With the 2011 season officially in the books, it’s time to look ahead to the future of the San Francisco 49ers. 2011 proved to be a smashing success for rookie head coach Jim Harbaugh, or should I say coach of the year. There is only one problem though; we are back to 0-0 just like the rest of the league.
While the Giants were busy planning parades and partying like its 1999, 49ers were busy golfing and getting arrested. Within 2 weeks defensive standouts Aldon Smith and Ray McDonald were arrested, the former on a DUI charge, while the latter on a warrant for suspicion of a DUI. In Ray’s case hopefully it’s just a misunderstanding on paperwork, but Aldon Smith could be looking at a possible suspension. Commissioner Roger Goodell has worked for years trying to clean up the image of the NFL as its players, and has done a good job cleaning up the league. With that said Aldon is a young player and Goodell will look to make an example out of the rookie with most likely a 50,000 dollar fine and a 1 game suspension. Let’s hope these incidents are isolated and we don’t turn into a thug team like the Bengals a few years ago.
Not all 49ers were off getting in trouble as Coach Harbaugh and Alex Smith joined up with former 49er greats Jerry Rice and Dwight Clark in a charity golf tournament at Pebble Beach. The event took place last Tuesday with many current and former San Francisco Giants and 49ers playing. Alex Smith was busy signing autographs and launching golf balls 300 yards for the San Francisco faithful that came out to watch. Two things that were a great sign, the amount of attention and love Smith received from the crowd, and more importantly seeing Jim and Alex continue to bond. There is no doubt in my mind that Smith won’t be back in a 49er uniform next season.
3 Things to Watch this Off-Season
1. The quarterback position is the most important position of any major team sport. While we think Alex Smith is a lock to be back under center, there is no contract being offered yet. I don’t believe Smith is a money guy, but that doesn’t stop an agent from playing hardball. The 49ers will make a smart financial move with Smith, and Smith will do anything to be the quarterback here. Heck he worked out with the team during the lockout with no contract because he had something to prove to the organization and the fans. While Smith has turned a lot of people with his play this last year, there are still naysayers. Look for Smith to continue to improve and build on what he accomplished this last season.
For those out there wanting Peyton Manning, ask yourself where Peyton ranks among quarterbacks right now. Yes his career is one of the greatest, but moving forward there are about 10 quarterbacks in the league I’d rather have. Look at it this way, Peyton played his last game just a couple weeks after Brett Favre played his.
2. The 49ers won’t look to add wide receivers. They Will add Receivers. After that pitiful NFC Championship game, it is a must for a team on the door-step. During the regular season only 1 wideout had more than 20 receptions. We took a flyer on Braylon Edwards last year. That low-risk high reward didn’t work out. This year expect a different approach. There are plenty of young talented receivers going to be available in both the draft and free agency. Both fields will be deep and works to an advantage for teams like the 49ers, Patriots, and Rams who are all in need of a deep threat. The Rams are expected to take Justin Blackmon, who is a future star in the league. The Patriots will most likely sign former Niner Brandon Lloyd, while resigning Wes Welker. I think the Niners should make a solid run at Dwayne Bowe. Bowe would be the perfect fit to compliment Michael Crabtree and Vernon Davis.
3. The defense was the main reason we were in the position we were this year. We were able to create turnovers and give our offense a short field to work with. Dashon Goldson and Carlos Rogers each had 6 interceptions and are both free agents. It will be difficult to resign both so expect a high draft pick to be used on a defensive back. The cornerback class is deep, so the 49ers will play value on wide receiver and cornerbacks, but if no major improvement comes in free agency these positions will be handled in rounds 1 and 2.
The 49ers will have a target on their back heading into next year. Accompany that with a difficult schedule and the Niners will be hard pressed to be 13-3 in the regular season. The team will have to solidify in its weak areas and continue to grow in its strengths. Expectations are finally back to Superbowl or bust. What a relief.