The advice has become cliché: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. What if it is broken? What if it’s a football team? What if it’s the 49ers, who need a very large repair job?
What if it’s a franchise without direction or people who could locate that direction?
We begin with a concession. The Niners could make the playoffs, because someone from the NFC West indeed is required to do so, and because the division is, in a word, awful.
Which some might use to describe the Niners, although mediocre would be more accurate. Mediocre and hugely disappointing.
The Niners, as president Jed York so outrageously insisted when they were 0-5, might win NFC West, albeit with a losing record.
They’re 3-7 now, and with games at Green Bay — another painful reminder of Aaron Rodgers — and San Diego, surely will have no fewer than nine losses.
For a season in which they were supposed to win at least 10 games — hey, they were 8-8 a year ago. For a season in which they were predicted to return to the NFL’s elite.
That is not going to happen. Unless there are changes, it never will happen.
As you know, embarrassingly, for the first time in 33 years, the Niners were shut out at Candlestick Park on Sunday, beaten by Tampa Bay 21-0. As you may not know, they were symbolically shut out in the stands.
Attendance was announced as the usual sellout, 69,372. But some 20,000 seats were empty. It was cold. There was a threat of rain, but the day was dry. Fans have given up. Or given in. They realize they have been sold a box of wishes.
They realize the front office is a mess. They realize Mike Singletary is overmatched as a head coach. They realize no matter who plays quarterback it’s the wrong person.
This is how the Niners fix what is broken. They hire a knowledgeable football man to take charge.
The suggestion from KNBR’s Gary Radnich that they somehow pry loose Mike Holmgren from Cleveland — he’s a native San Franciscan, a former Niners assistant, a Super Bowl-winning coach with Green Bay — may be impractical, but the thought is proper.
Maybe they go next door and grab a coach from Stanford.
It worked rather well 31 years ago when Bill Walsh was hired. Jim Harbaugh has shown nothing but brilliance, and sooner or later he’ll be in control of an NFL team. Why not the Niners?
The impossible dream is to get both Harbaugh and his guy, Andrew Luck, who Harbaugh calls the best player in college football. It’s clear the Niners are going to need a quarterback, since they’ve given up on Alex Smith and David Carr, and Troy Smith is nothing more than adequate.
Singletary bravely stood up and took the blame for what happened against Tampa Bay, or more specifically when a team scores no points, what didn’t happen.
Some of it is his fault. But not all.
The Niners canned offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye, who must be laughing after Sunday’s effort. They swapped quarterbacks. It isn’t working.
It’s time to start over. If Eddie DeBartolo could do it in 1979, his nephew, Jed York can do it in 2010.
Art Spander has been covering Bay Area sports since 1965 and also writes on www.artspander.com and www.realclearsports.com. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
49ers vs. Cardinals