Sorry in advance...this is much longer than I'd initially intended. LOL!!
1) Colin Kaepernick: What a season. It was quite a ride for #7. I personally have always liked the kid, but I have to admit that I thought he was WAY, WAY too raw to be a factor this year. I had actually started to think that Alex might be the long term answer at QB. I remember watching him in the preseason run what I was calling a "college offense" and actually was pretty annoyed because I wanted him learning the real offense, not just a package (Wow...am I a genius or what?). Early in the year when he would come in for a play or 2 are kinda started to think it was a mistake...it threw off the offenses rhythm.
There were a few times tho when he was coming in that I saw him throw a deep pass on target that made me think the kid had a future...but I still thought he was way too raw.
Then came the injury to Alex. I thought that Rams game is a game we would have won with Alex behind center. Going into the Bears game my expectation was a poor outing and lots of turnovers. The Bears D had been a turnover machine all year leading up to that game.
Instead, Kaepernick completely flipped my perception. I kinda didn't want to believe what I saw simply because I'd been fooled before (Troy Smith). I think I must have watched that game 10 or 15 times to see if I was actually seeing what I thought I was seeing. Big Arm. Accuracy DOWN THE FIELD. There were a number of passes that night that were incredible but 2 in particular stand out.
The first was the deep pass to Kyle Williams. That has to be one of the prettiest passes I've ever seen. PERFECT placement over the shoulder on a player running away from him. I just remember my eyes bugging out of my head. After a moment of stunned silence from me and after watching him convert that pass into a TD to Vernon, I just remember thinking, "wow...Alex may not get his job back". I kinda laughed it off though because I never really thought that Harbaugh would pull Alex.
The second was the TD to Crabtree. Came off the first receiver, stepped away from the rush, found Crab and delivered a strike. Like it was nothing.
Over the next 9 games he did nothing but cement my opinion that he isn't just the 49ers QB of both now and the future, he is now on the precipice of super stardom. He literally has everything you could possibly ask for in a QB. Big Arm. Speed. Size. Intelligence. Character. Nerve. He has it all. I remember when he came out I had an issue with his delivery, but it appears he's done some serious work on that because I don't even see it anymore. How the hell did this guy get picked AFTER Christian Ponder, Jake Locker, and Andy Dalton? NFL teams aren't looking for Andrew Luck anymore. They are looking for Colin Kaepernick.
I have to give a very healthy dose of the credit though to Jim Harbaugh. Not only does the guy have the guts to make a very difficult call, but he'll stick with it and he doesn't care what other people think. Additionally, I think he can turn almost anyone into a good QB. He has never failed. Josh Johnson. Andrew Luck. Alex Smith. Colin Kaepernick. He's the QB whisperer.
Now...having said all that...I offer a warning. I know what we are all thinking here. Wow...now Kaep gets a full offseason as a starter. He'll get time with his recievers and maybe get 1 or 2 shiny new weapons to play with. The experience he just got on the biggest stage can do nothing but help him next year. That is all true adn I hope all of that comes to pass...
...but it very often doesn't work out that way. Cam Newton wasn't any better in year 2. Dalton was a bit better but not astronomically (QB rating went from 80 to 87). History is littered with players who everyone THOUGHT would come in after that "full offseason" and be Superman. Colin has defied expectations at every turn, so my hope is that this will be another example of that...but don't be surprised next year if he struggles more than we think he will. It doesn't mean he's not as good as we think.
Man...I can't wait for the ride tho.
2) Alex Smith: As I have said before, I really like Alex. That dude has to have some of the thickest skin I've ever seen. He's been thrown under the bus so many times he's got tire tracks on his back. This is important tho....Jim Harbaugh didn't throw him under the bus. People will argue that, but its true. Harbaugh did what was right for the team. That is what a good coach does even when it's hard. Even when it might be unpolular...you're job as coach is to do what in the best interest of the team...not one guy who you may like personally or feel loyalty toward. To do otherwise is disloyal to every other member of the team.
Alex is a good QB. I've defended him on this site since the day he was drafted. The best thing that could ever happen to him was the hiring of Jim Harbaugh. To anyone who still has an issue with his benching should remember that Alex didn't have a future as a starting QB in the NFL before Harbaugh was hired. Most 49er fans couldn't wait to get rid of him. All this talk of the way Alex was treated needs to stop and take another look...Harbaugh gifted Alex with a continued career in the NFL. Without Harbaugh, Alex would either be toiling as a second string QB somewhere or possibly not even on an NFL roster. Now he will get a shot as a starter on another team. I have said for a long time that I think the change in Alex actually started against Philly in 2010..the "We Want Carr" game. His attitude changed that night...but I still don't think he even gets a chance if Harbaugh doesn't come in and actually PURSUE the then FA Alex Smith.
Alex has always been a better player than he was perceived to be. He needs to get comfortable with a system before he can thrive and the rotating OCs never gave him that chance to get comfortable. We all know the story. He has always been a cautious QB...sometimes to a fault. He has also always been willing to work his a$$ off to become a better player which is why his QB rating has improved every season in the league.
As for how he gets to that new team....I just dunno. I'd like to believe he's worth a high round draft pick, but with his contract situation and the perceived "game manager" label on him, I just don't know. There is also the fact that many teams may attribute his success to Jim Harbaugh...which may be fair. Any way you look at it though, I think he's strapped on that gold helmet for the last time. It does make me a litte sad.
3) Frank Gore: Man...of all the players that I wanted to get that ring, Frank Gore was at the top of the list. He has been the heart and soul of this team for years...and his clock is ticking. I keep expecting his game to fall off and for him to show that his age and injuries are finally getting to him...and then he just has another great season. I just don't know how long that can last. Obviously I want to see the 49ers win it every year...but I really, really want to see them get one while Frank is still on the roster. That may only be 1 or 2 more years...but then again he always seems to be better than I thought he'd be.
We do need to start thinking about the future though. I really like Hunter and James, but I think they may need to pick another guy...maybe a guy who wouldn't play this year anyway and could be had for a late round pick....like say...Marcus Lattimore? Just a thought.
4) Big Name Aquisition: This is another one where I'm having trouble figuring out what might happen. All of my instincts tell me that the 49ers wouldn't be a big player for say a Revis or a Harvin. They value their picks too much and they aren't a "break the bank" big spending team in FA. Then again, I said the exact same thing last year about Manning. The 49ers also have 14 picks and might have more if they can trade Alex. They don't have 14 open spots on their roster.
I've been on some Jets forums and they are banking on a team like the 49ers who are just "one player away" being willing to make a move on a player like Revis. I just don't know if I buy it. I understand they thought process...you are so close to a title so why not take a shot at a great player who could push you over the top? My problem with that is that Baalke just doesn't seem to operate that way. They are all about picking up the bargains at the end of Free Agency...not about spending huge on one of the big name players.
I guess I can sum it up by saying I'd be surprised if they made a move on a guy like Revis or Harvin (or Jennings or Wallace for that matter), but I wouldn't be stunned.
5) 49ers Free Agents: Shocker....I'm torn here too. I've made no secred of the fact that I'm not a huge fan of Dashon Goldson. He was having a very good season though....through 13 games. Then the Pass D fell apart. Some of that is the Smith brothers getting hurt, but I honestly think that the Smiths were just masking a problem in the secondary that was already there. I can't remember the last time i saw Dashon make a great play in pass defense. Whitner is probably a bigger problem in pass coverage than Goldson, but Whitner is already under contract and isn't looking for huge $$$ in Free Agency. The issue here isn't that I don't like Goldson or that I think HE is our problem. My problem with him is that he's going to cost alot of money for a guy who wasn't a part of the solution to that problem when it really counted. SOMETHING needs to happen in the secondary...I just dunno if you start with big $$$ for a guy who hasn't been great in coverage.
As much as he has dropped the ball and frustrated me, I am not ready to say goodbye to Delanie Walker. He has his fingerprints on so many different aspects of the game that I think most of us undervalue his contribution. I really got a sense of that watching the Super Bowl again. One Franks TD run Delanie got out there and made a CRUSHING block on Ed Reed. What was most impressive about it was that I dunno how many TEs would have had the speed or the athleticism to even get out there to be in position to make the block. Then he had an absoloutely crushing tackle on a kickoff return later in the game. His hands big me...no doubt....but he's getting open. Alot. I dunno if we really want to replace him with a more traditional lumbering giant of a TE when he offers so much. I hope they are able to bring him back.
I think Randy is done in SF...and maybe for good. He was a good player to have out there for the young guys, but he just doesn't have it anymore. With Williams and Manningham coming off injuries and Jenkins not contributing, I'd expect a few more players coming in at this position in the offseason. BTW, Teddy Ginn is a goner. Useless as a WR and wasn't any good on returns.
6) 2012 Rookies: I was happy to see that AJ Jenkins got the point and that he's already at work getting ready for next season. The kid has speed and great hands which are exactly what the team needs. I'm not counting on him, but my hope is that he comes in next year and surprises us. LMJ howed late in the season why he was taken in the second round. He'll be a contributor next year. I think Joe Looney will be much more of a factor next year and will probably cost Leanoard Davis his job. Looney was hurt when he was selected so this full offseason adn camp will work wonders. The 49ers will also benefit from getting Darius Fleming back to provide depth at OLB and we will probably see alot more of Trenton Robinson on ST.
There were alot of complaints about the lack of production from this class but I think we'll be seeing a number of them contribute next year.
7) Akers: I like the guy, but it's time to move on. I don't know whats out there in Free Agency, but my guess is that one of those 14 draft picks will be a kicker. A big reason for that is the salary. There is no way they can pay Akers 3 Mil when they can get a rookie kicker for near league minimum. Do you risk a guy who isn't ready for primetime? Of course...but there were a number of games this year that we tied/lost on the guy we are paying 3 mil.
8) The return of injured players: None of these guys can really be counted on, but I love that they are all coming back. Hunter, Williams, and Manningham. Outside of Justin and Aldon (tho he didn't miss a game, he was hurt), Kedall Hunter ws the most impactful injury of the season. James came in and played well, but it took several weeks to get him going and he wasn't as effective as Hunter had been. Getting him back is huge. I dunno tho how much of an effect the Achilles will have on his game.
Williams was playing really well and is just the sort of quick, fast player that can excel with Kaep at QB. I just home he's able to keep that quickness after the ACL. Manningham seemed to be a big part of things early on....and I like him...but he isn't the burner I thought he'd be.
9) Coordinators return: One big bonus of playing as long as the Niners did was that all of the plum jobs were taken. Roman and Fangio will return. I know a number of you don't like Roman but I think he's the best coordinator we've had in a long, long time. I'm glad we'll get at least one more stab at this thing with the coaching staff intact.
10) Reality: The reality is just now really setting in. The Niners recod is 0-0. They have to climb that hill all over again. It doesn't matter how close they were to the prize, nothing is owed to them for being this good this year. Kaepernick won't sneak up on anyone. The Pistol will be expected. The Packers, Falcons, Seahawks, and several other teams will probably be better and have a score to settle.
So....here we go again....
[ Edited by Marvin49 on Feb 15, 2013 at 8:07 AM ]