Hard to achieve with a team like the Niners, and nearly impossible when one cares about a team like the Niners far, far too much, as I do.
So, yes, the Jim Harbaugh era begins with a win, and if the score is all one goes by, a fairly impressive win. A 33-17 victory is nothing to sniff at, especially considering the team scored more than 30 points all of 4 times during Samurai Mike’s coaching career (out of 40 games). Obviously, that score was much inflated by Ted Ginn Jr. suddenly deciding he had had enough of the NFL massaging the kickoff rules to “protect” people, and outrunning the entire Seahawks special teams cadre, the Seattle police, Usain Bolt, and an unfortunate barn swallow trying to escape a peregrine falcon, which, coincidentally, Ginn ALSO beat.
The Bad news: 1-12 on 3rd down. 5 chances inside the red zone, and exactly 1 TD (David Akers never had to kick this much in Philly, did he). As many first downs by penalty as by passing or rushing (4 for each). A total of 124 yards passing. 9 penalties, for 102 lost yards. Alex Smith didn’t come to his senses and decide to retire just before kickoff.
This was a lucky, flukey, bizarre win. Good to have, considering those kinds of victories never seemed to fall the Niners’ way during the Nolan and Singletary eras (or I’ve convinced myself that my memories of them must have been dreams), but the problems are still there. The O-line has major, major trouble opening holes for Gore and Kendall Hunter (Anthony Dixon seems to have disappeared). The secondary has far too many mental lapses in coverage (though Rogers and Whitner get their hands on a lot more balls than Nate “The only thing I see every Sunday is my mark’s backside” Clements). The team remains supremely undisciplined. Alex Smith is still the quarterback.
The Good: Bam Bam has been unleashed as a pass rusher; he had several near sacks, and was wreaking havoc when he had the chance to. The special teams are doing more (much more) than calling for endless fair catches and bumbling them. Harbaugh has luck on his side.
Do I want this team to do well? Of course. Seeing Ginn running down the field not once, but twice, had me screaming at my computer screen and jumping around my room. I can’t help it when it comes to this team. But I still maintain that it’d be better if we did poorly this year and grabbed Andrew Luck next year than yet another dose of mediocrity. We have to admit, finally, that we made the wrong choice in 2005 (and how freaking long does it take? How many chances can one give an obviously inadequate player? The fact that Alex Smith keeps returning year after year is literally a joke to fans of other teams around the league. A 49ers quarterback is a laughingstock).
The nice thing about that perspective is I think this team is well-built to make it come true. The nasty thing is I think this team is well-built to make it come true. There’s always next year…