Who is responsible for the San Francisco 49ers keeping their season alive down in Inglewood on Sunday, January 9?
Was it the grit of Jimmy Garoppolo, bad thumb and all? Does Deebo Samuel deserve the praise for running, catching and throwing the ball? Should Jauan Jennings get all the love for stepping up big? Is it the pass rush? Is it Ambry Thomas and his game-clinching interception? Or is it all of the above or none of the above?
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For one NFL analyst, it was none of the above. And he delivered a surprise pick on who that “unsung hero” from the game was who helped keep the 49ers’ season alive given their circumstances.
49er Fans Owe Thanks to This Coach, Analyst Says
On the Monday, January 10 edition of Heavy’s I’m Just Saying, the show host Brian Mazique gave a more outside of the box pick — or right in the box as Mazique described it.
That pick? Someone who represents the offensive line…but is someone who coaches that unit up: Chris Foerster.
That’s right, the offensive line coach of the ‘Niners. Not Jimmy G, Samuel, anyone on defense or even Brandon Aiyuk and the head coach Kyle Shanahan or his coordinators. A position coach is who the Heavy on Patriots and Bulls writer chose as the man 49er fans owe their most thank you too.
“I’m going outside of the box, it really isn’t outside the box it is right in the box. I’m going to go with previously much-maligned and controversial offensive line coach Chris Foerster,” Mazique said in his intro on his selection.
It’s definitely a rare pick. But in examining what the ‘Niner trenches were facing leading up to the crucial season finale with a playoff berth on the line, it all began to make sense as to why.
For one: Foerster had to operate and keep together a 49ers offensive line unit that was missing their most prominent piece: Left tackle and All-Pro Trent Williams to an elbow injury.
Another reason: A Williams-less 49er line had to deal go with a raw and rusty replacement in Colton McKivitz, a 25-year-old who had once spent time on the practice squad and inactive list before getting the promotion to start in Week 18. Foerster, Shanahan and the ‘Niners chose a former practice squad member over rookie Jaylon Moore.
Last reason: With no Williams, plus dealing with the Rams’ front pressure ignited by Aaron Donald, Greg Gaines, then Leonard Floyd and Von Miller applying pressure off the edge, the 49ers still plowed the front seven with 135 rushing yards and averaged 4.4 yards per carry. And out of the four aforementioned Rams, only Miller got a sack.
Too often in football or in sports, the coach isn’t the one who quickly gets the credit. But in this case, the 60-year-old Foerster earns praise for keeping this unit afloat in a crucial road game with playoff implications by Mazique. And Mazique added more reasons why Foerster earned his praise.
Foerster is Becoming a Redemption Story
The much-maligned line coach was once considered a fast rising name in the NFL coaching ranks — one who coached future Hall of Fame offensive tackle Jonathan Odgen while with the Baltimore Ravens, Hall of Fame guard Randall McDaniel during his time with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and also coached a young perennial Pro Bowler named Joe Staley during a previous stint with the 49ers (2008 to 2009).
But it all came crashing down on one mistake that was caught on video while with the Miami Dolphins.
“At one point he was a really hot name, but he got into some sort of scandal where he was supposedly seen on video snorting a white substance into his nose,” Mazique explained on the show. “So that really slowed down what probably would’ve been a rise to a head coaching position.”
Foerster stepped down from his position once the video was made public. Meanwhile, critics vehemently went after the Dolphins and Foerster, notably Stephen A. Smith on the October 9, 2017 taping of First Take.
After taking 2018 off, Foerster is since rehabilitating himself. And the pulsating 27-24 overtime win over the Rams — where the ‘Niners once trailed 17-0 — adds lyrics to Foerster’s redemption song.
“If you look at the most consistent aspect of the 49ers, it is their rushing attack. If you look at what the 49ers have done across that offensive line, it doesn’t get enough credit for what they’ve done,” Mazique said. “They were seventh in the NFL this season in rushing yards.”
But guess where it all begins in the 49er trenches? With Foerster.
“It all starts up front and the leadership they have gotten from Chris Foerster, to me, he is the guy, that unsung hero,” Mazique said.