This is about the 49ers' first exhibition game, that mugging in the Big Easy many witnessed, horrified, on TV.
This is what we learned: As of this writing, the 49ers are nowhere. That's a fair and necessary evaluation.
The coach is nowhere. Jim Harbaugh was supposed to ride into town, the second coming of Bill Walsh. Harbaugh had revolutionized college football — or, at least Stanford football on the back and arm of Andrew Luck — and he would show the NFL, beginning with Saints coach Sean Payton.
Harbaugh was unprepared for the onslaught, stood there on the sideline grim-faced and stiff-jawed while his offensive line aided and abetted the Saints defense in committing near-murder on Niner quarterbacks. Rarely has a team been so poorly prepared for opening night anywhere. Looking at the Niners' performance, you might have thought this was a Mike Singletary team.
Harbaugh came across as what he is, a college coach hoping to make the big leap to the NFL, a man in his learning phase, a coach as a beginner.
Harbaugh apologists and 49er apologists, like the guy who did color on the TV broadcast, tell us the 49ers had only 12 practices or something like that, so requiring competence of them is unfair and gee whiz just plain un-American.
The Saints and every other team in the league had 12 practices. Sure, the Saints have continuity with their coaching staff and the Niners don't. You know what? That's just too bad. When Harbaugh took the 49ers job for a whole lot of money and in a ceremony befitting a king, no one said to him, "Jimmy boy, you don't have to do well because you're new at this and you'll have just 12 practices, so no one is holding you to big-league standards."
The NFL is a hard world, it is tough man's world, and Harbaugh knew that and he's either prepared or he's not. In New Orleans he was not.
But, hey, the Saints blitzed and that was so darned unfair. No one blitzes in exhibition games.
A former NFL assistant coach I know would have answered that sniveling complaint this way: "Tell that to someone who cares."
No one in the NFL cares that Harbaugh was not prepared for blitzes. No one cares if the 49ers got their feelings hurt because of blitzes. If the Saints wanted to blitz, it was Harbaugh's job to deal with it. Just show us what you have and deal with it. He didn't deal and neither did his offensive line which, at this time, can only be called a monstrosity, a human sieve, a death machine for quarterbacks.
To his credit, Harbaugh did not whine about the blitzes.
"Blitzing is a legal part of the game," he said in a Saturday conference call with media. In the same call, he disagreed after one reporter said his offensive line did not play very well.
"I don't agree they didn't play very well," Harbaugh said.
This was the game that would tell us something about Alex Smith, that poor sap who's suffered under multiple head coaches and a cast of thousands at offensive coordinator. And the game really should have told us something about Smith: Can he hit a receiver in full stride? Can he hold his composure? Has he improved?