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Article Title: Our very own black hole
Article Date: September 31st 2004
By Sydney

What are we to believe about our beloved franchise in the San Francisco 49ers? Is there any ray of light at the end of this long dark tunnel? Has Dr. John York and General Manager Terry Donahue broken the foundation that was once a prominent and renowned organization in the NFL? Is there any comparison to what happened to the 49ers back in 1999 till right now?

Rationalization tells us these are all true when you really analyze it in your heads. We have some major problems with this team, and ownership and management seem to be the source of all of our dysfunctions. In reality the owners and management in charge of this great organization have sold us out this year to rectify the sins of the past.

It is as if Dr. John York and Terry Donahue have gone into confession to exemplify the fact that we have made many mistakes in contract litigation and that we have made many a wrong decision and now us the fans must stay patient. We have all been used to the winning caliber that this team produced consistently under former owner Eddie DeBartolo and franchise guru Bill Walsh, but those days have ridden long into the sunset my friends.

There is hope and there is light somewhere at the end of this long dark tunnel, as long as you’re willing to wait in years to come. The team stands inexperienced and bewildered with injuries and unproductive team members. It also stands with such unproven and untalented depth that it cannot remedy the bleeding that has consumed the starting lineup.

There is no cash for big free agent signatures and that was very evident with the release of an experienced and proven leader in quarterback Jeff Garcia, who may have provided us a chance while we tried to cure the other salary cap diseases that ravage this franchise.

This is Head Coach Dennis Erickson’s first full season with all of his hand picked assistants and we have not seen any indication that it will be a success, but to be fair and non-judgmental he has been handed a team with no depth, no consolidated veteran leadership and cheap free agents that patch holes where quality once was.

We are building a team through the draft and that is the right way to go, but this will take a number of years to achieve playoff caliber status. It is even more to your advantage when you have managed your finances right and can build not only through the draft and at the same time sign key ticket free agents that will make a splash in your organization.

Many say that there are no comparisons to 1999 after the franchise struck rock bottom and salary cap mayhem came due. But I disagree and see very real similarities in this transition we are now currently in. Bad contract negotiations and stipulations have come back to haunt this team all over again. And both ownership and management are back peddling once again to find a way out of it.

It has been ten long years since this organization saw a Super Bowl and at our current rate it may take just as long again. No longer to you have throngs of sports reporters careening to Santa Clara to get an inside story on how the San Francisco 49ers are doing so well. Instead now you have just a handful asking and wondering what the heck happened to us? And why do you feel you are in this predicament and how long will it take to turn things around?

Entering Week Three the San Francisco 49ers were just coming off an agonizing close loss to the New Orleans Saints 30-27. In this game the 49ers lost to a number of reasons with quarterback Ken Dorsey at the helm.

We encountered bad penalties, unfavorable calls, defensive lapses and most but certainly not least turnovers. This game remained close right up and until the fourth quarter when on a San Francisco 49er drive with running back Jamal Robertson in an exchange with Ken Dorsey fumbled the ball with the 49ers leading 27-23.

Of course the New Orleans Saints recover the fumble and New Orleans Saint quarterback Aaron Brooks connects with wide receiver Dante Stallworth in the back of the end zone for a touchdown with just 1:01 remaining. The San Francisco 49ers under Ken Dorsey still had hope on their next drive with the ball at the two-yard line of the Saints and just 12 seconds left, but the play was called back, on a pass interference penalty on Brandon Lloyd.

Of all the doom and gloom I have written earlier I was proud of how well the offense played in this game. Ken Dorsey received invaluable playing time and game experience and completed 25-of-30 passes for 205-yards and three touchdowns. Believe it or not he even found veteran wide receiver Curtis Conway eight times for 112-yards, and the running game under Kevan Barlow generated 114-yards and two touchdowns on 20 carries after leaving because of bruised rib.

From all aspects this was a close game, and it revealed a fire about Ken Dorsey that all 49er fans can come to appreciate. We had this game won and should’ve been able to put it away but we turned over the ball and we witnessed what bad officiating is still all about in the NFL.

The loss comes down to a bad officiating call on wide receiver Brandon Lloyd for offensive pass interference with 12 seconds left in the game. This wiped out a 37-yard screen pass play to Terry Jackson that would have given the 49ers a first down at the 1-yard line.

Needless to say the 49ers lost this one going (0-2) and prepared to face division rival Seattle Seahawks. “We’re not making plays when we have to make plays at the end,” Erickson said. ‘Nothing against anybody, but with four minutes left, we fumbled the ball. They scored a touchdown on a blown coverage. Those things just can’t happen to you if you are going to win because very game is pretty darn close.”

And then the game against Seattle came to an end, an end of an era as the San Francisco 49ers have never been shutout of a game since 1977 or after 27 long years. We lost 34-0 and it was a loss that sent chills up and down your spine as you watched this game you wondered to yourself why we even dared to show up for this one.

After 420 games the San Francisco 49ers experienced their first shutout after being utterly humiliated by the Seattle Seahawks. “Flat-out embarrassing,” 49ers running back Kevan Barlow said. “That was a flat-out butt kicking, 49ers Coach Dennis Erickson said. “It was about as bad as I’ve been around for a long time.”

We couldn’t even convert a third down until way into the fourth quarter, that is how pathetic we looked, going 0-for-9 on their first drives. Ken Dorsey looked utterly helpless under duress constantly and playing behind a makeshift offensive line that revealed one hole after another. Dorsey completed a mere 19-of –32 passes, but even these were simple dink-and-dunk variety; with the average gain per pass play was but 3.6-yards.

Of the many horrors in that game were Todd Peterson’s field goal attempt from 46-yards out that struck the cross-bar and bounced vigorously to the ground. “It just died,” Peterson said. It did die Todd, after 27 long years you succeeded in ending a streak worthy of the record books and being inconsistent from 40-yards out or more all over gain.

This game was a tragedy beyond words as I watched it, as the Seattle Seahawk defense cascaded like a waterfall over rocks, pouring out over our offensive line over and over again. The Seattle defense held the 49ers to 48-yards rushing and harassed Ken Dorsey into two interceptions and two fumbles all on top of that.

Where is Dennis Erickson in all of this and where is his involvement? Why isn’t he showing his offensive genius and making key decisions when they are necessary on the field? It really makes you wonder what’s going on when you see him standing there stoically and methodically on the sidelines with little to no emotion.

Is Dennis Erickson’s job on the line? If this is a game that there is no improvement made from we all better hope so, regardless of what talent he has at his disposal. He needs to keep his promises and be creative and innovative in order to create opportunities.

This stands as a clear indication of what it is that a head coach will do to win at all costs, certainly not waiting till the fourth quarter to convert your first third down.

Ken Dorsey is just learning the speed of where the NFL is and is handling it very nicely despite the mistakes he’s made on the field. He will be the future of this franchise and he will contribute in a big way down the road, but was it fair to allow him to be pummeled into submission over and over again?

The offensive line was so ineffective against the mighty Seattle defensive front that running back Kevan Barlow was held to just 22 yards on 10 carries. If the running game is effectively erased with a rookie quarterback at the helm then so are the 49ers as a team.

We must win the battles in the trenches if we are to survive and not having center Jeremy Newberry or left tackle Kwame Harris made a significant difference in comparison to the last two games played against the Atlanta Falcons and New Orleans Saints. Still more disturbing is the fact that the Seahawks were able to rack up 263-yards passing and allow the quarterback rating of Matt Hasselbeck to be at 117.9%.

What is even more evident is our inability to present heat on the opponent’s quarterback. Rarely are the 49ers blitzing and the front four are showing increasing signs that they cannot be effective by merely rushing just their front four. This is a case in point where size really does seem to matter as the front four are light and quick but unable to penetrate the bulk that protects the quarterback on any given Sunday.

Recovering from this loss will be a test for Dennis Erickson and his character as a leader. He must set in stone where the club needs to go from here. He has made indications that he doesn’t want this game to affect two games, but the ramifications and humiliation from this game will be burnt solidly into each player’s mind. We are on course to be at the very cellar of our division and we are on course to have one of the worst seasons in franchise history.

Is there a way to stop the bleeding? Can we get quality players back in time to make a difference on the field and can we get Tim Rattay back in the game at top form. The growing pains are bound to keep happening based on the youth of this team and the lack of experience and veteran presence on the field. Even with Tim Rattay the rust is going to be there after battling injury upon injury since the first mini-camp.

We must be prepared to call this a rebuilding year. It is not revamping, revitalizing or tweaking what we have in place. This is clear cut rebuilding through the draft and having little to no money to sign key high-priced free agents that are proven commodities on any football team.

This is what we’ve been relegated to in all honesty and the fans of the 49ers are the ones that must accept this fate and be very patient. There are promises out there folks and there are good signs of progress but the bumps and bruises will be many and the win column will be very lonely to say the least.

I refuse to chronicle all the quarters regarding this 34-0 loss. I think it is senseless to relive something so humiliating and devastating all over again. I am hopeful that being at home the next two games will create something hopefully with loyal friends at their backs the 49ers can find some rhythm and harmony.

At the same time I honestly hope that Dennis Erickson will break out of the normalcy of his previous stint as an NFL head coach and find himself making decisions that are beneficial to our offense. 49er fans can be patient up and until a point but if the trend of doing nothing like this Seattle game revealed blatantly continues, calls for someone’s head should start aloud.