According to coach Jim Harbaugh, the 49ers have five No. 1 receivers on the roster this season.
While many diabolical doubters would suggest that Harbaugh is a bit hyperbolic in his assessment of a group that includes Ted Ginn and Kyle Williams, the comment does raise the question of how well all of these No. 1 guys will respond to sharing the ball in this offense. Not only are Ginn, Williams, Mario Manningham, Randy Moss, Michael Crabtree and the lone non-No. 1 A.J. Jenkins going to have to fight for catches amongst themselves (and tight end Vernon Davis), they also have to contend with the team’s commitment to running the ball.
Manningham doesn’t think that will turn out to be a problem. Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle reports that Manningham foresees no one on the 49ers having a problem with reduced opportunities if the team is winning games.
“As long as we’re winning, nobody will have anything to say,” Manningham said. “Yeah, we’ve got a bunch of good receivers and there’s only one ball. But if we’re out there winning — if we’ve got to run the ball the whole game to win — that’s perfectly fine with me. I mean, I’m all about the team. So that’s perfectly fine.”
Manningham, who has performance incentives in his 49ers contract, can point to his own experience to illustrate the benefits winning can have on players who don’t put up huge numbers. His production dropped sharply during the regular season, but the Giants went on a long playoff run that featured a key catch by Manningham in the Super Bowl. That led to a two-year deal in San Francisco to become part of Harbaugh’s quintet of top receivers.
We’ll find out if all of Manningham’s teammates are so magnanimous. Moss’ effort level can be less than impressive when a play isn’t going in his direction and he’s also got incentives in his contract tied to his numbers this season.