In a 49ers season of bad turned worse then not so bad, the season-ending injury to Frank Gore could wind up having the greatest impact.
Not because of any question marks surrounding Gore’s future or what his absence means to the 49ers on the football field, but because it gives Mike Singletary and his coaching staff an excuse if things go south from here.
Now they can blame any slide on the fact that they were robbed of Gore’s contribution.
And if 49ers management buys that excuse, Niners fans will have to suffer through yet another season with Singletary at the helm.
In fact, I wouldn’t say the 49ers have turned anything around.
Beating up an awful Cardinals team for their fourth win in six weeks is more par for the course than a turnaround. They’ve beaten the Broncos and the Cardinals, a pair of teams that have mailed it in for 2010. Beating the Raiders and Rams at home was what they were supposed to do. Their four vicitims are a combined 16-28, and none are above .500.
If you’re a 49ers fan, I challenge you to name one thing this season that you could describe as an original idea, or a single game where you’d say this staff out-coached the opposition.
The 49ers in 2010 have been as predictable and vanilla as a team can be. This staff has been one step behind since the opening kickoff.
Even when something goes right, this staff mismanages things.
On Monday night against the patsy Cardinals, the brittle Brian Westbrook replaces the injured Gore, and reels off 136 yards and a touchdown on 23 carries.
Unfortunately, over Monday night’s final 17 minutes — with the 49ers in command by three touchdowns — Westbrook carried the football seven unnecessary times.
On Tuesday, Singletary says, “We just have to be careful about how we use [Westbrook] and how much exposure we allow him to see.”
What about the final 17 minutes the night before? Like I said, a step behind …
Don’t give me the selection of Troy Smith as a great Singletary call. There was no other choice if Alex Smith’s time was up.
Troy has played well enough to keep his job, but the switch has not lit up the offense. Neither Michael Crabtree nor Vernon Davis have blossomed with Smith as quarterback. Sure, Crabtree has three touchdowns, but he has not been dominant.
The 49ers are in Green Bay today with five games left — three road games (Lambeau Field today, at San Diego, and at St. Louis) and a pair of home games (Seattle and Arizona) — that look like an uphill climb.
Even if the 49ers go 3-2 the rest of the way and sneak into the playoffs, Singletary and his staff deserve no excuses for the position this football team is in. Or the way it has played.
Tim Liotta is a freelance journalist and regular contributor to The Examiner. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.