NFL: If Michael Crabtree keeps his end of bargain, 49ers set for winning situation
By Tim Kawakami
San Jose Mercury News
Mike Singletary preached, Scot McCloughan explained, Michael Crabtree signed, the locker-room leaders shrugged, and nothing seemed wrong in the 49ers universe on Wednesday.
I can’t believe I’m saying this, but this is how playoff seasons feel and how good teams accept the end of a senseless negotiating standoff.
What the 49ers have going now is bigger than Crabtree, and he must have realized that a few days ago.
Crabtree caved, arrived, got into uniform, and, as Singletary said, “We’re going in this direction — and everybody that’s not going in this direction, they’re going to get left behind.”
That’s a team with momentum. That’s a team with a plan, and with their owner, Jed York, on quite a roll.
Hire Singletary, entrust McCloughan, watch the team start 3-1, hold your ground on Crabtree’s large demands. ... Yeah, not a terrible last year or so for Jed.
Now Crabtree is in the fold on the 49ers’ terms (six years, about $17 million guaranteed), and he has a chance to develop into a passing-game difference-maker in a month or so.
All of a sudden, the 49ers look as put-together as they have been since they reached the 1997 NFC title game.
The head coach is as solid as it gets. The GM is gaining stature. The roster is young and talented and utterly devoted to the big picture. The young owner hasn’t made a misstep yet.
This doesn’t mean the 49ers are guaranteed a playoff spot. Doesn’t mean they will avoid a major bump — with Crabtree or with someone else — on the way to January.
They almost certainly will hit a two- or three-game losing streak at some point. Maybe at some point some doubt will creep in.
But the Crabtree episode is just another instance of franchise-wide coherence, patience, confidence and fortitude.
And those are four words not usually ascribed to the 49ers in recent years, especially not by me.
They were willing to wait out Crabtree. They knew they had to. They won without him. He came in. Amazing.
Something is happening here. Something big, probably.
“The one thing was nice ... there was no panic, from the head coach or ownership, not one time did they come to me and say, ’Listen, we have to have this guy in,”’ “ McCloughan said of the 10-week Crabtree absence.
“We didn’t want it to come to this, but we were never going to panic. It’s not about the one individual.”
Of course, for 10 or more weeks, Crabtree’s stance made sure it was about him, the individual, even though the 49ers seem determined to take it in stride.
Crabtree didn’t have much to say at Wednesday’s press conference — after the 2 a.m. agreement — but he surely was trying to sound as team-oriented as possible.
“This is the team that drafted me, so I watched them very closely, the intensity they put in every Sunday,” Crabtree said. “I’m looking forward to play a big role in that offense.”
The 49ers could certainly use a play-making receiver. And the veteran players said that Crabtree would either earn credibility, or he wouldn’t.
Time will tell. The locker-room leaders — Shaun Hill, Patrick Willis, Vernon Davis and many others — will tell.
“As his teammates see what he has,” Singletary said, “it’s just matter of them saying, ’Hey coach, we need him on the field.’ It’s a matter of Shaun Hill saying, ’Hey, he makes us better.’
“That’s when you want a guy on the field, that’s how you have to bring a guy along.”
That’s how you set up a winning situation. That situation was already up and running in 49ers land, with or without Crabtree.
Now he’s with them — funny how smoothly things work when you have the right leaders, and stick with true principles. You can shock the world, or at least the cynics.