SANTA CLARA — For a player who caught the game-saving, 51-yard bomb during Sunday’s most crucial moment, Michael Crabtree‘s postgame comments were surprisingly sour.
Following his three catch, 62-yard outing, instead of relishing in a hard fought victory, the receiver delivered unexpected criticism of his role in this new and unpredictable 49ers offense:
“Third down. I’m a third-down receiver. I mean, I’m like the third option. So I come in and I do my job … Fourth down. I guess when they need me, you know, I guess that’s when I play.”
We’ve seen veteran players disgruntled with their role after losses, but Crabtree’s comments followed a well-fought and uplifting game for the 49ers.
Crabtree’s assessment that he is a “third option” is also statistically untrue, though he trails team leader Anquan Boldin by a fairly large margin.
Crabtree has 40 receptions for 424 yards on the season so far, following Boldin who has hauled in 51 catches for 635 yards. Crabtree is also having his worst season since 2010, averaging just 47.1 yards per game on a career low 10.6 yards per reception.
“I have no problem with Michael [Crabtree]. … He’s a tremendous competitor. I’m not blaming him or anybody. We’ve talked about this before, think we talked about this last week, concerning different players, separate players. The heat of the moment 10 minutes after the game, I don’t go by that.”
Harbaugh has maintained he has an open-door policy for players on the 49ers to air their grievances to him at any time. However, it appears that Crabtree hasn’t taken advantage of the offer, as Harbaugh offered only a speculative answer as to whether the receiver was dissatisfied:
“I don’t think so.”
Harbaugh is only part of the play-calling equation that may be a source of Crabtree’s unhappiness. But the man responsible for getting him his desired touches — QB Colin Kaepernick — had no more insight into the matter than his coach did.
“You would have to ask him. … He’s out here doing everything he can to help this team win. That’s the vibe I get.”
Crabtree was present in the locker room Wednesday, but declined to talk to reporters as he made his way towards practice.
Until Crabtree clarifies the source of his angst, we can only speculate as to what may be troubling the young receiver. But one viable source of frustration may be his lack of production heading into free agency.
With the 49ers revamped receiving corps, Crabtree’s final numbers may not be good enough to deliver the kind of contract he had hoped for prior to the season.