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Every person or organization has their own version of success. The actual definition of success is the accomplishment of an aim or a purpose. In sports, the ultimate goal is to win the big game or series. In the NFL all 32 teams are aiming to win the Super Bowl. Since we can only crown one champion, does that mean the remaining 31 teams did not achieve success? Did the New England Patriots have a successful run when they went undefeated during the 2007 regular season? Did losing the Super Bowl to the New York Giants take away from what they were able to accomplish? Are they tarnished because they were defeated by a 9-7 football team? These are questions we may all answer in a different way. I ask you as 49ers fans to define what you feel will be a successful season.
In a perfect world, everything comes together; we win all of our games including two landslide victories over Seattle. We stay hot through the playoffs and seal the deal on our home turf. Sounds good to me, but this is not realistic. I plan to set a realistic expectation for this team, so I am not so disappointed. Bottom-line, I want to feel as good as possible about our season. In an offseason of turmoil, here is what I will personally define as a "successful season."
Number of Wins
Next to a Super Bowl victory, wins and losses can define the success of a team's season. This year, we will see how we really stack up against a very tough schedule including two grueling games with each NFC West opponent. Considering we were 8-8 last year with more pieces in place, I would view 9-7 as a successful season for first year head coach Jim Tomsula paired with the additions and subtractions to the roster. As long as we don't backwards, it will be a success and give us hope for this new regime.
Home Field Advantage
We need to defend our home turf. Watching Chicago comeback and beat us in our home opener set the tone for the new facility. We need to figure out a way to win at home. If we can win the majority of our home games and get the crowd involved as the do in Seattle or Kansas City, I will view this as a success. A 5-3 home record would be good, but 6-2 would be better.
The Running Game
With Frank Gore wearing a horse shoe on his helmet, we lose the services of our franchise leading running back. We will now turn to Carlos Hyde to shoulder the load. Hyde only has 83 career carries under his belt. We did see flashes of brilliance in his game and we also saw him receive the bulk of the goal line carries as the season progressed. With Bush, Hunter, Davis and possibly Hayne in the rotation, Hyde will not have to do it all, but the pressure will be on him to perform. Last season, the 49ers out rushed their opponents by 565 total yards. If they can equal last year's numbers with a new-look offensive line and a new-look backfield, I would view this as a success. If Hyde can rush for over 1,000 yards, that would be a major victory for his confidence and our future.
The Development of Kaepernick
We all know that Kaepernick reported to Arizona immediately after the season to work with EXOS. He spent time with quarterback coaches Dennis Gile and Mike Giavondo. He also spent about a dozen sessions with Kurt Warner. In addition to his work on the field, he watched hours of film breaking down defenses. He was able to work with several athletes including Quinton Patten, Bruce Ellington and Jarryd Hayne of the 49ers. We are all hopeful that he can use his new found skills this season. I do not think Keapernick's success will be defined by stats. It will be defined by his decisions throughout each game and his ability to be a leader. If he throws for 120 yards and we win, who cares? I also hope to see him use his legs early and often. His name is constantly mentioned in trade rumors. If we see positive growth and squash the trade rumors, that will be a success.
The Kicking Game
Another familiar face has left the building. Andy Lee had trotted on the field for us 941 times, punting for more than 43,000 total yards. Lee had been with the team longer than any other player on the roster. Lee had been very reliable for us. We all saw the writing on the wall when the 49ers selected Brad Pinion a punter/place kicker out of Clemson in the 5th round of the 2015 NFL Draft. Pinion has a big leg and can be a triple threat. He is known for his punts inside the 20 yard line as well as his booming place kicking. If Pinion can live up to his college stats, this will be a success. Field position changes a game. The 49ers feel they found the next long-term punter for a fraction of the cost.
This will be a new look for us. With all of the offseason movement, we will really have to see who rises to the challenge. I am looking for Aldon Smith to have a huge year. We must apply pressure to the quarterback. We must also get off the field on 3rd downs. This will be interesting to watch considering we need to establish new leaders and a new identity. I will be watching the cornerbacks, which as a group has a few questions marks. If we can establish a few solid corners, this will be a success.
These are just a few items I will use to benchmark the season. What do you view as a successful 2015 campaign?