There’s a segment on ESPN in which a former player, now employed by the network, tries to judge an NFL team’s immediate future. It’s labeled “Patience or Panic,” which is self-explanatory. In the Bay Area, it would be called “Panic or Doctor, can I get a prescription for sedatives?”
After two games, the 49ers and Raiders are 1-1. And people are giving up already. Maybe they have the NFL confused with the NL, where unfortunately, it’s time to give up on the Giants. Drat that Clayton Kershaw, anyhow.
The point was made in August: It is going to take time for the Niners — two seasons, most likely, not two games — to become a confident, excellent football team. The Raiders, with a system intact from last year, and a marginally better offensive line, might not require as long.
There have been good days for both franchises. The Niners have won five Super Bowls, the Raiders three. There has been agony. What happened Sunday — both the Niners and Raiders being overtaken in the second half — is only a variation on a theme.
On a certain afternoon in December 1972, the Raiders got beat in a playoff game at Pittsburgh by the Immaculate Reception. Then some 3½ hours later, in an NFC playoff game at Candlestick, the Dallas Cowboys — it’s always the Cowboys — came back from a 28-16 deficit with two minutes left to win 30-28.
It was a Saturday, soon to be called Black Saturday, and what happened a few days ago never will compare. So stop your whining.
If the Niners and Raiders had been any good, they wouldn’t have hired new coaches. It’s been eight years without a winning record for either team. Jim Harbaugh, for San Francisco, and Hue Jackson, with the Raiders, understand the situation, even if the public does not.
What the 49er fans — faithful, ha! — understand is to get rid of their tickets as quickly as possible. When half of Candlestick is cheering for the Cowboys, loyalty has proven to be a cheap commodity.
One of the knocks against the Niners, meaning Harbaugh, was he chose to keep the fourth-
quarter field goal which elevated San Francisco to a 24-14 lead instead of accepting a penalty that would have given the 49ers a first down.
The unwritten rule in the NFL, in all of football, is unless you have a far superior team — and the Niners hardly meet that standard — you don’t take points off the board. The Niners properly did not. That they couldn’t stop Dallas is another issue.
Building a champion, even a contender, is anything but smooth. Players make mistakes. Coaches make mistakes. General managers make mistakes. It’s the nature of the game.
The Indianapolis Colts were a one-man franchise, and if that man, Peyton Manning, never plays again, they are doomed to mediocrity. At this moment, you’d choose the Niners and Raiders over the Colts.
A team, or an individual in sports such as golf or tennis, must learn to win. Bill Walsh’s philosophy in developing a quarterback was to play him in situations in which he would succeed to develop confidence.
The Niners and Raiders collectively still lack that confidence. They are not quite able to ascend. Go ahead and panic, if you choose, but I prefer to be patient.
Art Spander has been covering Bay Area sports since 1965 and also writes on www.artspander.com and www.realclearsports.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.