It might be hard for you youngsters out there to believe but there was once a point in time when more than bragging rights were at stake in the Battle of the Bay. While the Oakland Raiders and the San Francisco 49ers might be living in football oblivion these days, bragging rights will always be something to take pride in. Even during the preseason.
With yet another coaching change on both sides of the Bay there are heightened expectations and renewed promise for both of these storied franchises. Eric Melendez, lead blogger for Niner Noise and expert on all things 49er, took some time to answer a few questions I shot his way as we prepare to see our teams do battle this Saturday.
Take a little time and get to know the 9ers.
Q: Does the Battle of the Bay mean anything other than bragging rights to 9er fans these days?
Bragging rights is the biggest thing in the rivalry these days. Neither team has done well in awhile so there is not that envy of the other team winning divisions and playoff games. I think the rivalry will become more than just bragging rights when both teams are doing well.
Q: What have been the differences thus far between Harbaugh and Singletary?
The biggest difference is Harbaugh being an offense minded coach. Another difference is Harbaugh has previously been a head coach and had success. While his head coaching experience did come at the college level Singletary had none.
Q: What is the biggest story coming out of camp thus far?
The quarterback situation is the biggest story so far in training camp. The 49ers much like the Raiders have had issues for so long at quarterback and even though Harbaugh is a quarterback guru there is only so much he can do with Alex Smith. Smith is not the answer and should not have been re-signed. With Smith re-signing the 49ers should have brought in another veteran quarterback to compete as the starter. Rookie Colin Kaepernick has the potential to be a franchise quarterback under Harbaugh’s tutelage but he will need at least one season learning how to play quarterback in the NFL.
Q: Which position has the best camp battle?
Safety is by far the most intriguing. The 49ers signed free agent safeties Madieu Williams and Donte Whitner, and brought back Dashon Goldson. All three were starters last season. The secondary was a huge week spot on the defense ranking 24th in pass defense. No matter who comes out as the two starters the 49ers will have an experienced backup to rotate into the game.
Q: What kind of season are you expecting from the 49ers?
With quarterback being the most important position for a team’s success the 49ers seem to be content with Smith and a rookie under center. The 49ers have offensive weapons in Frank Gore, Vernon Davis, Michael Crabtree and Braylon Edwards but with Smith at quarterback the weapons will not get fully utilized. Harbaugh has caused a lot of hype for the49ers and he will make them a better team but a losing record of 6-10 is in the works for the Red and Gold this season.
Q: Are 49er faithful open to sharing a stadium with Raider Nation?
I think the 49er faithful would be open to sharing a new stadium. I am for it because it would mean keeping the 49ers either in San Francisco or across the bay in Oakland. I doubt Al Davis will want to move into a new stadium down in Santa Clara which is where 49ers team president Jed York wants the49ers stadium. I prefer the 49ersbuilding in San Francisco but the realities of the new CBA deal point to a shared stadium. The CBA called for money to be put into the NFL stadium fund for only three teams with four needing a new place to call home. Everything points to a shared stadium.
Q: Who is the player flying below the radar that is going to breakout for the 49ers this season?
Rookie linebacker Aldon Smith. The 49ers number one draft pick flew under the radar during the draft and the 49ers received criticism for selecting him so high. GM Trent Baalke and Harbaugh saw a player they wanted and went after him. Smith has great speed and will be used as the outside rushing linebacker in the 3-4 scheme the 49ers will be running. Smith will combine his speed and length to record a lot sacks this season and be contender for rookie of the year.