July 23, 2024
The NFL exhibition season is a sham and attaching significance to things other than injuries is a waste of time.

Let’s dive headlong into the significant things that happened aside from quarterbacks Trey Lance and Sam Darnold Sunday afternoon when the Raiders reserves beat up the 49ers reserves 34-7 at Allegiant Stadium.

Rookie Jake Moody, whom the 49ers selected in the third round of the NFL Draft to replace Robbie Gould, missed his first two field goal attempts from distances of 40 and 58 yards.

Thus concludes your review of what really mattered, and coach Kyle Shanahan doesn’t seem too concerned about Moody.

Exhibition football is a sham. It’s a way for NFL teams to line their pockets with extra cash through high-priced tickets and everything that goes with the experience of attending a game in person.

According to the web site TickPick, the 49ers-Raiders game had the highest price of the week with a “get in” price of $120 and an average ticket price of $185.

At least there are only three of them, even if that is three too many. One can only hope the NFL can someday be like college football and simply start the season with games that actually count.

“I didn’t enjoy that game by any means today, but a lot of guys got valuable reps and it gives them a chance to make the team and gives us a chance to coach them up tomorrow,” Shanahan told reporters afterward.

When Shanahan says “a lot of guys,” he’s not talking about the mainstays of a roster that is one of the NFL’s best.

Starting quarterback Brock Purdy sat it out. The entire starting offensive line. Wide receivers Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk. Running back Christian McCaffrey and fullback Kyle Juszczyk. Tight end George Kittle was injured, but would have sat even if he were healthy.

Defensively, Nick Bosa remains a holdout awaiting an extension that nobody seems too worried about. Prize free agent Javon Hargrave and Arik Armstead were spectators, as were starting linebackers Fred Warner and Dre Greenlaw, corners Charvarius Ward and Deommodore Lenoir and and safeties Talanoa Hufanga and Tashaun Gipson.

If the 49ers lined up for the regular season as they did Sunday, they wouldn’t win a game.

Sitting out anyone who matters is the surest way to avoid a catastrophic injury. One player with a reason to feel good was Clelin Ferrell, the free agent defensive end who came over from the Raiders and had a sack of quarterback Aidan McConnell.

But in most cases if you weren’t a drafted rookie and were on the field for the 49ers against the Raiders, there is at least some reason to worry about making the 53-man roster.

SACK! @Cle_Missile

NFL+ // https://t.co/KTh0i4oaLh pic.twitter.com/Cpgz6PDosf

— San Francisco 49ers (@49ers) August 13, 2023


As for the Raiders, there was no sign of Jimmy Garoppolo, Maxx Crosby, Davante Adams and many others entrusted with excavating from a 6-11 hole under Josh McDaniels.

It’s hard to fault Shanahan’s approach, especially after many of his starters had scrimmaged against the Raiders twice during the week.

Shanahan prefers scrimmages to exhibitions. Players don’t necessarily agree.

Scrimmages and exhibitions are the same in that there is no winner and no loser. Read the accounts of writers who actually covered those practices — through binoculars at a great distance — and you can come away with the conclusion that the 49ers got dominated. Or that they more than held their own.

It’s like scoring a boxing match. When there’s no scoreboard, who knows?

McDaniels, for what it’s worth, is 5-0 in exhibitions and it hasn’t gotten the Raiders anywhere.

The Raiders didn’t win anything, and neither did the 49ers. They just practiced playing football. Which isn’t anything resembling Sept. 10 when the 49ers visit the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 1 and the Raiders face the Broncos in Denver.

Common sense and the collective bargaining agreement has changed the way the 49ers and all teams have changed the approach to training camp and the exhibition season. In most cases, players arrive ready to go. The team mission isn’t to beat a team into submission in a tough-guy contest, but to instead get as many players as possible healthy for Week 1.

The trend has made the preseason obsolete.

Don’t expect Shanahan to be forcing his top players to get into games against the Broncos or Chargers before the opener. He said he wouldn’t mind getting Purdy into a game, but it would likely be a cameo at best.

McCaffrey, Deebo, Williams, Ward, Warner, Greenlaw, etc? Why bother? Why would Williams ever need a single snap of preseason football? He’ll know when it’s go-time, as well his teammates.

My disregard for the preseason began in earnest in 1994. Helping out with 49ers coverage, I attended some practices, and watched a non-descript preseason in which they went 3-1 but showed little enthusiasm and didn’t appear to care about the final score.

I surmised maybe the 49ers weren’t all that, even though they had Steve Young, Ricky Watters, Jerry Rice, John Taylor, Brent Jones, Bryant Young, free agents Ken Norton Jr.,  Rickey Jackson and Gary Plummer, and Merton Hanks.

Deion Sanders would be an in-season arrival. Ten days before Sanders signed, the 49ers opened the season at Candlestick Park against the Raiders, who were in their last season in Los Angeles. The buzz was the Raiders were fast and talented, a definite threat.

And given the 49ers’ unspectacular training camp and preseason, a formidable opponent.

What was learned on the night of Sept. 5 was that when the curtain goes up, it’s time for the stars to shine. In what was the best Week 1 performance I’ve ever seen, the 49ers (with Kyle Shanahan’s father Mike calling the plays) crushed the Raiders 44-14, and it wasn’t that close.

Probably the only seminal event in a preseason game I’ve witnessed was watching Derek Carr light up Seattle in the final game as a Raiders rookie and 2014 and win the starting job from a sore-armed Matt Schaub.

Otherwise, preseason football is rightfully forgotten forever the moment the regular season begins

Related Articles

San Francisco 49ers |

Kurtenbach: The 49ers should trade Trey Lance. It’s what’s best for the player and team

San Francisco 49ers |

Raiders 34, 49ers 7: Trey Lance sacked four times in rough return

San Francisco 49ers |

49ers at Raiders: 10 players to watch in NFL preseason opener

San Francisco 49ers |

49ers’ Javon Kinlaw says pilates has helped him find ‘supreme confidence’

San Francisco 49ers |

49ers-Raiders practice: ‘Bang-bang’ defense takes out Davante Adams

The 2023 49ers have an impressive roster, one of their best since 1994, which also happens to be their last Super Bowl win.

Maybe the 49ers can approach that, maybe they can’t.

All we know for sure is that other than debilitating injury, nothing that happens between now and the start of the regular season will mean a thing.