A loss in a big game usually sends fans searching for a reason to why their team loss, which usually leads to them simplifying it and looking for a scape goat to place the blame. Last year, Niner fans threw all their anger at Kyle Williams for his two fumbles in the NFC Championship game with many of the fans clamoring for his outright release following the game.
Chris Culliver has become their target this year following their Super Bowl loss. Many people are questioning does Chris Culliver have a future with this team following his rough stretch of games in the play offs.
Culliver had his worst game of his career as he gave up 123 yards in coverage. Opposing receivers averaged 30 yards per completion against Culliver in the game. This game was cap on an awful five game stretch for Culliver as he gave at least 65 yards per game to opposing receivers and conceded three touchdowns.
He was also penalized on the a crucial third down that kept the Ravens alive as they drove down the field to kick a field goal to extend their lead. On the Super Bowl post game show KNBR personality Damon Bruce said that “Culliver might have played his last game in a Niners uniform.”
Culliver’s problems spread from off the field as well as he sparked a controversy with comments he made to the media. He was asked by comedian Artie Lange about whether or not he would accept a gay teammate in the locker and he replied with this, “I don’t do the gay guys man. I don’t do that. No, we don’t got no gay people on the team, they gotta get up out of here if they do. Can’t be with that sweet stuff. Nah…can’t be…in the locker room man. Nah.”
He later apologized for his remarks after the Niners organization rebuffed his comments. CEO Jed York challenged Culliver to live up to his apology by working with Gay and Lesbian organizations.
As you can see Chris Culliver is at a crossroads with this this team as his poor recent play and recent inflammatory comments have cause many fans to step back and ask if they want this player on their team. I would have to say that I do as I strongly believe Culliver has the talent and ability to be a solid starting cornerback in the league. I also believe that the strength of the Niners organization starting with Jed York will force Culliver to be accountable and make amends to people he offended. They have the ability to help Culliver not only grow as player, but as a person as well.
Culliver’s talents have been largely overlooked as he does not compile a large number of visible stats. He had two interceptions and 47 tackles, but he added 16 pass defenses that had him tied for 21st in the league with players such as Antiono Cromartie and Brandon Flowers.
Pro Football Focus had Chris Culliver ranked in their top 20 for corner backs in the league during the first 15 weeks and had him ranked as the best cornerback on the Niners. His hit his slump largely at the same time as the entire defense fell apart. I believe that his slump is due to the lack of pass rush from the front seven and not from lack of ability or technique. Even elite NFL cornerbacks will struggle to cover NFL wide receivers for four to six seconds.
Chris Culliver is only a second year player, including only playing cornerback for one year in college. Culliver is still growing into the corner position, so for a third round potential based pick that took two years to become a top 30 corner should have fans jumping for joy as he continues to get better and hone his instincts. Culliver still has two years remaining on his entry level contract with cap hits under a million dollars.
The Niners should keep Culliver as he has room to grow and the ability to blossom into a great player in the NFL. They are paying him a relatively cheap contract and have him under control for the next several season will pay dividends as they come up close to the salary cap with potential big contracts coming up soon.
The Niners need to look to add several players to their maligned secondary, but not at the expense of Culliver. I expect Culliver to continue to improve as a player and I expect him to improve as person off the field as well and turning into a player that the Niners will be proud of.