• Bret Rumbeck

Stuck in the Middle with You: Examining How Tough  A Short Week Will Be For the 49ers


Image Credit: Andrew Giesemann

Former 49er tackle Harris Barton once described a football game as getting in a car, driving 35 miles per hour into a brick wall over and over and over again.

The NFL, wallowing like a fat hog in a filthy pen filled with money, demands athletes perform on national television with no rest and little preparation. No rest for the weary, especially when the hog trough needs a constant flow of shredded knee ligaments and dead brain cells.

I don’t know how professional football teams feel safe playing so quickly, let alone prepare in three days for a Thursday game.

But the black magic wizards at NFL headquarters placed a mighty dragon in front of the San Francisco 49ers. The team has no choice but to find a way to recover mentally, physically and prepare a public relations strategy to overcome a fabricated “hot seat” statement. 

Mental Game

Head coach Kyle Shanahan was a tidal wave of solar plasma as he paced the sidelines on Sunday. His boiling frustration is something I’ve noticed growing hotter and hotter as this season has progressed. 

Against the Arizona Cardinals, I noted Shanahan was sitting with quarterback C.J. Beathard looking at the previous series or play. Shanahan was pointing at the tablet, with a look on his face that read: Here is how the play develops. We’ve run it umpteen times since last year, and you continue to read it wrong. Get it done.

His monotone voice during his press conference also sounded more downtrodden than in previous weeks. Beathard’s post-game press conference also sounded deflated.

I don't have any problem with Shanahan or any of the 49ers being upset after the loss. The locker room interviews sounded equally as depressing, with part of me wanting to send a singing telegram to headquarters to cheer the men up. 

The loss to Arizona provided little for the team to build upon. Indeed, there were flashes of what this team could be if it had the pieces in place. However, five to ten good plays in a loss are not the mortar that holds the bricks in place.

I’d expect to see little to no improvement in Beathard’s play, which may force the defense to try and salvage a win.

In these next short days and flying hours, the 49ers’ coaching staff needs to motivate the squad past the loss and focus immediately on a winnable game against Oakland.

Physically

Once again, the 49ers’ training room resembles a Civil War medical tent. Shanahan said on a Monday afternoon call with reporters that the team reported and hit the training room yesterday, but “…we had them sleep in a little bit today because of the short week. We're trying to get them extra rest.”

Shortly after, senior reporter Joe Fann shared the injury report with the public. While some of these players may have small issues, I would not expect to see safety Antone Exum, linebacker Reuben Foster, center Weston Richburg, cornerback Richard Sherman or safety Jaquiski Tartt playing in this Thursday’s game.

Beathard is suffering from a sore right wrist, which is causing my dinner to roll around in my stomach uncomfortably. 

The 49ers are not prepared physically for the game, and they have one practice this week (today) to try and ready players who should not be on an NFL roster. Don’t be surprised if part of the Raiders’ passing attack picks on safety Tyvis Powell and defensive backs Greg Mabin and Jimmie Ward. For better or worse, these men have been part of the problem in the secondary, and I have no doubt head coach Jon Gruden is well-aware of these weaknesses.

If you’re the praying type, now would be an excellent time to ask the deity of your favor to protect what's left of the team from injury. A flaming sword wouldn't hurt either.

Public Perception

There’s a Guns ‘n Roses song that is an ideal response for what a reporter with the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat tweeted out following Sunday’s loss.

Since the Hub is G-rated, I’ll suggest you listen to “Get in the Ring,” specifically the breakdown where Axl shares his general thoughts with “all the punks in the press.”

Objective journalism plays a crucial role in providing information to the public. Starting controversy for the sake of making a name or just to see what happens is disgusting and exploitive. 

Now, there’s no proof that Shanahan is on the verge of being fired, nor any inkling floating around the facility that Shanahan’s job is in jeopardy. 

Fortunately, at least from my quick research, the reporter’s “take” didn’t gather much attention. If it did, it’s buried in my Google search, and I refuse to mine Twitter timelines for evidence.

Perception over reality is a big thing in the minds of the public. The fact is the 49ers are not firing Shanahan, and his job is not in on the line. We live in a world that feeds on gasoline near sparks, even if the hot embers are nonsensical and untrue. What the reporter did could cause more significant harm to the team than he imagined.

Sewing-circle tall tales were part of the 49ers’ culture for the last three coaching regimes, and we saw how fables destroyed a team. Small cracks in the foundation let in the negative air, and stories shifted from on-the-field performance to fabricated locker room drama.

Hopefully, the team will not have to deal with the issue this week or in the future. But, do not be surprised if the beat reporters asked some of the players about the locker room, the attitude and the acceptance of Shanahan and defensive coordinator Robert Saleh as the team’s coaching leaders. 

Thursday night’s game could prove interesting, just to see two teams with different types of dumpster fires burning at their facilities. On paper, the 49ers have the edge, but they need to squeeze the most out of the next fifty hours and find a way to win the game.  

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