Listen, I don't try to live my life as a contrarian. That's not true -- I kind of do. I spend a lot of time in public houses and taverns, and I have a two-hour commute that allows me to hear a lot of the sports world's most popular opinions. Sometimes, I think it's best to take a look at the other side.
In this space, I'll be articulating a handful of positions that are the opposite of what most people think -- unpopular opinions, if you will -- and explain why, well, my unpopular opinions are right and everyone else is wrong. Below are my unpopular opinions for Week 11.
I can hear you all now. "The 49erswin one game, and here's Rank, already putting them into the damn Super Bowl." Yeah, not exactly. The Bears and 49ers were rivals in the 1980s. The 49ers are partially (more like totally) responsible for Walter Payton never getting a touchdown in the Super Bowl years ago. So it gives me absolutely no pleasure to give the 49ers credit for what is happening. But they deserve like. Like when Paul Gleason had to give respect to Bruce Willis at the end of "Die Hard," you know? (And this is not a dated reference, because Christmas is right around the corner, and "Die Hard" is clearly a holiday classic.)
But this is about the 49ers, and I really do kind of like what they're doing. Specifically, I like what coach Kyle Shanahan is doing. The team is currently ranked 21st in total offense, which isn't great. But when you consider most casual fans would only be able to identify Carlos Hyde and the dreamy backup QB they got from New England, this is a pretty big accomplishment. It's like building a wardrobe out of items you found at the thrift store and still being able to rock it.
The team sort of has its quarterback of the future. Jimmy Garoppolo might see the field at some point. But Shanahan has been in no rush, in no small part because C.J. Beathard has played so well. (And that offensive line doesn't exactly inspire confidence.) The bottom line is, the 49ers didn't have to pay a lot for Jimmy G, coughing up a second-round pick, which is very inexpensive, given the position. The Bears paid more to go up one spot to draft Mitchell Trubisky second overall. The Chiefs and Texans paid a lot more to move up in the draft for Patrick Mahomesand Deshaun Watson, respectively. So Garoppolo is a bargain. And they aren't so heavily invested that it keeps them from going after Kirk Cousins in free agency next year, like some expect.
But what about the defense? Well, there you go, imaginary contrarian, peppering me with questions. The defense isn't great. But there are pieces (like three consecutive first-round D-linemen). And again, the 49ers didn't get locked into any bad contracts and are expected to have a ton of cap space. Because they didn't spend so much in the draft, they can address that side of the ball in a variety of ways. (If the Bears blow out their coaching staff, defensive coordintor Vic Fangio could make a return to the Bay Area.)
*BTW, did you never hear this story? The 49ers boat-raced the Bears in the 1984 NFC Championship Game. And then, in a classy move by Bill Walsh, put guard Guy McIntyre in the backfield. The Bears didn't forget. And the following season, the Bears one-upped them by giving the ball to William Perry (a.k.a., The Fridge) in short-yardage situations. Then coach Mike Ditka became enamored with it. Perry scored a touchdown in Super Bowl XX, and now I'm triggered. Let's move on.
Great job, Bills. Making Tyrod the scapegoat for the Bills' 28th-ranked offense is like the Emperor holding Darth Vader solely responsible for leaving the Death Star vulnerable to an exposed thermal exhaust port (What, is Nathan Peterman supposed to be the New Hope?). It's not his fault. It's not like Tyrod was out there trading Marcell Dareus. And Sammy Watkins. And letting Bob Woods go for free.
But here's the rub: This might or might not be considered an unpopular opinion depending on who you talk to. The fantasy community is legit mad. We loved Tyrod because his scrambling ability made him a valuable commodity. But a lot of Bills fans in my mentions assert he's been indecisive in the pocket, scrambles too much and has been unreliable. Or they point out that most of his "big plays" result from dump offs to LeSean McCoy that he ends up taking to the house.
And that's fair -- you know, except that it's not really true. According to NFL Media research, Tyrod ranks 21st in passing yards that come after the catch (43.9 percent) -- way behind Drew Brees' league-leading 55 percent. Not sold? That's OK. I mean, I also feel like it's totally sound to criticize a quarterback for getting the ball into the hands of his best player. Especially when Nick O'Leary is standing out there wide open! But if you really think the dude can't throw, well, here are more numbers for you:
Another popular point that emerged on Twitter after the Tyrod decision was this little nugget: The last team to pull its starting quarterback for a rookie while steaming for the playoffs was the New York Giants back in 2003. And I get that. But Eli Manning was the first-overall pick in the draft. And Kurt Warner will admit to you it was only a matter of time before he was pulled. Buffalo selected Peterman in the fifth round last year. I get the Bills want to know what they have. And maybe they believe they're not getting past the Patriots and Jaguars anyway. But they didn't even want to give it a shot?
I don't get it. Tyrod is one of the most-maligned starting quarterbacks in recent memory. He's not a perfect passer, but he's still good. He's also one of just four quarterbacks this season who have at least 10 touchdown passes and three or fewer interceptions. The other three are Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers and Alex Smith. But hey, good luck with Peterman. There hasn't been a risk this great associated with a Peterman since the catalog introduced the urban sombrero. (Fine, that's a dated reference.)