Here are the San Francisco 49ers' regular season records, year by year, since 1983: 10-6, 15-1, 10-6, 10-5-1, 13-2, 10-6, 14-2, 14-2, 10-6, 14-2, 10-6, 13-3, 11-5, 12-4, 13-3 and 12-4.
Here are the 49ers this season: 3-4.
For nearly two decades, they were U.S. Steel; suddenly, they are the S.S. Minnow.
The 49ers' erstwhile owner, Eddie DeBartolo Jr., is suspended on order of the league and has turned over team operations to his sister. Their Hall of Fame quarterback, Steve Young, is likely out for the season and their Hall of Fame wide receiver, Jerry Rice, is out of 1,200-yard seasons.
The architect of the 49ers' dynasty, Bill Walsh, is back as general manager, but lately appears as a somewhat Socratic figure.
This season, the 49ers have lost by scores of 41-3, 42-20 and 40-16. Every time Coach Steve Mariucci runs his hand through his hair, the other team scores.
The 49ers have allowed the most points--29.6 per game--in the NFC this season. Executing third and 10 against the 49ers is like taking candy from a baby who's asleep. They don't defend, they defer. Your typical 49ers cornerback looks like a maitre d' waving a customer to his usual table.
San Francisco's special teams are so bad, I half-expect place kicker Wade Richey to be offside on a kickoff.
Conventional wisdom says the 49ers are fini. But The Man spits on conventional wisdom, particularly on any given Sunday. The worst may be over for the 49ers; they've already played three 6-1 teams (Jacksonville, Tennessee, St. Louis), and if they can beat Pittsburgh at home Sunday to pull to .500, an easier second-half schedule might allow them to slip into the playoffs.
San Francisco is a 3 1/2-point favorite against the Steelers. Sip a chardonnay, smell the Bay Area brie and take the 49ers.
(TV Note: Budding analyst Boomer Esiason on ABC's "Monday Night Football"--"Looking at Brett Favre, the adjective that best describes him right now, I guess, is resiliency." The adjective that best describes Boomer right now, I guess, is serendipity.)
(Officiating Note: Remember, instant replay is instant delay.)
As always, the following point-spread picks should not be used as the basis for any actual cash wager:
Chiefs at Colts (-3 1/2): A nice coaching matchup between the mad prophet of the sidelines, Jim Mora, whose Colts are en route to galloping ingloriously into Super Bowl XXXIV, and yellow-spectacled Gunther Cunningham, who looks like he should be on one of those celebrity skeet shooting shows on ESPN2. Pick: Colts.
Bengals at Seahawks (-14): In the words of Herbert Hoover, "Prosperity is just around the corner." Unfortunately for the Bengals, that corner just happens to be in Minsk. . . . France was more competitive in World War II than the Bengals have been in NFL '99. Pick: Seahawks.
Broncos (-2) at Chargers: Regarding the recent employer-relations strategy of Ryan Leaf, I can't recall any obscenity-laced tirade against Bobby Beathard--or management in general, for that matter--that ever has worked in favor of labor. Pick: Broncos.
Ravens (-3 1/2) at Browns: To avoid incident, Art Modell registered at a Cleveland hotel yesterday under the name of Slobodan Milosevic. . . . To help their images, Pat Buchanan joined the Reform Party and Al Gore joined the Dawg Pound. Pick: Browns.
Rams (-4) at Lions: QB Kurt Warner blamed Rams' first loss on misplacing "3rd Rock from the Sun" videotape he watches before every game. . . . Dick Vermeil was browsing for old Kennedy speeches at Marilyn Monroe auction. Pick: Rams.
Cardinals at Jets (-7): QB Rick Mirer, driving along Garden State Parkway on Monday, threw a quarter at exact-change toll booth. He missed. . . . I've said it before and I'll say it again: I like the sound of "Dave Brown Buick." Pick: Jets.
Buccaneers (-3 1/2) at Saints: Mike Ditka needs another Hail Mary like Bourbon Street needs another happy hour. . . . Buccaneers' offensive game film inadvertently included in TNT's Halloween movie marathon. Pick: Buccaneers.
Jaguars (-6 1/2) at Falcons: Claiming it won't be a distraction, Coach Dan Reeves has arranged for Fox's "Millennium Bass Fishing" special to be shown on Georgia Dome's Jumbotron during Falcons game. Pick: Jaguars.
Bears at Packers (-9): I figured Brett Favre was going to have a bad night Monday when I saw him still talking with Mike Holmgren and Lesley Visser during Packers' opening series. Pick: Packers.
Bills at Redskins (-4 1/2): Bad news: Redskins owner Daniel M. Snyder, He Who Would Be Eddie D, seen heading up Mount Rushmore with a mallet and a chisel. Pick: Bills.
Eagles at Panthers (-5): My ex-wife always said, "Don't bet the Eagles." My Wife of the Moment, Rhonda, always says, "Don't bet the Eagles." Looks like The Man is headed for a third marriage. Pick: Eagles.
Cowboys at Vikings (-7): Aside to Jeff George: If you think you can, you can; if you think you can't, you're right. Pick: Cowboys.
Titans at Dolphins (-3): Like most soccer parents, Jimmy Johnson never misses a game. Problem is, his sons are now in their thirties. Pick: Titans.
Last week: 9-4-1.
Season record: 50-55-7.