When the moment finally arrived, when Michael Crabtree stood in front of a crowd of reporters to announce he had ended his ridiculous holdout and had caved into the 49ers, you could come to only one conclusion. What a colossal waste of time. What a pointless exercise. How utterly stupid.
He had been used and manipulated by his agent, Eugene Parker, a man on the make. Parker delayed and ruined his client's entry into professional football, his entry to the Niners. I believe Parker realized he had lost, threw up the white flag and made Crabtree look like a dope.
It is so clear Parker cried uncle. He saw the 49ers had gone 3-1 without his guy and told Crabtree to end the holdout.
Listen to Niners general manager Scot McCloughan describe the surrender of Parker and Crabtree: "They would only come (to a meeting) if we would guarantee that we would switch our proposal, and we weren't going that route. All of a sudden Sunday night, boom, they called and said, &‘We're flying into town.' I had no idea if that meant they were coming into a meeting. I just knew they were going to be in town at some time."
It must feel wonderful to win. McCloughan made it clear he never would violate the Niners' pay scale. He would have allowed Crabtree to enter next year's draft, if it came to that.
This is one of the best things McCloughan ever did as a GM. It showed the Niners are beginning to value themselves. A team that values itself becomes a team that has value.
Back to Crabtree and his press conference. The scene on that stage in Santa Clara was classic. It was instructive. Mike Singletary bounded onto the stage and took over the room. He always takes over rooms with that voice and that stare and that presence. Crabtree stood next to him. And you thought, "Crabtree has just been to the principal's office."
Crabtree lingered quietly just behind Singletary with a submissive look on his face. He looked impermanent. He looked heartbreakingly young. He had experienced the tough reality of life and got knocked over by it. Singletary called him Mike. Singletary said, "Obviously, Mike missed a lot of time, valuable time. He'll have a lot of work to catch up."
He was lecturing Crabtree in front of the media and a TV audience. He was telling Crabtree he whiffed on the basic course and now he's behind everyone else and he's remedial and he better get serious fast. He was putting fear into the kid. Later Singletary said that during the holdout he told Crabtree — and I loved this — "There will be no balloons, no parties when you get here."
Welcome to the NFL, Mike Crabtree.
Finally, Singletary allowed Crabtree to answer questions — not many. Remember Singletary is the principal and Crabtree is a wayward freshman. I had this interchange with Crabtree.
Cohn: Why was it worth it to hold out all that time?
Crabtree: "I'm just glad I'm past that part."
Cohn: I understand, but what did you gain?
Crabtree: "I'm very humble right now. It's a very humbling experience. It just gives me a chance to sit back and better myself as a person, as a player and as a teammate."