I just want to clear the air and start off by saying that first I did not want the 49ers to sign former Giants RB Brandon Jacobs. I do not think that Brandon Jacobs will become the next version of Jerome Bettis. But it’s the off season, what else do we have to do? Let’s take a trip down memory lane. Bettis was drafted out of Notre Dame by the Rams and was a beast for a few years, slowed down, got fat and was traded for a mid round pick. The Steelers took a chance on him and instead of asking him to slim down and be a traditional NFL running back, they let him get huge and made him the center piece of their power run game. Bettis peaked late in his career and won a Super Bowl with Pittsburgh and will go down as one of the great RBs of his time.
Brandon Jacobs was drafted by the Giants and came in as a backup to Tiki Barber. Then when Barber decided to retire, Jacobs starred for a few years, until Ahmad Bradshaw came along. After a couple sub-par years, the Giants released Jacobs and his $4 million salary this off season. The 49ers sign him to a 1 year, no risk deal to come in and presumably compete with Anthony Dixon for a roster spot. No big expectations, no chance Jacobs comes in and becomes the star of this team with Frank Gore and Kendall Hunter on the roster.
The 49ers likely envision Jacobs as two things. A short yardage and goal line back as well as someone who could step in and take some of the load off Kendall Hunter if Gore were to get injured. If he can’t accomplish that, he’ll be released, just as Bettis would have been way back when Pittsburgh acquired him. I doubt that Jim Harbaugh will ask him to slim down or become anything more than a pound the ball type of back. He’ll ask him to run mean, to run North and South and hit the defender in the mouth. He’ll ask him to take some of the load off of Gore. If he can do that, he may have a chance to shine in San Francisco.
The 49ers are a very good running team, and Gore is not the most durable back in the world. If Jacobs can work hard, display a good attitude, and show that he can fit the role the 49ers signed him for, then he has a chance. Albeit a slim chance, to become the next Jerome Bettis. You never know when you’ve hit gold in free agency. The 49ers didn’t know Ahmad Brooks would explode into a star one day, but he did. They had no idea Carlos Rogers would play better than Nnamdi Asomugha, yet he did. This could be just like the signings of Deshaun Foster or Brian Westbrooke of the last few years. But you never know.