Here is a link to my Friday column about Michael Crabtree. The full column runs below:
Michael Crabtree has a bad attitude.
Not to say he’s a bad guy. He may be a fine gentleman. Hard to tell because he stays away from the media, seems shy. But he has a crummy attitude.
He’s a pouter and a sulker and he seems like a me-firster. He never lived up to being the 10th pick in the first round of the 2009 draft. Not a bust. But not a big deal, either.
When you’re no big deal, it’s best not to have a lousy attitude.
He made the game-saving catch against the Saints last Sunday. Hell of a catch, 51 yards downfield, Crabtree as free as a bird. Colin Kaepernick spotted him and launched the ball, and Crabtree made a beautiful grab that led to a game-tying field goal. In overtime, the 49ers won the game.
You’d expect Crabtree to be delirious with joy after the catch. Except he walked off the field and sat by himself. The kid who eats lunch alone in the schoolyard. On an earlier play, Kaepernick was under pressure and threw to him early and Crabtree was supposed to break off his route to help Kaepernick. Crabtree didn’t break off his route early, and then gave one of those eye-rolling looks like Kaepernick had failed him.
After the game, after the 49ers won 27-24 and maybe saved their season, Ann Killion of the Chron and Tim Kawakami of the Merc interviewed Crabtree at his locker. He should have been happy. He was the hero of the biggest win of the season. I was not there for the interview. I did not cover the game.
Killion asked about the 51-yard reception, a question that should have induced a positive reply.
Crabtree said, “Third down. I’m a third-down receiver. I mean, I’m like the third option. So I come in and I do my job.”
It was all about himself. He was unhappy even though his team won. When it was pointed out the pass reception took place on fourth down, Crabtree said, “Fourth down. I guess when they need me, you know, I guess that’s when I play. I know you all count stats — look that up.”
When they asked if Crabtree was looking at Kaepernick on the throw, Crabtree picked up his duffel bag and left.
It was hardly a rude question. Crabtree had an issue, all right, but it wasn’t with the columnists. Crabtree has an issue with the team — that seems obvious.
This is the final year of his contract. He wants big bucks next season from the 49ers or from some other team. He wants No. 1 receiver money. And the Niners are not cooperating, are not showcasing him. So he’s ticked off.
Be real clear. Michael Crabtree does not deserve No. 1 receiver money because he isn’t a No. 1 receiver. Never will be. He’s a second receiver, maybe even a third receiver on a good offense. Like Anquan Boldin, he is a possession receiver, doesn’t have the speed to out-run the secondary on most plays. But Boldin is tougher, stronger and has better hands. Boldin is a great wide receiver. Crabtree isn’t. He is easily replaceable. He needs to grasp reality.
In nine games this season, he has dropped eight passes. Not so good. He has five drops the past three games. Even worse.
His play is declining. In five regular-season games in 2013 — he was injured part of the season — he dropped one ball. The previous season, he had seven drops in 16 regular-season games. This season, he’s caught passes for a total of 424 yards. Boldin has receptions totaling 635 yards.
I could go on but you get the point. Crabtree is not even the first wide receiver on his own team, and it seems to be eating his gut.
When Alex Smith was the 49ers’ quarterback, Crabtree rarely praised Smith, told the media Smith didn’t give him a chance to make plays. Don’t be surprised if Crabtree starts making back-handed comments about Kaepernick.
Reporters asked Jim Harbaugh about Crabtree’s apparent unhappiness the other day.
“I have no problem with Michael,” Harbaugh said. Harbaugh didn’t exactly address the issue of unhappiness.
Does Crabtree have a problem with the offense?
“I don’t think so,” Harbaugh said.
Not a definitive answer.
Here is more of the transcript:
Q: He’s in his contract year. He obviously wants to have a good season. It’s evident that he’s not happy with his production to this point. Is he putting too much pressure on himself in order to have a season that he wants to have, aspires to have?
Harbaugh: He’s a tremendous competitor. I’m not blaming him or anybody. We’ve talked about this before. I think we talked about this last week, concerning different players, separate players. The heat of the moment 10 minutes after the game, I don’t go by that.
Q: He did say similar things to us on Friday in the locker room, that he wasn’t happy with his production, (that) it’s not him. I’m just asking you, does the contract year, does that play into the pressure that players put on themselves in their contract year?
Harbaugh: I think I’ve answered that. He’s a tremendous competitor.
This little dialog was fascinating for what it didn’t say. Harbaugh made it seem he has no problem with Crabtree, and Crabtree has no problem with the team. We know part of that is untrue. Crabtree has a problem with the team. He can’t shut up about it.
So, Harbaugh was protecting his player from himself. It was a generous gesture by the coach.
There was more to it. Harbaugh is an us-against-them coach. Us is the team and Them is anybody else — especially the media. Never in a million years would Harbaugh admit publicly what is going on with Crabtree — or any player. And never would he badmouth a player. It simply is not the media’s business what goes on in the locker room. That is how Harbaugh thinks. And it’s one of the best things about him.
In spite of Harbaugh’s denials, Crabtree is trouble. And he is not worth the trouble. Michael Crabtree should not be a 49er next season.
For more on the world of sports in general and the Bay Area in particular, go to the Cohn Zohn at cohn.blogs.pressdemocrat.com. You can reach Staff Columnist Lowell Cohn at firstname.lastname@example.org.