“I went down to the crossroads, fell down on my knees.” God bless Robert Johson for that song all those years ago. Selling your soul for rock & roll fame, for the woman you love, or even being a successful football coach, the crossroads are upon the San Francisco 49ers.
This Miami game looms pretty large in the success of the 2012 football season. This is the last home game til the end of the season, and the Niners cannot afford to lose this game. Miami is a decent enough team, but they are travelling across country and they are 5-7. Lose this one, and they could very easily lose the next 2 roadies in New England and Seattle. Neither are easy games by any stretch of the imagination. Go 0-3 heading into the last home game vs AZ would be a nasty set of circumstances, but even still, 9-6-1 would likely get them the wildcard. Go 2-2 and the Niners likely win the division, unless Seattle runs the table, but they could lose the bye week. So, the Niners HAVE to take Miami and the Cards at home to have a realistic shot at keeping the division in play.
Seattle has AZ, SF & StL at home and Buffalo on the road. A very easy schedule for them. Run the table, and 11-5 could very well win the division. There is Buffalo however. Seattle has been pretty woeful on the road til their recent Chicago win, and the weather in Buff is always an iffy proposition. The Niners would have to go 3-1 to stay ahead of them, win the division, and keep the #2 seed in play.
The good news for the #2 seed is both Chicago and Green Bay both have tough remaining schedules. GB has Det and Tenn at home, and Chi and Minn on the road. Chi has it even worse. They have Minn, AZ, and Det on the road, and Green Bay at home.
Of course the driving force of the team right now is the QB decision. Harbaugh put all his eggs in Kappy’s basket. At least as of now. If the Niners win the Miami game, then the pressure is off, or at least brought down a few notches. Lose this game, and the QB situation will become a full-blown controversy. Harbaugh will be 2nd-guessed over the switch mid-stream, and due to injury to boot, and it could very well fracture the locker room. I’m sure a lot of players were stunned by the switch. I was because it really left Harbaugh little wiggle room. That being said, if Kappy has a lousy game and the Niners lose, I have no doubt Harbaugh will go back to Alex Smith.
The ramifications of going back to Smith would be many. Sure, Kappy is the future, but would this delay the future? Would the Niners ride Alex to the playoffs, possibly to a Super Bowl win, and keep him? Sure they would. If so, does that mean Kappy’s on the block? Would he stand for a benching for another year to bide his time? What then? 2 years on the pine?
If Harbaugh sticks with Kappy, and they go one and done in the playoffs, would he lose the team because of the Smith benching? Next season could be a sea change if the players bail on his college rah rah style, which would then ring hollow due to how he bailed on the most important position on the team. Guys like Gore, Staley, and VD could very well set the tone in the locker room as one being against Harbauh for blowing their last good shot. Justin Smith as well. The vets on the team could turn on Harbaugh, thus resulting in another coaching change. The year three curse of recent 49er coaches.
The beauty of all this is, win the next game, and a lot of this angst and worry goes away. Lose, and the sceptre of doom would begin to rise in the east.