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The 49ers finished the season by winning five of their last seven games. Mike Singletary, who just became the permanent coach following the team's win against the Redskins, finished with a record of 5-4. While the team was out of the playoffs early, it was a finish to be proud of.
It is very safe to say that the team can win with the level of talent that they have. It just took some good coaching decisions to make it happen. Mike Nolan, who was fired after a 2-5 start, could not make these decisions and his mistakes continually put the team in bad positions.
The 49ers were very close to a playoff appearance. Had they won that Monday Night thriller against the Arizona Cardinals, both San Francisco and Arizona would have ended up with 8-8 records. Imagine what the team could have done had they decided to play Shaun Hill from the start rather than J.T. O'Sullivan. Of course, there is a good chance that had they done that, Nolan may have still been the head coach.
Congratulations to 49ers running back and fan favorite Frank Gore. He became the first Niner to rush for over 1,000 yards in three consecutive seasons. Gore had 1,695 yards in 2006, 1,102 in 2007, and 1,036 this season. It could not have happened to a classier guy.
Unless the 49ers somehow land a premiere quarterback, Shaun Hill should go into 2009 as the starter. It is unbelievable that he did not start from the beginning this season. Even last year, the team knew that he did not practice well. But when it came to game time, Hill was a natural team leader and the guys rallied around him. The guy just knows how to win football games. It may not be pretty, but he wins. He is 7-3 as a starter. It is time to stop doubting him and give him a chance.
If he is willing to cut his pay and work to prove his worth, quarterback Alex Smith, the team's 2005 #1 pick, should be brought back. A lot of people have given up on the guy, but as a backup, he still has some value to the team. He just needs some confidence and an opportunity. It is not easy learning a new system every year of your early career.
The 49ers group of receivers looks solid. The youngsters Josh Morgan and Jason Hill look like they could be the team's receivers of the future. Isaac Bruce, while at the twilight of his career, looks like he still has a bit more left in the engine.
The team needs a solid backup for Frank Gore. While former UCLA Bruin DeShaun Foster has filled that role admirably over the last few games, it would be nice to have someone more dependable. It also would have been nice to see what 2007 6th round draft pick, Thomas Clayton could have done. He always seems to be a strong preseason player, but never really gets an opportunity. Maybe Singletary will be willing to give him more of a look.
I have seen enough of Mark Roman. Please find a solid replacement for this guy.
What can be said about the team's 2006 1st round pick, tight end Vernon Davis? He has all of the physical attributes to be a truly great player and fans want to like the guy. However, he needs to get his head into the game and stop making so many stupid mistakes. Maybe Mike Singletary is the type of coach that can get through to the kid.
And finally, what should the team do about offensive coordinator Mike Martz? If only for the reason of a little continuity from one year to the next, I would not mind seeing him return. Although, if someone better becomes available, I would not be against showing him the door. If Norv Turner became available, the 49ers should jump at the chance to bring him back. Alex Smith progressed well with Turner and already knows his offense. Shaun Hill would most likely flourish in his offense as well. It may be a moot point though as the Chargers are currently rolling past the Denver Broncos on Sunday Night Football and will most likely make the postseason. Norv may stay in San Diego after all.
Here is to a strong presence in free agency, a strong draft, and a solid showing in 2009. Go Niners!
What moves do you think the 49ers should make during the offseason? Leave your comments below.