Bay Area’s losing football teams need help December 19, 2008 — by Guy Quanrud The Catch has long been the symbol of San Francisco 49ers’ football. The impossible throw from Joe Montana to Dwight Clark began the team’s glorious span of five Super Bowls. As for the Raiders, their “commitment to excellence” was more than just a slogan. In 2002, the Raiders, led by quarterback Rich Gannon, were the league’s most potent offense and stormed all the way to Super Bowl XXVII. The Catch has long been the symbol of San Francisco 49ers’ football. The impossible throw from Joe Montana to Dwight Clark began the team’s glorious span of five Super Bowls. As for the Raiders, their “commitment to excellence” was more than just a slogan. In 2002, the Raiders, led by quarterback Rich Gannon, were the league’s most potent offense and stormed all the way to Super Bowl XXVII. These teams used to be great every year, always playoff contenders thanks to the likes of quarterback Steve Young and receiver Jerry Rice, or running back Marcus Allen and quarterback Jim Plunkett. These men gave Bay Area football a name for decades. Today, however, these teams are an embarrassment. Even after Young’s retirement and Rice’s departure the Niners were decent, but since receiver Terrell Owens’ left, the Red and Gold have only gone downhill. The Raiders, meanwhile, thanks to their senile owner Al Davis, have had a series of six different coaches in the past five years following John Gruden’s flight to Tampa Bay the season after he took them to the championship game. For the past few seasons, both franchises have struggled to win games. The only silver lining has been that they have gotten a top first-round draft pick every year, but they have somehow managed to turn these into negatives as well. The Niners’ pick of quarterback Alex Smith a few years ago was a total disaster, and last year the Raiders, who have several holes in their line-up, chose a running back, Darren McFadden, when they already had Justin Fargas, LaMont Jordan, Dominic Rhodes to fill the same position. This year, though, it seems that one of the two teams have taken a step in the right direction. Want a hint? It’s not the Raiders. Mike Singletary, who was a Hall-of-Fame linebacker for the Chicago Bears in the 1980s, was chosen to replace disgraceful head coach Mike Nolan, and he has already brought change. Known for his no-nonsense attitude, Singletary has emphasized discipline and work ethic in an attempt to the overcome a harsh reality: The team sucks. In his first-ever post-game press conference, Singletary laid down the law, saying, “I want people who want to win.” This new mentality is the push the Niners need to become better, and the results are already showing. Two weeks ago, the Niners handily beat an 8-4 Jets team led by Hall of Fame shoo-in Brett Favre. The Niners will not make the playoffs, but they are improving, and San Francisco fans have a lot to look forward to if Singletary keeps his job. There is good news for Oakland, too: They probably couldn’t get worse even if they tried. The Raider Nation can hope that Davis dies (because he won’t give up control of the team, no matter how far down he drives it), but outside of that, it’s hopeless. The Raiders’ next winning season seems an eternity away. It’s tough to love football in the Bay Area right now, but there’s always a chance that something unexpectedly good will happen. Well, for one team at least.