Coming off their trip to the Super Bowl, the San Francisco 49ers had high expectations for the 2020 campaign. While anything can happen in one game, the team didn’t exactly fly out of the gate; on Sunday, they started the year with a loss to the Arizona Cardinals. There weren’t any fans in the building, but Niners legend Jerry Rice did have a seat inside Levi’s Stadium. He wasn’t happy with what he saw.
Beyond the result of the game, Rice blasted one particular aspect of the San Francisco 49ers’ Week 1 performance. While their play wasn’t up to snuff, the legendary receiver specifically blasted the team’s behavior during the game.
The San Francisco 49ers didn’t live up to expectations in Week 1
When each NFL season begins, every team starts with a clean slate. After the 2019 campaign, though, the San Francisco 49ers had some high expectations.
After a disappointing 2018 outing, the Niners took a massive step forward. With a healthy Jimmy Garoppolo under center, an impressive Shanahan-style running game, and a dynamic defense, the club came within a quarter of winning the Super Bowl; if not for an overthrown pass and Patrick Mahomes, they would have lifted the Lombardi Trophy.
On the back of that campaign, San Francisco entered the 2020 NFL season with high expectations. In ESPN’s preseason power rankings, for example, they were named the third-best team in the league, only trailing the Chiefs and the Ravens. After Week 1, however, they’ll be dropping down a bit.
On Sunday, the 49ers dropped their opening game to the Arizona Cardinals 24-20. Between blowing a lead and Garoppolo’s poor performance in the fourth quarter, the loss seemed reminiscent of San Francisco’s Super Bowl loss. While one game won’t define an entire season, it wasn’t the start that anyone in the Bay Area was hoping to see.
Jerry Rice wasn’t happy with the San Francisco 49ers’ behavior on Sunday
While fans weren’t allowed inside Levi’s Stadium to watch the 49ers in person on Sunday, Jerry Rice managed to score a seat. The living legend, however, wasn’t too happy with what he saw.
“During the break, they were playing music and we had certain guys dancing that hadn’t done anything on the football field. They didn’t have a reception or anything,” Rice said on 95.7 The Game, according to the Mercury News. “That’s not the standard of the San Francisco 49ers. If you want to dance or do whatever, you shouldn’t be wearing that uniform. You gotta be productive, you’ve gotta contribute to the team. And if you can’t do that, go do something else.”
As a former receiver, Rice knows a thing or two about on-field celebrations and dances. In his mind, though, you have to earn your right to celebrate before breaking out some smooth moves.
“That pissed me off,” Rice continued. “The Niners are not about that. If you score a touchdown, you can do whatever you want. You can dance, you can break dance, I don’t care. But if you’re dancing and you haven’t made a catch or anything, I have a problem with that.”
Jerry Rice won’t accept any atmosphere-based excuses, either
During the 2020 campaign, NFL teams will have to get used to playing in empty buildings. While you can argue that silence should make things easier for the offense, the lack of crowd noise can also make it harder to get fired up; Bill Belichick, for example, said the atmosphere during the Patriots season opener felt like practice.
Jerry Rice, however, isn’t prepared to accept that as an excuse. While he previously said that it would be difficult to play in an empty arena, he expected more from his former team.
“We gotta stop using that as an excuse. We are paid professionals. This is what we do for our livelihood,” Rice explained. “Yes, we miss the fans, we would love for the fans to be in the stands, but if you cannot get up for a game against an opponent in your stadium, I have a problem with that. These are some of the scenarios that really have to be addressed in the locker room.”
The San Francisco 49ers will visit the New York Jets in Week 2. That reality should give them a better chance to win and put in a Jerry Rice-quality performance.