• Bret Rumbeck

Rumbeck: Solomon Thomas – Is This Real or Just an Illusion?

We live in a world of instant gratification. It’s incredible how we ‘ve lost a sense of patience for nearly every aspect of the day.

I ordered that Amazon stuff at 10 A.M., and it’s not here yet!

The closest Lyft driver is four blocks away!

My latte is 45 seconds late!

This hurry-up attitude has, unfortunately, bled into professional sports. A team drafts a player, and fans want to know when he/she can perform for the club and make it a winner.

Today’s rookies are not allowed to develop; rookies must produce immediately. Above all, rookies cannot play poorly.

If you track fan comments on Twitter, you may have noticed a small minority who has misplaced issues regarding rookie defensive lineman Solomon Thomas.

In their eyes, Thomas:

• Isn’t producing

• Is getting dominated

• Isn’t an edge guy

• Has nothing going on this game

• Got lucky with a sack

Like you, I’m frustrated with a winless 49ers season. While I do not think this minority blames the lack of wins on Thomas, they have no patience for a young player learning the idiosyncrasies of the NFL and growing as a player.

Moreover, I don’t remember anyone claiming Thomas as the Chosen One to revive the 49ers from Hell's frozen grasp. If anything, and following the typical script, the Browns' rookie defensive lineman Myles Garrett missing the first few games due to a bad ankle had more press than Thomas had in a month.

But, we live in a world that values a loud, boisterous, angry opinion over matters of sheer fact. Let’s all take a moment to breathe and review what we’ve learned about Solomon Thomas.

Indeed, the 49ers tossed Thomas into a burning hearth to forge his career. Thomas has risen to that challenge.

Over six games, Thomas has been nominated three times for Rookie of the Week honors – that’s a nomination in fifty percent of Thomas’ first games as a professional if you struggle with math.

Against Washington in Week 6, he played 68 snaps, racked up nine tackles and a sack, and won his third Rookie of the Week nomination. Among 4-3 defensive ends, he’s had nine run stops since Week 2, ranking him fourth overall per Pro Football Focus.

Put aside the hype talk for just a moment.

What player are these fans watching? How are nine tackles and a sack not good enough? If your frustration level has infected all aspects of your objectivity, then I would suggest noting that in your Twitter commentary on player performance.

And, as fans, we’re all guilty of our feelings cloaking judgment of good and poor play. But when Pro Football Focus grades Thomas at 86.6 following the game against Washington – the highest grade of any 49er on Sunday – and some are still complaining about Thomas’ play, we need to come clean with our anger and refrain from sitting behind a plastic keyboard during a sporting event.

For a defensive lineman, it’s not about hype. It’s about Thomas’ improvement each game, which is what the 49ers need as they continue on this long, strange trip.

As mentioned last week, the job of a defensive lineman is not glorious. There is no hero’s welcome after a win, and rarely does anyone see a lineman successfully fight through a double-team block at game speed.

We see it on a slow-motion replay from the broadcast team, but for most of the game, Thomas and other linemen live in a world of anonymity. We assume he’s doing his job well until it’s pointed out that he made a critical error.

As the season progresses, we need to be fair and undertake a comprehensive look at Thomas’ play from Week 1 to Week 6.* Is he getting blown off the ball as he did during Week 1? Is he relying on ability or using proper technique to beat his opponent? How often is he forcing the quarterback to make a rushed throw, or holding the edge to push the running back to bounce outside? Did he collapse that game that led to a linebacker making a tackle for a loss?

If you’re watching football to see a player execute flawlessly for 68 straight snaps, then you’re viewing for the wrong reasons and with the altered eyes. Sport is the ultimate Yin and Yang: it’s success and failure, comedy and tragedy all wrapped into 60 minutes.

Solomon Thomas is going to be an excellent player for the 49ers. Like defensive lineman DeForest Buckner, and hopefully rookie linebacker Reuben Foster, Thomas is someone the team can build a foundation upon for upcoming seasons.