Even though 49ers wide receiver Michael Crabtree had career highs in receptions (72) and receiving yards (874) last season, his dud of a performance in the two playoff games erased any memory of those accomplishments. After the 49ers signed Mario Manningham and Randy Moss, and drafted A.J. Jenkins, many thought this was a signal the team was losing patience with Crabtree. But that may not be entirely true. Here was a recent Crabtree assessment by head coach Jim Harbaugh on KNBR-680 (Bay Area radio station):
Crab’s got the best hands I’ve ever seen on a wide receiver.
Short and to the point, but let’s remember Harbaugh also said Alex Smith was a “very accurate passer” and an “elite” quarterback. Harbaugh did improve Smith dramatically in ways the previous coaching regimes could not, by making him a more accurate passer. But to say the quarterback is elite is a huge stretch. Just like calling Crabtree’s hands the best “I’ve ever seen on a wide receiver”.
The reason I bring up Harbaugh’s past comments about Alex Smith is because the coach is now doing the same thing with Crabtree as he did with Smith last season: Building up confidence and motivation. Not saying that Crabtree is lacking either of the two, but when the team you play for signs two wide receivers and drafts another with their first draft pick, it’s not a bad thing to hear from your coach. Especially, with the way the 49ers Faithful have started to give up on Crabtree and how this is a make or break season for the receiver.
Crabtree does have great hands; it’s just that we have not seen them consistently at the NFL level and not in any big games played by the 49ers. What made Crabtree one of the top receivers coming out of the draft in 2009 was the catches he made at Texas Tech. If Crabtree can show he can be the type of player that got him drafted with the No. 10 pick, then Harbaugh’s comments won’t look out of whack.
Baring an injury this will be Crabtree’s first full offseason with training camp and exhibition games in his career. What Harbaugh might be doing with his comments is to inspire Crabtree to come into training camp with confidence of being the No. 1 receiver and the motivation to show all of his doubters he is way better than his performance in the playoffs. Time will tell.
Also check out Matt Hamm’s post on Harbaugh’s comments here.