September 13, 2010
Looking at the quote sheets from San Francisco 49ers head coach Mike Singletary and quarterback Alex Smith after their team's 31-6 loss to the Seattle Seahawks was an interesting exercise in blame-shifting. There's no question that Smith did not play well in this game -- his performance was even worse than his stat line (26 of 45 for 225 yards, no touchdowns and two picks), but after the game, Smith had more issues with receiver Michael Crabtree(notes) and his own coaching staff.
"The two plays that stand out are the two picks," Smith said of the interceptions that were intended for Crabtree. "The first one, I don't know if that's so much chemistry, just him being quick to turn and make a play. The second one ... I'm thinking one thing, and he's obviously not thinking the same thing, resulting in the pick six. That cost us. Huge. At that point it's still a one-score game, and that takes it to, I believe, 21-6, and it hurt us. It changed the game."
Now, it's true that Crabtree had a horrible game -- he caught just two of the eight passes that were thrown to him. But Smith was an absolute non-factor in any play in which a checkdown or an underneath route against zone coverage wasn't involved; there were long stretches in which you'd have to really stretch to say that he played like an NFL quarterback. Had Smith looked like Peyton Manning(notes) out there, perhaps he would have had more reason to call out his receiver. But in this case, it was an incredibly bad idea. And this may have been a response to Singletary's assertion that "[Crabtree] didn't run the wrong route. It wasn't a great throw, but it's just the chemistry. It is the timing, all of those things. Some of the passes we have, it's got to be some of the guys getting around quicker ... I think that as time went on, [Smith] started to press a little bit more, and sometimes that can happen when you try and win a football game."
Smith also took off after the coaching staff, claiming that the barrage of first-half timeouts had more to do with preparation than anything else.
"Management issues like that we've got to figure out," Smith said. "They hurt us. We called three timeouts in the first half, took a delay-of-game as well -- we've got to get that sorted out obviously, definitely had our issues today. I'm trying not to use [timeouts] in the first quarter especially, but we had a couple of situations there -- third-and-short, field position -- and I wasn't willing to take 5 yards. I thought I'd preserve it, take timeout, collect ourselves and try to take advantage."
What's important here is that Singletary had said that all of the timeouts were related to headset issues. "There were some problems," the coach said. "I don't really know what the situation is. But there were some problems with Alex's helmet. We had a similar situation last year. But when the communication can't come in and it's spotted on the headset and you already can't hear [because the crowd's so loud], it makes it very difficult. When you are in the red zone, you want to make sure that you are calling exactly what it is, and if you can't get the play -- it's not that the plays weren't coming in -- it was that he wasn't getting the plays because of technical issues. That's the thing that throws it off."
However, Smith completely shot that theory down after the game.
"The only time it was the headset issue, the clock rolled, they were late to spot the ball and I asked [referee] Mike [Carey] to bump the clock and he bumped it ... For whatever reason most of [the timeouts] occurred on third-and one, fourth-and-one, so yeah, whatever it is, deciding on what personnel would go in, deciding on if we would go for it, that decision has to be made.
"The refs aren't waiting around to spot the ball based on what we're going to decide to do. That clock's rolling. You've got to make that decision if you're going to go for it, then the play's got to get called. You've got to have a call ready. That happens fast. It was all in key situations like that today when we had most of the problems. It's frustrating, absolutely."
Frustrating? Wait until everybody gets in the film room this week. These reactions are understandable in the face of a huge upset loss, but all indications point to a team situation in which few people are on the same page.
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