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Brandon Jacobs to the 49ers

by Photo of Ross Bernhardt

New York’s big running back is heading west to team up with Mario Manningham in San Francisco.

Brandon Jacobs to the 49ers

In this article…

Brandon Jacobs will no longer be a New York Giants after it was announced today that he is signing a free agent deal with the San Francisco 49ers.  From Pro Football Talk:

Adam Schefter of ESPN reports that the 49ers and Jacobs have agreed to terms on a contract. There are no details about those terms, but it’s a safe bet that it is for less than the $4 million that Jacobs was set to earn with the Giants before they released him earlier this month.

Jacobs gives the Niners backfield another look alongside Frank Gore and Kendall Hunter. Although he struggled mightily on short third and fourth down tries for the Giants in recent years, Jacobs does have a big body that defenses have a hard time stopping when it is going straight ahead. Jacobs’ biggest problem has been his mistaken belief that he can be effective running parallel to the line of scrimmage before turning upfield.

That last part is especially true.  Jacobs has the body to carry an explosive amount of power for defenders if they try to tackle him, but often he would dance in the backfield or hit the hole with hesitation.  When the Giants needed one or two yards (or sometimes less), Jacobs would pitter-patter after receiving the hand off instead of smashing into the line and pushing his way through.  Or, he would just fall down before he even reached the line of scrimmage.  Or he would run straight up instead of lowering those big shoulders.  This caused Jacobs' Y/A to drop all the way to 3.8 yards this season, almost as low as his dreadful 2009 season.

When you look back on his tenure with the Giants, it's hard to argue that Jacobs wasn't effective or productive.  He did help the team win two Super Bowl rings, and he twice eclipsed the 1,000 yard mark.  But there's been a noticeable decline in his effectiveness since 2008 as well as injury concerns.  Plus, when you watch the Sports Science feature ESPN ran on Jacobs over a year ago, you wonder what could have been:  

He could hit harder than a bull.  When he was right, Jacobs could dish out punishment like that.  But more often than not in recent years, he hasn't run with that kind of force on a consistent basis.  Dan Graziano wrote a favorable account of Jacobs over at ESPN New York today called “Giants will miss Brandon Jacobs”.  Here's an excerpt:

Jacobs was a two-time Super Bowl winner in New York and will always be remembered fondly by the Giants and their fans. Giants coach Tom Coughlin was talking just this morning about how difficult it is to lose players with whom you've won championships

“It's very difficult. It's not easy. The guys who have been with you the longest, that's a natural feeling,” Coughlin said. “But the great thing about the experiences I've had, for example, with Brandon, Brandon makes it easier on you. There is some sentiment involved in it, but we don't say good bye. We just say, 'Next time.'”

The Giants will struggle to replace Jacobs. Sure, he'd slowed down a bit in recent years and hadn't been as much a part of the offense. But he still brings something that few if any other running backs in the league bring, in terms of the speed and athleticism he has at his remarkable size. They will need some capable veteran to team with Ahmad Bradshaw and his perpetually banged-up foot, and they've already been at work on finding one.

Yes he's unique in that way, but how often has he really used those skills recently?  He talked more about his skills than he actually employed them last season.  And not only did his on-field performance decline, but he became a distraction off the field with talks about his role and his contract.  And how hard will it really be to find a running back that can average 3.8 yards a carry in a backup/platoon role?  

Of course his runs would electrify you when they were purposeful, but those were becoming rarer as the years went on (just one rush longer than 20 yards last year).  Of course part of Giants fans will be sad to see him go, but it was bound to happen sooner or later.  So farewell, Brandon Jacobs. 

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