Road gets harder for 49ers in 2012


Road gets harder for 49ers in 2012

So getting from six to 13 is easy. You hire a new coach, you keep most of the same players, you dont waste time on frivolities like a training camp, and bang! Youre in the conference championship.

This is the 49ers world today a hard lesson about maxing out your performances, but a warm feeling for the year to come. A tweak here, a nudge there, and glory is theirs forever.

But heres where math is its usual hateful bastard. The rule is simple -- when you improve by a lot in one year, you typically fall back the year after. Not all the time, mind you, but often enough that fans should not assume that the 49ers escape from the crypt means a straight line to heaven.

Since the 1970 merger, 85 teams (give or take; one might have skipped past our notice) have improved themselves by five wins or more, and only 13 have either equaled or won more games the third year. Thats a 15 percent success rate, so that alone should make 49er fans realize that this isnt easy.

Of course, they should know it anyway. The 1981 team that went from six to 13 wins and won its first Super Bowl went 3-6 in the strike year of 1982.

In fact, because were a full-service operation, well give you the 11 teams that consolidated its gains.

BALTIMORE: 1974-6, 2 wins to 10 to 11, three consecutive first-round losses and then nothing of note for another decade.

CHICAGO: 1989-92, 6 to 11 to 11 to 5, and then nearly a decade before becoming a winner again.

CHICAGO AGAIN: 2004-6, 5 to 11 to 13 and the Super Bowl.

JACKSONVILLE: 1995-9, 4 to 9, then 11, 11 and 14. An expansion team under, yes, Tom Coughlin, but topped off in 1996 with a conference title appearance.

LOS ANGELES RAMS: 1982-5, 2 to 9 to 10 to 11. Ray Malavasi becomes John Robinson, but the Rams are up against a budding dynasty in San Francisco, so it seems less magnificent in reflection.

MIAMI: Like Chicago, twice, first 1969-73, 3 to 10 10 to 14, with the 14 being the last perfect record with a Super Bowl win at the end. Later, 1982-5, 7 to 12 to 14, with the Stanford Super Bowl at the end.

NEW YORK JETS: 1996-8, 1 to 10 to 12, which is mostly the difference between the last year of Rich Kotite and the first two years of Bill Parcells. Also 2007-10, going 4 to 9 to 9 to 11 under Eric Mangini and then Rex Ryan, but they leveled off into full-on crisis in 2011.

PHILADELPHIA: 1999-2004, 5 to 11 to 11 to 12 to 12, with Andy Reid taking them to four consecutive conference finals and one Super Bowl. The ideal template, except for . . .
SAN FRANCISCO: 1982-4, 3 to 10 to 15, and the second Super Bowl. Proved that the strike year could be fairly be discarded and that the 80s were in the fact theirs.

TENNESSEE: 1994-2000, the slowest-motion improvement on record, from 2 to 7 to 8 to 8 to 8 to 13 and 13 again. Jack Pardee becomes Jeff Fisher, who eventually gets the Titans to the Big One in 1999. Also did it in 1974-6, going from 1 to 7 to 10 in 14-game seasons, but never made the playoffs.

There are also examples where teams slipped a bit in the win-loss but continued excellence -- Denver, Pittsburgh and Green Bay got to Super Bowls that way -- but the point is made. If you think there is a straight line for the 49ers, history calls you a liar.

Toward that end, the improvements they must make with their wide receiver corps and their general efficiency on third down and in the red zone will be crucial, and may take more than a year. 2012 may be a year full of angst and have-they-lost-the-magic that ends up brilliantly in the end.

But it could also be a false positive. Of the 21 teams that improved by seven wins or more, 19 fell back the following season. In sum, 49er fans should understand that this climb from crummy to very good isnt unusual. The climb from very good to great is extraordinarily difficult. So strap in -- this ride has just begun.

Ray Ratto is a columnist for

Patriots win one for the ages, but where does it rank?

Patriots win one for the ages, but where does it rank?

The price of watching Roger Goodell being booed back to the Bronze Age is a subtle but real one, and one that people will feel very dearly soon enough.

The last great cathartic Super Bowl is now done, with the New England Patriots winning the brilliant and decisive battle to be sports’ new evil empire. In doing so, it rendered Goodell a permanent and risible punch line in National Football League history, the mall cop who wanted the death penalty for littering, and in the words of the song “got what he wanted but he lost what he had.”

True, $40 million a year can make the dissolution of your public persona a reasonably decent tradeoff, but we lost the argument about who won his windmill tilt with the Patriots. It’s done, and he is now permanently and irrevocably a figure of ridicule.

But that’s not the only debating point America lost Sunday night, and while you wouldn’t think it given how much time we are willing to shouting at each other, quality arguments are not easily replaced.

We have almost surely lost the mindless debate about the best quarterback ever, because there is nothing anyone can bring up that the words “Tom Brady” cannot rebut except calling his own plays, and since that is no longer allowed in football, it is a silly asterisk to apply.

We have almost surely lost the equally silly shouter about the best coach ever. Bill Belichick is defiantly not fun, but he has built, improved and bronzed an organizational model that is slowly swallowing the rest of the sport. That and five trophies makes him the equal if not better of the short list of Paul Brown, George Halas, Vince Lombardi, Bill Walsh and Tom Landry.

Plus, Belichick locked up the most absurd response to a question in coaching history Monday when he said, “As great as today feels . . . we're five weeks behind the other teams for the 2017 season.” Even allowing for Gregg Popovich in-game interviews, the so-grim-he-could-make-a-robot-cry worship-the-process response has now become a cliché. If 2017 prep was so important, he should have skipped yesterday’s game, and he definitely should have chosen not to waste so much time on the trophy stand after the game when training camp drills needed to be scheduled.

Oh, and DeflateGate died. Dead. No zombie possibilities here.

We do have a meatheaded argument ahead of us about which championship in the last year is the best, which can be settled here.

1. Leicester City, because 5,000-1 is 5,000-1, and the whole world understands that. Plus, there was invaluable three-month buildup that engaged non-soccer fans.

2. Chicago Cubs, because 108 years is 108 years.

3. New England Patriots, because . . . well, I don’t have to explain it unless you have no useful memory span. “Down 25 In The Third Quarter” is the new “Down 3-1.”

4. Cleveland Cavaliers, because they slayed the first unbeatable Warrior team by coming from 3-1 down, and even as a silver medalist, it will always be an internet meme, which is what passes for memorable in our decrepit culture.

5. (tie) Villanova basketball and Clemson football in a tie, because they were essentially the same great game.

7. The Pittsburgh Penguins, because the Stanley Cup Final was devoid of drama or high moments, and only 14:53 of overtime. Feh.

But everything else is settled, and this Super Bowl will not be topped for a long time. Our current cycle of absurd championships is almost surely going to end soon, because “Down 3-1” has happened twice in eight months (three times, if you count Warriors over Thunder), and the bar has now been placed well beyond reasonable clearing.

Indeed, the only thing left is for a championship team to spontaneously combust on the award stand. But if they do so and ignite Roger Goodell along the way, that would be an ending America would cheerfully endorse.

But that also isn’t an argument any more, and yes, that includes Gary Bettman.

Raiders, 49ers can return to their normal madness after Fried Festivus 51

Raiders, 49ers can return to their normal madness after Fried Festivus 51

The Super Bowl is today, which means the best day of the year is fast approaching.

Namely, the day after the Super Bowl.

At that point, we as a nation can complete the inventory of gastric damage we did to ourselves on what shall be known to future generations as Fried Festivus.

At that point, the people who bombard us daily with news of the game – the least important part of the week-long trade show, as we have come to learn it – will all be on planes and too tired to re-explain what we already saw 37 times on game day.

At that point, nobody will care that Terrell Owens was apparently one of the first of the 15 Hall of Fame finalists to be rejected for induction because of crimes against the NFL state. The Hall of Fame is one of the sneaky ways in which the NFL never lets us escape its obnoxiously shouty profile, and the fact that Owens is right about the flawed process doesn’t change the fact that he’ll be just fine with the process when it allows him passage.

At that point, we’ll know whether Tom Brady is to be deemed a god, or merely maintain his demigod status. At least we’ll hear more about it, because it is easily the most tiresome debate in the football diaspora, engaged in by idiots with no better idea about how to kill time. A note: If you think Tom Brady is a greater quarterback because his team won a fifth ring, or a lesser one because he didn’t, your head is now officially empty enough to be reclassified a dance hall, and you are of no more value to normal society than a papier-mache goose.

And at that point, we can return to the two things we in these parts care to know – where the Raiders are going, and how the 49ers are going to present their new football brain trust.

We needn’t explain the Raiders again to you, first because you’ve heard it all if you’re paying any attention at all. Mark Davis has been trying to cobble deals at a frantic pace in hopes that one will stick, and his 31 fellow owners still have to decide how much longer they want to endure him, while faced with the painful fact that the East Bay is getting out of the exploitative license-to-be-stolen-from stadium business. They also get to know as they go to the meeting in Houston that will ostensibly decide Davis’ fate that they have ruined California as a market by their excessive greed-laced stupidity and deserve every lousy market the state can give them.

Which brings us to the 49ers, and the latest round of Judge Them By Their Press Conferences.

If there is anything worse than this team’s on-field profile, which is why Jed York hired Kyle Shanahan, it is the way it explains itself to the outside world, which is why Jed York hired John Lynch. Both Shanahan and Lynch will be paraded before a braying mobs, probably Tuesday, and York will be there as well for the cheesy photo array and a few unconvincing words of praise about each of them (as a note, Paraag Marathe will be present but only in hologrammatic form).

They will then promise – well, something or other – and Lynch will be hailed as the face of the glorious future because the man he replaced, Trent Baalke, had the public persona of a meth-tweaked hyena. Hard to find, and not worth it when you did.

Then we’ll all remember that the job Shanalynch (or Lynchahan, depending on what part of Ireland you’re from) are being asked to do is a three-year reclamation at the very least, and that the only useful question either can be asked is “Can you fix this before Jed gets embarrassed and angry and cans you both?”

And on Wednesday, there’s the start of pre-draft prep (in order words, The Eighty-Day Slave Market), and the hamster wheel to hell gears up again toward Super Bowl LII.

Only next year, the chances of relocation hysteria and a front office upheaval are that much less, and we haven’t sufficient distractions to make the year go faster.

But enjoy Fried Festivus. We can always look forward to that, even if we change the name back in December to the more traditional "Christmas."