NFL labor situation could hit teams in transition hard

While things remain warm and fuzzy in the Arizona desert for our World Series champions, the forecast has turned stormy on the offseason horizon for our can’t-get-a-break 49ers.

Without boring everybody about who’s right or what’s what in football labor speak, the consensus says the rest of this NFL offseason is going to be one wild scramble. And it appears like the 49ers wind up on the short end of the lockout stick.

When football resumes, teams in transition — like the 49ers are with new coach Jim Harbaugh — figure to be at a disadvantage.

Also, teams without a clear picture at the quarterback position — like the 49ers — will be at a disadvantage.

Here’s why. If the standoff ends in the late summer or early fall, each team will hustle out onto the practice field trying to get ready as quickly as possible for what could be an abbreviated season. Not the best scenario for a first-year coach. Coming out of college. Without ever having worked with his starting quarterback. If he has one.

How bad do the Niners have it?

There are eight NFL teams in the just-hired-a-coach boat: the 49ers, Vikings, Cowboys, Panthers, Browns, Broncos, Titans and Raiders.

Put asterisks next to the Cowboys and Vikings. Brad Garrett and Leslie Frazier both coached their teams at the end of last season after being promoted from the coaching staff.

The Raiders and Titans also have a working edge because they hired assistants off their own staffs — Hue Jackson taking the helm in Oakland and Mike Munchak taking over in Tennessee.

The other three teams hired coaches who were in the NFL last season — the Panthers (Ron Rivera from San Diego), the Browns (Pat Shurmur from St. Louis) and the Broncos (John Fox from Carolina). Not as good as the other four, but still better than the 49ers, who are in a category of disadvantage all their own.

The 49ers are the only team with a new coach from the college ranks. Nothing against Harbaugh — he appears to be the right man for the job — but a case could be made that, among the 32 NFL coaches, he faces the biggest uphill challenge whenever the 2011 season begins.

College coach. New team. No quarterback. That’s three strikes right there.

Imagine everything is settled in late August. Players fly in from all over the place. Quick introductions. New coaching staff. New offensive scheme. New defensive scheme. New terminology. New practices.

Then, it’s good luck, go play.

Nothing warm and fuzzy about it.

Tim Liotta is a freelance journalist and regular contributor to The Examiner. E-mail him at

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