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The Lions and Rams Games: Foundation Games for the 2010 Season

The Niners are on the cusp of a .500 season, which would be a major step forward for an organization parked in a near complete decade of losing seasons. The Niners should be heavily favored to defeat the Lions (the line is at 12 points this week...41.5 over-under...bet the over) and the Rams. Although winning is the highest priority for these two games (could you imagine the bloodletting if we lose either game), there is even more at stake for building a possible playoff run in 2010. There are many questions unanswered about the direction of the team, and a lot of guys will be playing for a paycheck next season.

First, the team needs to establish the direction it wants to take offensively. In 2009, we have seen a schizophrenic offensive pattern. We played "smashmouth" football (whatever that means) under Shaun Hill and a Crabtree-less team for the first collection of games, and looked pathetic. Then, we moved to the Alex Smith/Michael Crabtree/shotgun/spread offense style for about 6 more weeks. But, we almost completely ignored Gore. Now, the team is beginning to show a tad more balance running and throwing the ball, focusing more attention on Gore and the running game. So, as the curtain falls in 2009, the team needs to establish what direction we want to head in 2010. Will we run and gun, run the ball down people's throats, play tight to the LOS, spread the field, etc.? This team needs to figure out an offensive philosophy now that the major players (Smith/Gore/Crabtree/Gore) are firmly in place. And, the final two games allows a real opportunity, in game conditions, to help solidify the path we will take next season.

Second, the final two games will allow us to make a final evaluation in player personnel matters. Starting with the DL, how much of a value do we want to assign Aubreyo Franklin? Is he worth the franchise tag, which is currently at $6 million/year? Is Franklin the $6 million man? I'm sure the board will be split on this issue. If not, who comes in to play the position? Do we slide Soap or Balmer into that role, and could either play at Franklin's level? Is Franklin playing at a high level the past year and a half because of an upcoming large payday, and could his play slide after the armored car drops off a large stack of money at his house?

At linebacker, does the team think the Lawson, Haralson, Brooks combo is good enough, better yet, consistent enough week-to-week, to handle the starting role in 2010? I think the jury is still out on this one for most people.

In the secondary, three of the four starting jobs seem on shaky ground. Outside of Spencer, who has been tremendous, there are serious question marks. Does the team have enough confidence in Clements to let him retake his former starting job, at his current contracted amount, and what will the team do with Bly and Brown? At free safety, Goldson hits hard, but has given up a ton of big plays as the deep man on defense. Is he a player the team trusts to start at FS or SS? And, is Michael Lewis playing his final games as a 49er due to the numerous concussions he suffered in 2009? He is a tackling machine, but does the team think he is a liability in coverage?

On the offensive line, the biggest question mark revolves around David Baas. Will Baas prove that he is worthy of keeping as a starter on the OL? He needs to play lights out in the final two games to be considered the starter going into 2010, and even that might not be enough. The Niners may simply let him slide away in free agency, so Baas is going to have to scrap to remain with the team.

Finally, will any of the "lost souls of 2009" come back from the dead? Will any of these guys make a claim for any more playing time in 2010: Jason Hill, Brandon Jones, Glen Coffee. All seem lost in the shuffle, and are nearing the point of being completely interchangeable in value with undrafted free agents, and Arena League stars. Jones, in particular, is signed through the year 2037, or somewhere close, and has made less of an impact than towelboy on the sidelines. He might want to practice hard this week.

So, while we all celebrate the team to victory the next two weeks (hopefully, I haven't completely jinxed the team), beyond the win is the larger picture of where this team is headed in 2010, as they ride off into the offseason. I'm looking just as much for answers as "W's".

Cheers.
[ Edited by MadDog49er on Dec 23, 2009 at 12:52 PM ]
Wow...this post doesnt contain any negativity...I'm shocked...
Well if we're not making the playoffs then I'll settle for 8-8, but this whole missing the playoffs business has to come to an end.
Good summary. The other issue is coaches. My primary concerns are for the Oline coach and the receivers coach. I don't think either of these two positions has been shown to be productive of growth and development of the players assigned to them. I am also concerned about two other issues: the first is the communication between the OC and the QB. How does that get speeded up and efficient? Secondly, the quality and awareness of the defenseive staff to get people on and off the field in a timely manner and the quality of repeated mistakes in the backfield? These are issues I would like to see cleaned up in these last two games and in preparation for the 010 season.

Finally I would like to see the Niners function like an efficient team against inferior opponents. I would like to see a high level of play, consistent effort, well thought out, and play like they know what they are doing, and play to win. I would like to see them play like they were playing the Cardinals. I would also like to see two wins. I believe that we are fully capapble of losing either or both of these two games if we do not play well.
[ Edited by Ninefan56 on Dec 23, 2009 at 1:04 PM ]
  • Otter
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I think this is a great post and you've hit the nail on the head. Finally a forward looking post that doesn't revolve solely around Alex Smith.
  • BobS
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How is 8-8 a major step forward from 7-9? They beat 2 teams with a winning record.
The offense ranks 28th in yardage the defense 19th. If major changes are not made 8-8 will be considered a good year.
everyone is assuming we are going to beat the lions and the Rams ! funny they have to play the games ! that 's all i have to say ! we were supposed to beat Seattle ! and the tennesseeeeeeeeeeee remember !
good stuff i'm always excited moving into the offseason
Originally posted by Byisgod:
Wow...this post doesnt contain any negativity...I'm shocked...

man MD, you can really shoot the s**t can't you
Great post MadDog! I also believe we need to find out what direction this offense is going is very huge for this football team.
Originally posted by BobS:
How is 8-8 a major step forward from 7-9? They beat 2 teams with a winning record.
The offense ranks 28th in yardage the defense 19th. If major changes are not made 8-8 will be considered a good year.

Although the difference in wins would be only one game from 2008, leaving the consecutive streak of losing seasons, and being within a game or two of the playoffs is a major move forward.

I agree that this team still is inadequate. The offense needs stability, and the defense needs to work on pass defense...badly. But, the team is not far away.
Originally posted by cNiner:
everyone is assuming we are going to beat the lions and the Rams ! funny they have to play the games ! that 's all i have to say ! we were supposed to beat Seattle ! and the tennesseeeeeeeeeeee remember !

I'm more concerned about the road game with the Rams. This week should be a fairly easy win at home, against the Lions.
Originally posted by Ninefan56:
Good summary. The other issue is coaches. My primary concerns are for the Oline coach and the receivers coach. I don't think either of these two positions has been shown to be productive of growth and development of the players assigned to them. I am also concerned about two other issues: the first is the communication between the OC and the QB. How does that get speeded up and efficient? Secondly, the quality and awareness of the defenseive staff to get people on and off the field in a timely manner and the quality of repeated mistakes in the backfield? These are issues I would like to see cleaned up in these last two games and in preparation for the 010 season.

Finally I would like to see the Niners function like an efficient team against inferior opponents. I would like to see a high level of play, consistent effort, well thought out, and play like they know what they are doing, and play to win. I would like to see them play like they were playing the Cardinals. I would also like to see two wins. I believe that we are fully capapble of losing either or both of these two games if we do not play well.

The OL and WR coaches are a concern. I simply think the Niners are going to try to keep as much continuity going into 2010 as possible, and only make minor changes (RT and maybe LG).
@ this post.

Look at who our 8 wins would be against. 5 divisional opponents, the lions, Jaguars and Bears, oh my. I will give you however that against better teams we've played a whole lot stronger.


However, for me it already feels like the season is over. I dont feel we can learn anything from these last two games. Now matter how well we play you can always chalk it up to, "well it's just the Lions or Rams." If I remember correctly we blanked the Rams earlier in the season and ultimately what did that mean? It would be pretty hard to follow that act up.

I would much rather go 6 and 10 by playing top quality competion the last two games because at least then we could really measure ourselves. As far as I'm concerned anything we do the rest of the season is meaningless except VD breaking the TD record and Gore getting his 1000 yards.

And please dont let us lose either of these games, because that will make for a really s**tty off season.

I'm already looking towards the draft. I can't wait to read your input.
[ Edited by Oakland-Niner on Dec 23, 2009 at 1:51 PM ]