Article Title: Errors in judgment?
This free agency period for the San Francisco 49ers under the official Mike Singletary regime has been more like stomach influenza then it has been like a refreshing gym workout? You have to scratch your head and wonder rather the San Francisco 49ers under President Jed York are an enigma or an organization building a new name for its identity?
Addressing the needs of the team has to be the combined efforts of head coach Mike Singletary, general manager Scot McCloughan and President Jed York. Sprinkle in a few whiffs of other executive personnel and an occasional interest of Dr. John York and you would imagine some rather sound judgments wouldn’t you?
Well I have to tell you from my perspective the decisions I have seen are not settling well in the pit of my stomach as of late. I will first begin with those that I am excited about and then those that are very questionable at best. As a die-hard 49er fan I am lost at how the 49ers conceived spending the $25 million dollars they had available to them under this year’s salary cap.
Locking up some of our own that have performed at a high level is always a sound investment and I believe we did that with return specialist Allen Rossum, linebacker Takeo Spikes and fullback Moran Norris. Saying goodbye to wide receiver Bryant Johnson who was productive for us and signing a no-name four-year veteran wide receiver in Brandon Jones leaves me rather confused.
$16.5 million dollars spent on a four-year Tennessee Titan wide receiver that has sustained so many injuries he has not had any kind of an opportunity to showcase his perceived talents as of yet. It is pure speculation that we have on any of our parts to believe that he will finally stay healthy and produce the numbers he was drafted for back in 2005.
Say goodbye to rock solid experience and let’s open the door to the unknown. With the anticipated retirement of veteran All-Pro Isaac Bruce and the departure of Bryant Johnson to the Detroit Lions the 49ers receivers are now still a compilation of athletes trying to prove something still.
The recent signing of free agent defensive end Demetric Evans, formerly of the Washington Redskins was one of the smartest moves I’ve seen as of late. The season’s proof of a still stagnant pass rush was enough and even longer under the Mike Nolan administration dating back to 2005.
Evans at (6-foot-4, 287-pounds) has started 11 games for the Redskins just last season at defensive end. Her is stout against the run and is a contributor to applying heat on the quarterback. He had a career-high 3.5 sacks last year, and he is a seven-year NFL veteran that turns 30 in September.
He in essence wasn’t signed to be a pass rush specialist more than someone that can help collapse the pocket and provide pressure. The pass rush in our 3-4 schemes will come from our outside linebackers. Evans became a real necessity as we said goodbye to defensive lineman Ronald Fields, who signed on with a two-year deal with the Denver Broncos.
What also makes Evans a great signing is the fact that in this draft there is little to no depth of quality in regards to the defensive line. This alone was reason enough to find someone to compliment our line now. Evans will have to adjust to the new 3-4 scheme where he’s been within a 4-3 with the Washington Redskins. The man he will be challenging for playing time will be last-year’s first round draft pick in Kentwan Balmer, for the starting spot at left defensive end.
Now for the courtship of two-time NFL MVP Kurt Warner as our next starting quarterback. In early March the inability of Kurt Warner to come to a conclusion in contract negotiations with his Arizona Cardinals mustered him to consider other various options, one he took seriously in considering San Francisco.
Flying in Kurt and his wide Brenda, from the Phoenix area to San Jose and driven into the Santa Clara complex for some interesting negotiations was a thrilling affair that was lavished with a 22-foot stretch Range Rover to a dinner with 49er executives in San Jose. All of this because there was a $10 million dollar gap in between negotiations involving the Arizona Cardinals, in which he believed he was worth more.
With Shaun Hill an improvised quarterback in any given situation but still relatively unproven and Alex Smith a perceived bust with negotiations on a restructured contract going on. The 49ers felt that they were entitled to dream a little about a Super Bowl proven quarterback who just last season threw for 4.583-yards with 30 touchdowns and 14 interceptions and helped lead his Cardinals to their first Super Bowl appearance.
Interestingly enough it was inside San Francisco 49er headquarters and in meeting with head coach Mike Singletary who gave a passionate rendition of what his expectations are for the franchise that inspired Warner to remember his own head coach back in Arizona and his visions for the team. Citing that God wanted him to remain an Arizona Cardinal and to get the job done, he told his agent to go ahead and get the deal done so he could remain an Arizona Cardinal.
The offer made to Kurt Warner was believed to be around $30 million for two-years by the San Francisco 49ers a deal much sweeter than that of the Arizona Cardinals who sealed a deal worth $23 million over two-years with $19 million guaranteed. In essence Kurt Warner feels like this is his final NFL contract at 37-years old. Did we lose him because of failures within our own front office?
Evidence suggests that may be the case considering that Kurt’s agent Rick Bartelstein told ESPN.com that San Francisco had made an offer “much higher” than what was on the table with Arizona, an offer his agent claimed would make Warner one of the league’s five highest paid quarterbacks.
Immediately following that General Manager Scot McCloughan fired off an e-mail to the San Francisco Chronicle that the 49ers had made no offer at all to Kurt Warner? Again is there a clear failure on Jed York’s and Scot McCloughan’s part in securing the services of a God-given talent like Kurt Warner?
On the other hand poor Shaun Hill is in the background wondering what he has to do to prove his stature as this teams starting quarterback, Hill is 7-3 the past two seasons in 10 starts. Reflecting back the 49ers are 5-17 in games Hill has not started during that time. The quarterback situation became even dicier with J.T. O’Sullivan leaving to Cincinnati and then we go and sign free-agent long-time back-up quarterback Damon Huard who will be 36 in July and is a 12-year veteran. Damon Huard spent the last five seasons as a Kansas City Chief, where he spent most of 2008 on the injured reserve list with a broken right thumb.
As the 49ers signed Damon Huard so was the shame on the die-hards faces for losing the prospect of potential instant success with Kurt Warner. In reality Huard became the scab of what was supposed to happen. In 12 NFL seasons Damon Huard was with Kansas City (2004-08), New England (2001-03) and Miami (1997-2000).
In his career he has played in 64 games and started 27, throwing 33 touchdown passes and 26 interceptions, as a Chief last season, he played in five games and completed 50 of 81 passes for 477 yards and two touchdowns, with four interceptions. I don’t expect him to be a real challenge to Shaun Hill other than battling for the second-tier position with Alex Smith.
At the same time I don’t think Damon Huard is an upgrade over J.T. O’Sullivan? If anything they are one in the same. Usually when you are looking at acquiring a quarterback for some competition and or depth you latch on to someone that has proven ability and talent in a playoff setting?
This was not the case in signing Damon Huard. It was someone that has experience but that is all. Jeff Garcia was available and a proven commodity in Tampa Bay yet we forfeited our chance to consider him? On top of that he had helped us make it to the playoffs under former head coach Steve Mariucci. The intent of this franchise was to sign someone they refuse to admit is a failure.
The drafting of University of Utah’s Alex Smith with the first overall pick in the 2005 NFL draft was a mistake on Scot McCloughan’s watch and Mike Nolan’s part. Aaron Rodgers now a proven success in Green Bay and available and considered within that same draft would’ve been a better fit. I will explain further in my next article.
Sources of Information: Mercury News.com, SF Gate.com, Inside Bay Area.com, NFL.com and my own personal analysis and opinion.