial accountability and sound management is as well.

We are being force fed changes that don’t work for this organization we are being told to again be patient and rebuild yet again under the same circumstances as we were forced to do back in 1999.

Except we had a coaching staff that was competent and successful and resourceful, in so many ways that they manufactured victories and success we could measure out on the field and still feel great about being a 49er fan. Today we have a coaching staff stuck in reverse and going nowhere, we have a head coach that shows little emotion on the sidelines and repeats the same words we heard the week before and the week before that.

Tripping over the real accountability and the real problem in that he has brought in his own playbook and stretched it so thin to find solutions instead of relying on the basic fundamentals that made this organization successful.

And that is the West Coast Offense as interpreted under master guru Bill Walsh. Not to say that we didn’t have our fair share in lack of talent to deliver success but enough ingenuity and planning that might have been the difference between a 2-13 season right now to maybe a 6-9 season right now.

Securing a first round draft pick with mismanagement and coaching will do nothing to secure future success for us. No matter how many picks you trade down or swap with and accumulate will there be any real measure of success unless ownership changes its philosophy and begins to become more competent and willing to flex itself financially more to acquire success.

This was our worse home loss in the history of the franchise dating back to 1967, when the Detroit Lions pummeled us 45-3 at Kezar Stadium. Now we face the World Champion New England Patriots on their turf in a sure bet to lose in frigid conditions and coming off yet another embarrassing loss to the Buffalo Bills right after Christmas Day.

This is a game I will be attending being the last game of the regular season and one I look forward to even though I will be surrounded by heckling Patriot fans and firmly will be out of 49er element in those conditions in December.

The only score against the Buffalo Bills came on a drive with just over six minutes left to play in the game trailing 41-0 and suffering one frustrating setback after another. Running back Kevan Barlow reunited with the starting lineup punched it in for a touchdown after rookie third string quarterback Cody Pickett got the call to duty with a Ken Dorsey injury. It is on such small drives as this that the 49ers try and find confidence builders in what they are actually doing right rather than wrong.

Ken Dorsey started in the game that the 49ers were shutout Sept. 26 against the Seattle Seahawks, which by the way broke the organization’s NFL-record 420-game scoring streak dating back to 1977. His struggles continue against the Bills in his sixth start of the season, and failed to lead the 49ers on a single touchdown drive in three of those starts.

When Ken did leave in this game it was just midway through the third quarter when he suffered a contusion on his right middle finger, the 49ers were trailing 20-0 at that time. In all we managed only 189-yards in total offense, which is the fifth time we’ve been held to less than 200-yards of offense. The Buffalo Bills dominated this game in almost every fashion right before the 49ers home crowd of fans wishing for something new.

They averaged 6.3 yards a carry on offense, gaining 226 total yards on the ground. Second-year running back Willis McGahee, who wasn’t expected to play due to a knee injury came out strong rushing for 102-yards and two touchdowns on 15 carries that day. Even veteran Buffalo Bills quarterback Drew Bledsoe had his way with our defense by completing 21 of 32 passes for 172-yards and a touchdown for a passer rating of 89.6.

Meanwhile on the other side of the coin between two quarterbacks in Ken Dorsey who completed 5 of 10 passes for 54-yards and an interception, and also lost a fumble. Cody Pickett completed just four of 10 passes for 55-yards and two interceptions, thereby cementing the fact we will have the first round draft pick in the 2005 NFL draft.

“You try to go out and win every game,” 49ers wide receiver Curtis Conway said. “When it gets to where week after week you get the same result, it’s definitely frustrating.”

“It’s brutal,” 49ers tight end Eric Johnson said. “It’s embarrassing. It hurts to be part of this. All we can do is keep working and get better. After this season, to go into the last game at home and lose like this, there is nothing more to say. It’s just a brutal game at the end of a brutal season.”

Four turnovers by the 49ers and the offensive line allowed three sacks between their two quarterbacks. The Buffalo Bills had 27 first downs compared to just 12 for us, and completed nine of 14 third down conversions for 64% efficiency. In all it was a game that was gut wrenching to watch as the Buffalo Bills marched up and down the field with relative ease and scored 41 total points.

“We could do no right today,” said defensive lineman Bryant Young.

Former 49er players now with the Buffalo Bills in reserve safety Pierson Prioleau and linebacker Jeff Posey had very little to say in the form of compliments to the team that let them go and have found success thereafter. In fact they took great pleasure in defeating us in such a wide margin and were appalled at how pathetic the team had become under the circumstances.

It has now come full circle for the San Francisco 49ers and it is now rock bottom of the barrel for this franchise. It disturbs all of us and it eats away at us to think or even comprehend we could actually be this bad.

As a die-hard 49er fan I still find solace in believing good things will come, because the parity in the league is so thin now that anyone has a chance to compete and get back in the race. The New England Patriots are a model franchise that I believe we should try and duplicate and learn from. Many of my friends are Patriot fans and they have been happy for some time now with two fresh Super Bowl victories under their belt.

I honestly believe that we will comeback its just how long will it take? These are the questions out of our grasp and only ownership and management have an answer to and their infinite wisdom. We’ve had to swallow a bitter pill this season and I feel for all of you out there that have remained committed and faithful, for this is the bleakest hour folks and we must all be strong.