It seemed the 49ers had a savior, and he went by the name of Shaun Hill. But alas, Mr. Hill had the audacity to go and get injured against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, so our savior was proven mortal. With no savior and no mediocre back up able to show up to save the day, the 49ers were forced to trot out the 35 year old bum named Chris Weinke, and the season came grinding to an ugly painful halt against the Cleveland Browns.
With the 2008 NFL playoffs just beginning and 49ers fans sitting at home in the cold, it’s time to ask what the future will bring to the franchise. First let’s take a deep breath and remember that no matter how good Hill looked against a prevent defense (Vikings), a horrible pass defense (Bungles), or a team that decided it was shutting down until the playoffs (Tampa Bay) it doesn’t mean that he’s going to bring back memories of Montana or Young. I would love to say that the 49ers are ready to compete for the NFC West title in ’08, but with Mike Nolan retained for next season our collective hopes are not high.
The one definitive thing we learned from Shaun Hill’s 2.5 game resume, is that (barring major complications with Alex Smith’s shoulder surgery or Hill deciding he doesn’t want the York family to shower him with money) the 49ers won’t need to waste a draft pick on a QB replacement, unless a fantastic QB plummets in the draft (due to rumors of a deviant homosexual lifestyle).
49er fans can certainly hope that Robert Lattinville (Shaun Hill’s agent) is one who knows how to leverage the moment, rather than wait until the off season when who knows what might happen.
Looking towards the 2008 draft and off season, it’s clear that the 49ers will need to do the following if they want to dream about winning the NFC West.
- Sign Shaun Hill to an extension, knowing that you will need a solid QB to push Alex Smith, and that cutting Alex Smith isn’t an option for at least 1 year (salary cap implications)
- Invest a high draft pick (1st or 2nd round) to draft Bryant Young’s replacement. BY won’t be returning, and without him our defensive line is really going to be underpowered with next to no depth. Also remember that Marques Douglas and Isaac Sopoaga are both free agents as well, so there’s going to be a need to resign them both plus whoever is drafted.
- Trade up to get a second 1st round pick. Use this pick to grab another stud linebacker to take Derek Smith’s spot on the field, or another outside linebacker to play opposite Manny Lawson (who should be back for ’08). If we are going to be running a 3-4 again, speed at every LB spot is a necessity.
- Find a way to trade to get a true #1 wide receiver without giving up the farm. I’m looking at you T.J. Houshmandzadeh. If not Houshmandzadeh isn’t on our plate, a look at his pal Ocho Cinco would be worthwhile. If we are unable to steal a WR from the Bungles, it’s imperative that we swing a top notch receiver in the ’08 Draft. It’s important to understand that none of the receivers on the roster are #1 or even #2 receivers on good teams, and to compete for the division, we need someone to be the #2 option, behind Gore.
- Hire a talented offensive coordinator to run the 49ers offense and force Mike Nolan to recognize skill and quality on the offensive side of the ball. I’m hoping that 49ers GM Scot McCloughan (Hey we finally have a GM again! Yay proper corporate structuring!) realizes that unless he can steal Josh McDaniels from the Patriots, recently fired Cam Cameron would be our next best option. Remember that if the 49ers can’t find someone to properly utilize the strengths of QBs with mobility, spread the ball around between Gore, our soon to be signed #1 WR, and Vernon Davis, we’re no better than a west coast Miami Dolphins (Without a savior in the Big Tuna)
If the 49ers can do these things, without the York family panicking and blowing the franchise up and rebuilding, San Francisco might be competing for the NFC west title in 2008.