Fans of the San Francisco 49ers don’t seem to be as fond of cornerback Chris Culliver after watching him struggle throughout the team’s latest playoff run. He was targeted often by opposing quarterbacks and failed more times than he succeeded. Additionally, his anti-gay remarks just days before Super Bowl XLVII didn’t exactly help his cause, either.
It is understandable for fans to be souring on the talented youngster, but here’s why anyone clamoring for the soon-to-be third-year pro’s exit from the Bay Area is jumping the gun way too early.
First of all, I completely agree that Culliver’s comments during the Super Bowl’s media week were ill-timed and just generally inexcusable. That said, he’s not the first player to make a mistake of this nature. The majority of them have learned from those mistakes and are now better for it. Athletes have said and done much worse yet still have the support of their fans, so I don’t think a single slip-up is enough to warrant chalking Culliver up as a failed draft pick.
Now, let’s get to Cully’s on-field performance. Most everyone would agree that his play throughout the playoffs was disappointing. He took too many penalties, got burned often and generally just looked lost at times. On the game’s biggest stage, that just can’t happen.
Just think, though, which member of the 49ers’ secondary did have a good postseason? Outside of Tarell Brown, the answer is nobody. Once Justin Smith went down with a tear in his triceps, it wasn’t just the defensive line that suffered. The lack of pressure up front required the linebackers and secondary to do more of the heavy lifting.
As you saw, it didn’t turn out well.
Culliver is extremely athletic and possesses ideal size to cover any receiver in the NFL. However, he’s still relatively inexperienced at the cornerback position (mostly played safety in college) and defensive coordinator Vic Fangio runs some pretty complex schemes.
In other words, the 24-year-old Culliver is still a work in progress. But if you look at the overall picture, I’d say he’s coming along nicely. We have to remember that the guy was the 80th overall pick in the 2011 NFL draft and even considered a reach when the 49ers took him there. He’s young, talented and possesses a solid work ethic. Fangio and defensive backs coach Ed Donatell (who is very good at what he does) have already helped Cully do good things in this league and I believe his best moments are still to come.
Call me crazy, but I’ve been hearing a lot of talk from fans wanting Culliver out of San Francisco and I think it’s way too early for that. Going back to his rookie season, the guy didn’t even get a training camp thanks to the lockout. The upcoming off-season is basically his second as a pro. He’s a youngster that did disappoint on the game’s biggest stage but just the fact that he’s been there already will aid his progression greatly.
Not everybody has soured on Culliver, but for the ones that have, all I’m saying is hold off for now. No. 29 is going to do some great things in this league, and I’d rather it be in Red and Gold than some other NFL uniform.