Ratto: Culpepper interest says a lot to 49ers fans

August 15, 2011, 4:31 pm
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Aug. 15, 2011RATTO ARCHIVE
CSNBayArea.com Raise your hand, paw, claw or taloned wing if your idea of the next quarterback of the San Francisco 49ers was ever Daunte Culpepper.Go on. We can wait. You have until eternity.Yet there he is, an invitee of Jim Harbaugh at Mondays practice. Evidently the head coachchief mastermindsaver of quarterbacks souls suddenly decided that he didnt have enough alternatives to Alex Smith, and that he didnt need a whole lot of evidence to make that call.Sounds, frankly, like someone who learns by running into walls at top speed and then picks himself up so that he can hurry and look for the next wall. Comrade Maiocco, who knows more of the ways of 49erWorld than most, said it was obvious the 49ers would bring in some sort of veteran presence. Then again, one would ask, if it wasnt obvious well before this, and that maybe General Jimmy was a bit too reactive for a first-year man.Culpepper, you see, has been the free couch on the front of the lawn for a long time now. He hasnt played a down since 2009 since his contribution to the 2009 Lions, who went 2-14 and called it glory after going 0-16 the year before. His career, once loaded with promise, has collapsed, in part because of him, in part because of circumstances as is the case with most NFL career arcs. You almost never go when youre ready.Smith and Colin Kaepernick, on the other hand, had just had their hats blocked good and proper by the New Orleans Saints Friday night, combining to go 11 of 26 for 117 yards and six sacks. The Saints are a good team that create lots of offensive blocking mismatches, and figured to do just that to the doe-eyed Smith and unfamiliar Kaepernick, and so they did.RELATED: 49ers bullied by Saints 24-3 in exhibition debut
But the more burdensome question for Harbaugh is why the veteran presence thing was such an insoluble problem for so long. He hasnt named an opening-game starter, which is prudent, and he may still believe to the depths of his soul in Smith (though we have always felt that was a position of convenience rather than conviction).But at a position that is so clearly unsettled, why was the veteran presence not more of a priority a lot sooner in the process? And never mind that, is the offensive line so unsettled that it becomes a saloon door the first time it is tested? Looks like Candlestick-sur-la-Mer is going to become the place where blitz packages go for a holiday.Few people expected a fix of this franchise quickly, and anyone who did is plainly nuts. Eight years of ossification, reluctance to outsource, bad ideas and worse ideas on top of those are hard to scrape away with a pretty new figurehead at the front of the ship. The safe, sane and sensible assumption is that the 49ers are not yet ready to be a player in the National Football Conference yet, and you can believe all you want, but you who do believe have also believed every one of the last eight years. You believed in Mike Nolan and Mike Singletary, in the power of history and the power of new faces (say, like Jed Yorks). You believed through thin and thinner, and you believe because you are hard-wired to do so.And youre entitled to do that. You pay your fees, in ticket prices or by allegiance despite distance. You dont have to be there to be a fan, and the notion that you do is one of the great whopping lies of modern marketing.But none of that gets us any closer to Daunte Culpeppers Monday workout. If he doesnt do much, well, not much ventured and nothing gained. Hes not exactly an even-money bet here.But if he does, if hes suddenly part of the evolving quarterback plan, then Jim Harbaugh has some more explaining to do. And the more a coach has to explain, the less effective his explanations become. That was part of Singletarys downfall, and while he was entertaining, he flamed out pretty quickly by coaching standards (he ended up tied with Frank Kush and Bull Behman for games coached at 40, and we neednt push that analogy any further).So if Harbaugh is planning to serve his full 80, not including January work, hell have to get up to full speed even faster than he already was traveling. And Daunte Culpepper may be a small thing, but it says so much more in this town.Ray Ratto is a columnist for CSNBayArea.com

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