A changing game
Every team in every sport must have an identity: a personality that defines its personnel and style of play. Without it, every team will struggle.
November 12, 2014
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Every team has an identity. No matter what the sport is, all teams have a unique integrity that is usually based off of the characteristics of its players. The personality of a team changes over the years with the players and coaches.
These changes are visible in almost every team in all sports. Take our beloved 49ers for example. Everyone remembers the heyday of the Niners. The days when Bill Walsh’s revolutionary West Coast style offense changed the game and allowed Joe Montana to win the Niners three Super Bowls. The times when the Niners roster held two Hall of Fame quarterbacks, Montana and Steve Young. Back when these great quarterbacks were throwing to Jerry Rice, one of the greatest wide receivers ever. Rice and Young connected for a total of 85 touchdowns: the second most of any receiver quarterback duo of all-time, just behind Marvin Harrison and Peyton Manning. Those were the good old days of Niner football.
What will our current Niners team be known for? Jim Harbaugh has changed how people perceive the Niners. Harbaugh combined a powerful running offense a powerful running offense with a strong defense to give the team identity again. That being said, this season has been a bit of struggle. Frank Gore and Patrick Willis still make up the core of the team but the field around them is everchanging, and, lets face it, Gore and Willis are starting to get older. Gore is 31 and Willis is almost 30. How is the team going to change once the guys that have built the team are gone?
Harbaugh’s offense was highly criticized in the beginning of the season after the team started off 1-2. The coach was chastised for giving the veteran halfback a total of 19 carries in the two loses. The next game, Gore had 24 carries for 119 yards in a win over the Philadelphia Eagles. There will come a day when he can’t perform, but don’t worry. Carlos Hyde, the Niners second-round pick in the 2014 draft out of Ohio State is one of the brightest prospects in the league. Hyde only has 48 carries on the season for 161 yards and two touchdowns, but it’s not his stats that are impressing people. It’s his running style. Hyde is 6 feet tall and weighs 235 pounds. Remind you of anyone? Gore is a whopping 5’10” and weighs 217 pounds. They both have great vision and a hit-the-hole-and-go running style. Neither of them are going to outrun a safety, but they might run him over. Hyde will be a great replacement for Gore in the years to come. He will give the offense a back bone in the years to come.
The core of the Niners offense under Harbaugh will always be its running attack, but recently the quarterback has become part of that attack. Colin Kaepernick has had a rough career. He came in as part of the new wave of athletic, mobile quarterbacks. His every move has been scrutinized and even though he has led the team to three straight National Football Conference (NFC) Championship games. Kaepernick’s exciting style of play has never been very consistent, which makes me believe he won’t be the quarterback that the Niners need in order to take the next step to become a dominant team. Kaepernick’s decision-making was dismissed as inexperienced early in his career but in his fourth season it hasn’t improved. Kaepernick isn’t the mature leader that the team needs in order for the Niners to become a truly elite team.
The Niners’ identity has been in transition for the past few years and is still changing. Here at Paly, a team’s character changes, but much quicker. With an entire group of core players graduating every year, the identity of a team can change with each senior class. Four years ago, the senior class may have been the most athletic class to ever come through Paly. Both the girls’ volleyball team and football team won California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) State Championships. From that championship football team alone, Kevin Anderson (‘11) is a starting outside linebacker for Stanford University, DaVante Adams (‘11) is the fourth string wide receiver for the Green Bay Packers, and quarterback Christoph Bono (‘11) made a game saving catch in the College World Series. That’s just to name a few. A great team consists of great leaders. I would argue that the reason the our football team this year is 2-4 is because the team has no strong veteran players. The team has a total of nine seniors, and the quarterback position has been up in the air. Without a clear path, the team has struggled to compete this season.
Although we may not have a great chance at making the playoffs this year, the future of the team looks good. Compared to the nine seniors on the team, there are 22 juniors including great athletes like Eli Givens (‘16) and Justin Hull (‘16) who will help lead the team next season. Each year teams adapt to their losses and evolve during the season. These are challenges every team must face.<<<