A 49ers' fan favorite time of the year is the offseason. Hope is the order of the day and every personnel move will be the one that puts the team over the edge. Anything can happen and parity (as long as Jerry Jones will allow it) makes sure the dream stays alive every off season.
However, the regular season is quickly approaching on the horizon. And with the regular season comes the reality of a 16 game-schedule. The games no longer happen on paper and are instead resolved on the gridiron.
The 49ers largest stumbling block, seemingly the same stumbling block they have had since 2003, is a dearth of talent. Without talent, the 49ers will find it difficult to put together a winning campaign.
Yes, the 49ers have improved on their talent since now general manager Scott McCloughan took over in 2005. The 49ers have had several glaring needs since 2005 that the team has yet to address. Quarterback, pass rushing specialist, safety, cornerback, and right tackle immediately come to mind. Shawntae Spencer, a player drafted under the Donahue-Erickson regime, is now starting across from a cornerback acquired via free agency. The 49ers nickel corner (Dre' Bly) was acquired via free agency to fill the void left by Walt Harris, another free agent acquisition. Tarell Brown, a 5th round steal from the University of Texas, is the only drafted cornerback with a viable shot at meaningful playing time. The simple fact is the 49ers have done better in free agency of securing quality starters than they have in the draft.
If overall the 49ers have had a tough time finding quality players, they have seem to be vexed by finding a quality pass rusher and right tackle. Today's NFL is much like yesterday's NFL. Each team needs to be strong in the trenches in order to succeed. Without effective protection a quarterback cannot move an offense. With an effective pass rush, a defense can cripple an offense.
The 49ers have neither and despite acknowledging this as a weakness last season, they have made no reasonable upgrade at either position. Manny Lawson is not going to make a giant leap and be the pass rusher the 49ers envisioned in 2006. In 32 games, Lawson has reorder 5.5 sacks. Only two other first round linebackers, LaVar Arrington and Jamir Miller, have produced a 10-sack season after having fewer than 6 sacks in their first 32 games. Can it happen? Sure. Is it likely
Adam Snyder will likewise fail to make a meteoric rise to the top quarter of the league. The team was looking to replace Snyder with a much maligned Marvel Smith. Now they've signed Tony Pashos to help bolster the right side of the line. Chances are Snyder will perform just as he has in the past - average. Even minor improvements will not gain the 49ers a substantive benefit over the course of 16 games.
The lack of talent in the trenches will also cost the 49ers offensive production. The 49ers brass would love to have you believe that running the ball will be the answer to all the team's offensive ills. Teams will dare the 49ers to throw, as they have since 2005. Snyder, Rachal, and arguably Staley are all better suited for a mauling rushing attack. They can be exposed in pass protection and if defenses can get to the quarterback with a 4-man pass rush, there is little the 49ers can do to answer.
Yes, the 49ers are a tough-minded team. Head coach Mike Singletary can certainly be rewarded there. A coach, though, can only take a team so far. At some point they need talented players - or they need to be innovative enough to maximize a team's talents. Bill Walsh was a master of this. Jimmy Raye? I wouldn't put him in the same echelon. Part of Singletary's mentality is to have the offense line up against the defense and win the matchups. Jimmy Raye will structure his offense according to Singletary's philosophy.
Without more talent, though, the 49ers will not consistently win the battles. Yes, the 49ers will compete. Yes, the 49ers will have heart. Singletary will imbue that into his team. But will they rise above the 7 wins they managed last season? They haven't upgraded their talent enough to merit that kind of projection.
So brace yourselves, 49er fans. And hope that maybe Mike Shannahan and Colt McCoy are the answers to your prayers.
By: Clivus Multrum
Date: September 10, 2009 at 1:46 PM
Comment: I've read your articles in the past and I cannot remember you being correct before, so why should we give you any credibility now? I remember seeing embarrassing posts hung out to dry like dirty laundry that showed you don't know what your talking about. Keep up the good work Mr. Prognosticator.
Date: September 10, 2009 at 1:01 PM
Comment: Oscar, your analysis is very thorough and well thought out. Nate Davis looked good, certainly better than the other young QBs of the last many years; he is at least a year away, possibly two. I disagree about Pashos not being an upgrade over Snyder, I think he'll demonstrate his talent when he gets the chance. He's no Walter Jones, but he is a solid player. But good OL play is dependent on the five guys playing together a while and staying healthy, always a challenge on the O-Line. Defensive line still can't pressure the opposing QB enough; until that problem is solved, the Niners are an also-ran. I'm looking for 9-7 this year, but I think 8-8 is probably about right.
Date: September 9, 2009 at 7:57 PM
Comment: Oscar its finally good to see someone who is in touch with reality, Its must sicken you to read most of the crap that is posted in the zone. Youve hit the nail on he head in all instances. The Niners have had the same issues year after year. How in the hell can you have a "smashmouth" running game when u have a below average line? Teams will stack the line and dare the Niners to pass. to which we have no protection which we havent had for the last 5-6 years. Then we draft Micheal Crabtree (whom i have doubts about anyway) all the while stressing Smashmouth football and pass up Micheal Oher (who is starting tackle for the Ravens)in the process? Are u kidding me! How good would Oher look as RT about now next to Chilo Rachal?
Date: September 9, 2009 at 4:50 PM
Comment: I do not agree with this article. "Talent" is largely overrated. But the 49ers have talent at the necessary spots anyway The staples of winning teams, in my mind, are: 1) On offense: one solid way to move the ball (running OR passing) and as long as the other one won't screw it up too badly (interceptions or fumbles) you're OK. CHECK 2) On defense: linebackers with a secondary and a D-line that won't screw it up too badly. CHECK. 3) On specials teams: consistent execution and "want to". CHECK (Singletary won't stand for anything less) The Cardinals lost the Superbowl last season. I believe there has only been one team to lose the Superbowl and make the playoffs the next year in the last 10 years (give or take). Warner is old as hell, Boldin is unhappy, they have no running game. They were 8-8 last year. The Rams suck. The Seahawks were 4-12 last year. Hasselbeck didn't play the whole season but had 5 TD's and 10 interceptions with a 57.8 QB rating before he exited. Their top 2 running backs had a combined 1,272 yards. Sure, the 49ers have deficiencies. But one team from the NFC west has to make the playoffs. I believe it will be the 49ers. Projected record: 9-7
Date: September 9, 2009 at 3:10 PM
Comment: Nice vote of confidence there, did you go tell the locker room your prognosis? Was Cory Sheets still there? This season isn't about resuscitating a dead corpse, like some people make it out. This is a team that did very well at the end of last season in spite of years worth of adversity. What in the world would prompt someone to write this kind of whiny dribble on the 49ers' favorite fan site? Either you are just pulling our chain trying to get us all riled up or your trying to insult us all by telling us our team sucks. Either way I don't want to hear it. Let's wait a few weeks and talk about how good everyone is doing and what we think we can do better in order to get to the playoffs instead.
Date: September 9, 2009 at 3:09 PM
Comment: "The 49ers have had several glaring needs since 2005 that the team has yet to address. Quarterback, pass rushing specialist, safety, cornerback, and right tackle immediately come to mind." Actually, the 49ers have addressed the needs, very much, but whether or not those efforts panned out is another story. QB? They drafted Alex Smith. Pass rusher? They drafter Manny Lawson. Safety? Goldson, Taylor, & Reggie Smith. Right tackle? They drafted Kwame Harris and got Jonas Jennings in free agency. Now, all those efforts have not panned out, but you can't knock the organization's efforts to at least try to bring in playmakers.
Date: September 9, 2009 at 1:13 PM
Comment: Holy..... i agree with the opitimisim. Ill be the first to say that i come to these sites (and NVR 49ers.com) cuz i dont want sunshine blown up my a** and i look to hear whats really going on with the team. but with that being said, take it easy bro. There is no way this team is as bad as this article suggests. If nothing else this team is better than last years team [which shlda made the playoffs minus a FB dive on MNF (still makes me sick)] just based off addition by subtraction. Mike Nolan in my opinion is responsible for many many losses due to his inability with time managment, and hybrid type styles. He rarly had guys playin in position or the right position for that matter. i can go on all day about this guy but with him gone we are improved. same with Martz. he was nvr a great coach. He is lucky yes. his offense was perfect for what they had in STL when he was there but u take it anywhere else it sucks (9ers included). No more Roman. i think its unfair to call snyder average till he gets a full year at ONE position (back to Nolan sucking) and i cant say enuff about hill. he is like the pennington of the NFC(physically) only without any credit. This team will be better.
Date: September 9, 2009 at 11:53 AM
Comment: Dude you, just like many of my fellow 49er fans are killing me with this undying wish to go back in time to the 80/90's. GIVE IT A REST...the 80's and 90's are just what they were...THE PAST!!!! You write for this website yet you seem to have a very short memory on how this team looked 4 years ago. It was completely void of talent. There was no QB you could look at to even THINK about future plans with. There was no running game, the defense was terrible and the front office was even worse. Now while I think Nolan, however great he was at reinstilling a passion to win around these parts, did not have the overall coaching skill to take this team over the hump, Mike Singletary does. He craves stability and will get it. You also forget the really bad injuries this team has had. Lawson is now completely recovered from his ACL injury and he is finally being given the responsibilities he was drafted to be given. Haralson has finally taken off. The defensive line just might be one of the best in football against the run. The secondary hasnt been that bad, they just need consistent pressure and better help at FS. Both of those have been addressed. Ease up man. 9-7 in 2009.
Date: September 9, 2009 at 10:40 AM
Comment: If the 49ers players and coaches have your attitude then they will have a losing season. Im going to give Shaun Hill the benefit of the doubt.
By: Jersey 9er
Date: September 9, 2009 at 9:14 AM
Comment: Brotha, I want to say great article. We all should be optimistic about our season, while at the same time being realistic. An attribute that a lot of the zoners neglect to admit. I think ur analysis also goes with the pre-season. Hill as taking the reigns didn't score one pre-season td. And sheets was our best Rb. Those with objective biases continue to say pre-season meant nothing. When the league feels third game tells what it's all about. Every other teams offense excelled, while it looked like on offense we regressed. Even tho zoners hate to admit it. I do believe that our pre-season has had merit, just not in the fashion most may like. Am I being negative, because I think pre-season does have some merit. I mean I just can't say we did nothing on offense. But it don't matter cuz it doesn't count, because for all 31 other teams 3rd is statement. But out fans make excuses because or offense sucked. What do you think.
Date: September 9, 2009 at 8:23 AM
Comment: While the 49ers definitely have issues, I think the writer is overly negative. The 49ers have solid cornerbacks, and may have decent safeties (let's see how Dashon Goldson does). The author also seems to think that players never improve. For all that I have heard and seen, Snyder is a much improved player, and there is no reason not to have optimism that he can hold up at RT. Shawntae Spencer always was a pretty good corner, we just had too much depth at CB for him to get a starting job. The author does make some good points, but his attempts to force problems where they don't exist undermine his entire article. Just be fair, and you will still have plenty of reasons to doubt that the 49ers will have success this season.
Date: September 9, 2009 at 7:08 AM
Comment: You need to take a shot of Optimism. Let's just address the offense. At QB we are improved only due to the presence of Nate Davis, the QB of the future. We are obviously deep at RB, and Michael Robinson's 17 receptions for 201 yards and an 11.9 yards per catch was 3rd in the entire NFL among RBs. He is quite a weapon from the backup fullback position as a receiver. Also, Raye has some surprises ready with MRob running the Taser. The line is deeper and the addition of Tony Pashos will help greatly. It's only a matter of time before he displaces Snyder at RT. The WR position is much improved, even without the Diva. Davis and Walker are both studs at TE and a tackle can always fill in as the #3 TE in blocking situations.
By: Mike in MD
Date: September 9, 2009 at 6:44 AM
Comment: I agree with most of what you said Oscar. We don't have the horses. Think of the effect Sing would have if we had more real talent to work with. Not enough dominant or impact players IN THE KEY POSITIONS. Our drafts from 2005-08 from RD's 1-4 have yielded us 3. Gore, Willis, & Staley (our best pass protector but isn't a dominant run blocker.) Our '08 1st RD'er Balmer is still developing but he looks to be a good but not dominant player when he reaches his potential. Now we're behind the 8 ball with Crabtree still unsigned & we might lose crossing another need off the list..a potential #1 WR. There's too much "averageness" across the board on this team incl with our Assts IMO. The OC & DC..Raye is already well documented & Manusky is not very creative nor aggressive enough. He's miles away from a LeBeau, Ryan, or JJohnson type (RIP Coach.) Also I don't have much confidence in our DL Coach who's highest credentials are from NFLE. (Would've liked to snag Marinelli here.) Why are you overlooking the importance of a franchise NT? ALL the top 3-4 teams have one..PITTS, NE, SD. HE'S THE KEY TO THE 3-4. McCoy? I heard he has too weak of an arm. I want an impact QB!!
By: Corey Wong
Date: September 9, 2009 at 5:10 AM
Comment: Sad But Real Thanks for your article. Sadly, you are right in your analysis. It all boils down to talent. Does 49ers have the talent? The one thing Singletary does well is focusing 53 men to do one thing... be good at his position. The rest however rests on talent. Does the man have the talent to be bigger, faster, and better than his point man for all four quarters? Winning 50/50 of the matchups is not good enough. It's going to have to be greater than 50. And it starts at the Line (both sides). Niners don't have the line the execute. Not now.
Date: September 8, 2009 at 10:31 PM
Comment: Why do you write for the webzone. Say it will be difficult, say the team can still improve, but pleases don't label this team losers before the season even begins. The Niners won 7 games last season through a quarterback and coaching change. The Cardinals with a stable line-up, only won two more games than did the niners. Man have some hope...The division is up for grabs. Jus ask writers for the Seahawks & even the Rams.
Date: September 8, 2009 at 9:02 PM
Comment: So why don't you fly on down to Dallas and cover Jerry's boys.