Lets take a look at the leadership change of 2008 when Mike Singletary took over. His record as interim coach is 5-4, but what is amazing is that he won 5 of the last 7 games and could have won 6 of the last 7 if it wasn't for that MNF game against the Cards that Mike Martz screwed up on the goal line with that wack play and seconds left on the clock. With that said, if Singletary started the season as HC, we could have had 10 wins or more.
Singletary went to a pure 3-4 D instead of that 3-4, 4-3 hybrid Mike Nolan had in place. Down the stretch, the 49ers D came to life and did a damn fine job. That will continue and get better because Singletary is going to move players around to have them play to their strengths instead of adjusting and playing with their weeknesses.
Singletary wants to have a run first offense, like we have should have done from the beginning. We have Frank Gore and he has been underutilized to his strengths. With Glenn Coffee and Kory Sheets, the 49ers could dominate in this area.
The offensive line will also be shifted around, but I am concerned about OT. Marvel Smith is a good option we picked up in FA, but his back injuries are a concern. Will he hold up all season?
Shaun Hill is very underrated as a QB. Maybe he doesn't have the arm for the long toss, but he comands leadership and has the trust of his team. Even when things don't work out at first, he still doesn't lose concentration on what needs to be done. He has had a few come from befind wins and turns it up when the game is on the line. He is accurate, not afraid to take chances, has a quick release, and has an above average completion percentage. He has a better QB rating and completion percentage than other QBs such as Jay Cutler, Donovan McNabb, Kerry Collins, Ben Roethlisberger, Eli Manning, etc. Not only did he do this, but he did it with far less protection from the O-line. In a run first offense, he should do better than he ever has.
The WR corp is much upgraded. Josh Morgan and Jason Hill turned it up at the end of the season when they became starters. Isaac Bruce is not a player I am counting on, but Michael Crabtree will be the biggest factor in keeping the opposing D from stuffing the line and help open the running game.
For the first time in so long, the players finally have a coach who has the ultimate passion to win. Singletary will motivate this team of players that seemed to be in limbo. They are conditioning better, the confidence is up, and are playing like a team. It was very noticeable when I saw Vernon Davis make a complete turnaround at the end of 2008.
So you see there are a lot of things going on for the 49ers that most are dismissing and not factoring into 2009. The 49ers are my dark horse sleeper in the upcoming season. Many will underestimate them only because of the last 6 seasons. Look what the Falcons and Dolphins did in 2008. This could easily be just like that and I welcome the skeptics.
I am very optimistic about the 49ers walking into 2009. I haven't felt this confident and sure of them in a while. They are really setting themselves to succeed in the future. Despite not getting a strong pass rusher or OT in the draft, I loved the fact that they made the draft trade with the Panthers for their 1st round draft pick in the 2010 draft (Panthers have probably the hardest schedule). 2010 is estimated to have a much stronger draft class than 2009. We could easily get that pass rusher and franchise QB in the first round.
I estimate a record of 10-6 or 11-5 and 1st in the NFC West.