Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

49ers' Moves Curious at Best

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

49ers' Moves Curious at Best

Article excerpt

The most notably odd move of the NFL off-season, it is

turning out, may have been one that didn't happen. The

non-astute missed it. We at the Times-Union, being rather

astute ourselves, did not.

Remember Roger Craig, the former 49ers running back? In

February, he wanted to return to the NFL a year after retiring.

He talked to the 49ers, and to his credit wasn't upset --

vocally, at least -- with the answer.

"No," they said, avoiding the ticklish issue of rejecting a

legend as quickly and deftly as possible.

Here's a question to the 49ers now:

Why not Craig?

For starters, he would have been old and wouldn't have helped.

The signing also would have raised questions about the 49ers'

future -- i.e., whether it will match their past. That's what

happens when you revive with old players and big contracts.

You're perceived as desperate, and if there's one thing the

keepers of NFL success for a decade and a half would never, ever

be is desper . . .

Tommy Vardell, Chris Doleman, Johnny Johnson . . .

Oh.

The 49ers are indeed taking the route of the desperate. The

price in free agency was $9 million in signing bonuses, and the

payoff isn't likely to be near that.

The act-now, spend-to-win philosophy is based on history. In

the past, the 49ers haven't accepted failure; they reacted. In

1987, when last they lost their first playoff game, Bill Walsh

-- then a two-time Super Bowl-winning coach -- was stripped of

his title as team president. In 1990, when they lost the NFC

Championship game and missed a chance at a third consecutive

Super Bowl title, they released Craig and Ronnie Lott. At times,

the changes produced immediate success. Other times, the 49ers

maintained, but always, eventually, re-elevated from playoff

disappointment to contender within a season or two.

The 49ers lost in the first round of the playoffs to Green Bay

this past season, Steve Young and Jerry Rice are aging, and with

the loss of Eric Davis at cornerback, they appear worse headed

into next season. …

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