Not long ago one
of the San Francisco sportswriters, in a moment of ungoverned optimism,
suggested that Bay Area football fans attending the preseason game between the
Oakland Raiders and the San Francisco 49ers might be getting a preview of this
season's Super Bowl matching the champions of two leagues. This note came after
the 49ers had walloped the Cleveland Browns in a preseason game. It ignored the
parlous state of the Browns for that game: Cleveland played with three rookie
defensive backs and without the service of its brilliant flanker, Paul
Still, the writer
had a point. Were the 49ers not in the Coastal Division, they would be favored
to win in one of the other three divisions and would certainly be considered a
strong contender in another, thus enhancing their chances of getting at least
into a division playoff. As it is, they will probably finish second to the Rams
in the Coastal, but even that will not be easy.
Christiansen has the best set of running backs in his division, a quarterback
who could be the best if John Unitas should falter, and probably the best
offensive line. His team will be changed less from last year than any of the
other three, and continuity of units is in itself a major plus in pro
Christiansen, the 49ers seem better able to survive injuries than most other
teams. Only one starter from the offensive team and one from the defense are
gone, and Christiansen has adequate replacements for both men.
line, which protected John Brodie marvelously well in 1966 and should do even
better by him now, was among the most efficient in the league last year. It is
back intact, and not hurting it in the least is the addition of a trio of young
men—Dave Bettema, Don Parker and Elmer Collett—who eventually should be as good
as any linemen. The 49ers are one of the few teams with a plethora of offensive
The backs include
excellent starters in Ken Willard and John David Crow and especially capable
replacements in Gary Lewis and Dave Kopay. A trio of youngsters—Bill Tucker,
Doug Cunningham and Bob Daugherty—fit the pattern of the first four: big, fast
and good blockers.
trades of Casey, Defensive End Jim Norton and Guard Jim Wilson to Atlanta for
the third draft choice (which brought him Steve Spurrier, the top college
quarterback of 1966) are not crippling. Casey was to be replaced by Kay
McFarland, who had been on the 49er bench for five years.
we put Kay in a game, he produced," Christiansen said. "We used him all
the way a couple of times in preseason games and he caught seven balls each
time." But he also caught an elbow injury that possibly could keep him out
for the season. Dick Witcher will fill the position until McFarland
McFarland, the 49ers field a set of receivers second only to Baltimore's in
All-Pro Dave Parks and Tight End Monty Stickles. With the best runners, the
best offensive line, potentially the best quarterback, plus an excellent
replacement in George Mira, who would like to be traded if he can't play more
often, the 49ers could score enough to win often.
major concern, however, is to cut down the points scored against his team. Only
five teams in the NFL gave up more points than the 325 San Francisco allowed in
1966. The 49ers were sticky against the run but leaked against passes,
reflecting a somewhat less than adequate pass rush.