1) Kaepernick: I always start with the QB. I am very happy with the approach he's taken in the off-season in terms of working his a$$ off and taking only a week off. I am pleased to see him say that he has alot to learn and that he's really working at his craft. He is taking this all seriously and he was already the first guy in and the last guy out.
To be honest tho, I could do without the Dolphins hat thing, but I don't really care that much. It was just a young player mistake (and the mistake wasn't wearing the hat...the mistake is not understanding what the reaction would be), but it was indicative of a larger "problem" (I hesitate to use that word, because I don't think it's that big a deal). Watching his post-game interviews last year showed me that he is simply not that comfortable yet with all of the attention. He doesn't yet know how to handle himself in every situation off the field. Seeing his responses after the Seattle game and after the Super Bowl make it abundantly clear. He doesn't yet understand his own celebrity or how every word, post, or picture will be blown way out of proportion. I watched the video of the ESPN: The Bodies photo shoot and he talks about it in that video. This is all still very new to him.
This won't always be the case. At some point, he's going to be far better at all of this than he is now. Do I wish he were better at it right now? Yes. I would love it if he had walked out of College Football speaking to the media like Peyton Manning. I won't crucify the kid about it though. He'll learn.
Kaep walked out of Nevada every bit as raw off the field as he was on. He has dramatically molded his on the field abilities and he'll do the same off the field. Something tells me he's gonna be on TV. Alot.
2) Draft: I absolutely LOVED the draft. ;-) Now I know we are all prone to really like the picks or team makes and wishing for the best quickly turns to EXPECTING the best which turns to ASSUMING the best. Almost every conversation I have about a draft class on another teams site assumes that their draft class will be one of the best ever. We are no different here. Having said that tho, I can't recall a draft that I enjoyed quite as much as I enjoyed watching this one. I liked Cyprien more than I liked Reid, but that was one of the very few "complaints" I would have. I trust Baalke far more than I trust myself tho. Carradine? Lattimore? Genius. McDonald? Patton? Great picks in need areas. Who knows yet if these picks will work out, but at this point I love this draft class.
3) Crabtree: Ouch. That smarts. Crab was really turning a corner at the end of the year. He was primed to become the player we all thought he could be the day he was drafted. Four 100 yard games in his entire career before the QB switch. FIVE in only 10 games with Kaep including 172 vs the Cards. 2 of those were in the playoffs. My hope is that he can get back at something close to full strength for a playoff run, but more importantly for next year....his last year under contract in SF. I really like Boldin and I think he'll be a big help in filling the void, but he is a different kind of player than Crabtree is. Maybe long term this will be a benefit akin to when Brett Favre lost Sterling Sharpe. I dunno tho...we'll just have to see.
We also need Jenkins or Patton to really step up. Something about Patton tho....something tells me that he's gonna do something this year. I can't put my finger on it....but something is telling me he might just be the guy. Something about the way he runs. Something about his confidence. Something about how eager he was to get started.
4) Free Agency: Its no secret to anyone who has read my posts for the past few years that I was never a huge fan of Dashon Goldson. I do recognize tho that he was a very good player...just not as great as some thought him to be. I think losing Justin and Aldon getting hurt late really exposed both him and Whitner as average coverage safeties. Goldson was fantastic in run support and would hit with the best of them...but as soon as that pass rush slowed down, the Pass D fell apart. Reid strikes me as similar to Goldson in many ways. My hope is that he can develop into a superior coverage player.
I was a fan of Delanie Walker though...drops and all. I wish he could hang onto the ball better, but I really respected Delanie's overall game and all that he contributed to the offense as a "joker" type player. Walkers numbers also spiked when Kaep became the starter. I really like the McDonald pick, but he's not Delanie Walker. McDonald is much more of a classic TE and doesn't have the speed or vertical presence that Walker did. I dunno how this is all going to work yet, but I hope McDonald is able to fill that void. I have my doubts tho.
Sopoaga, RJF? Not a big loss to me. Both underperformed all year. RJF in particular really seemed to regress this year. Part of losing Justin Smith wasn't just that he wasn't in the game....it was the astronomocal difference between Justin and RJF that became very obvious. That's one of the reason I really liked the Carradine pick. Replacing Sopoaga with Dorsey is to me an upgrade. None of us are expecting Dorsey to be the guy he was at LSU (or the guy people THOUGHT he was at LSU). but he really doesn't need to be. All he needs to do is clog up the run.
Nnamdi? I have no idea what to expect from him. I have the exact same expectation that he might come in and be a Pro Bowl caliber corner as I do that he might not even make the team. I just don't know what to make of what happened to him in Philly.
5) The Pistol/Read Option: So much has been made of the Pistol formation and the Read/Option. My personal opinion is that teams are going to get better at defending the Read Option but that it's not going anywhere. I wouldn't be surprised tho if the 49ers run it only 2 or 3 times vs GB in game 1. The Pistol tho I can see as something we are going to see ALOT of. The formation just allows for so many different variations of plays. Kaep has been running the formation longer than anyone since he went to Nevada with Chris Ault.
Options, play action, passing, power runs....I expect to see it all out of the Pistol this year.
6) The NFC West: SOOOOOOO much has been made of the "power" of the NFC West. I'm not going to go so far as to predict it, but stuff seldom turns out exactly as people expect. I'm thinking the NFC West may not live up to the billing the way so many "experts" expect.
Will Seattle be good? Very likely. Do I see them taking that next step and becoming the best team in the NFL? I don't think so. Why? Two things....#1) Schedule. They have a tough one. #2) They won't be sneaking up on anyone this year. They will be getting everyone's best game every single week. The Niners saw a little of that last year. Things just don't always turn out the way people think. Don't get me wrong now...I think Seattle is a damn good team and has talent all over the roster...but things just have a way of turning out differently than you expect. I really can't wait for week 2.
I suppose the same can be said of the 49ers...that things don't turn out as you thought....but one thing gives me alot of confidence....the team the 49ers fielded last year was FAR different than the one they fielded in 2011...yet they still got further. No longer could they count solely on Special Teams and Defense. They adapted. I expect the same this year.
I don't buy into the Rams. So much is made of their record within the division, but their record outside it was horrible. What's more, three of the architects of the Rams fiascoes last year are now on different teams...Steven Jackson, Danny Amendola, and David Akers. Kaep was also a contributor to some of those woes and he is NOT the same player he was in those games.
Believe it or not, the Cards worry me a bit. I think getting Palmer in Arians offense might be a really good combination...particularly with Fitz. We;ll just have to see if they can keep Palmer upright. That D ain't bad either.
7) Coaching: Despite what people in the Pacific Northwest think, I honestly believe we are lucky enough to have one of if not THE best coaching staff in the NFL. I love the fact that so many fans and media just don't understand the guy. They see him as arrogant and selfish and simply don't enderstand what he's doing. The guy will ALWAYS deflect praise to his players or other coaches. He will ALWAYS take blame onto himself. He will spark controversy with the media just so that they will have issue with HIM, and not his team. He plays the media and fans of other teams like a violin. Where did he learn that? Two people...Bill Walsh and Mike Ditka. Now Mike had a temper on him that got in his way, but he knew how to work the media. He made his mistakes for sure, but Harbaugh idolized Ditka. It shows. Bill Walsh was far more subtle, but probably among the best I've seen. No matter how good his team got, he was able to spin a "me against the world" attitude in his players. Even when they were clearly the best team in the NFL, he'd tell his team that "they WANT you to lose. They want to tear you down".
Harbaugh is a bit of a child of those two strategies. He took some of Bills strategic genius and some of Ditkas blustery fire. When I hear how he's a "douche", or an "A-Hole", it just cracks me up. Most of those people don't get it. It's not their fault tho because some of our own Bay Area media don't get it either...cough...Lowell and Grant Cohen...cough. Harbaugh is playing a game with them and they just don't see it.
It goes far beyond Harbaugh tho. Mark Roman is the most innovative OC we've had in a long time. Vic Fangio is a great DC. Ed Donatell. Tom Rathman. Jim Tomsula. The list goes on and on. This is part of why I love this draft so much. I know that Reid will be coached by Donatell. I know that Tank Carridine will be coached by Jim Tomsula. I know that Marcus Lattimore will get coached by Tom Rathman. Can you think of anyone better?
8) The Future: There is a notion out there that the 49ers are getting older...that their Window might be "closing". That really makes me laugh. ALOT of that comes from wishful thinking from the Pacific Northwest. Frank Gore is in fact getting up there. So is Justin Smith. However, the 49ers made ELEVEN selections in the draft this year. They already have 10 selections NEXT year and possibly another as a compensatory pick for Goldson. SIX of those picks are likely in the first 3 rounds.
There are no less than THREE very promising candidates to fill in for Gore when he's gone. Justin just re-upped for another 2 years and they have already begun looking for his eventual replacement (Carradine for one). This team isn't going anywhere for a long time. They have a very young nucleus of players (Kaep, V. Davis, Iupati, A. Davis, Staley, Boone, Willis, Bowman, Brooks, Aldon) who are going to be here for quite some time. Crab could be resigned as well. This doesn't even take any of the rookies into account. The future is bright in SF no matter what the upstart in Seattle wants to think.
9) History not on our side: The history of teams that lost the Super Bowl isn't kind. The last team to win it after losing the prior year was Miami in 1972. They were also famous for something else. Strangely enough tho, the team that did it before them was Dallas...and THEY did it in 1971 after losing in 1970. Here's the thing tho and it can't be ignored...at some point everything that has ever happened had never happened before. IE, nobody had ever gone undefeated till the '72 Dolphins. Nobody had thrown TDs in as many consecutive games till Drew Brees did last year. No TE had scored as many TDs in a season till Gronk did.
The point is that history only tells us what has happened before, not what can or WILL happen. No matter what the history books say, the 49ers have as good a shot or better than anyone in the NFL.
10) Last year at the 'stick: She's an old girl. She was never that pretty to begin with....but she's our girl. As excited as I am about the new stadium, I'm gonna miss her. I'm probably going to try to make it to as many games as possible this year...just to say goodbye.
SOOO much history in that building. So much of my childhood, teens and above were spent on Sundays looking at that familiar green turf.
I am so happy that she got to see meaningful playoff games again before she was finished....The New Orleans and GB games in particular will always stand out to me. There is just one more thing left to do.....and that's win her a 6th Lombardi.
[ Edited by Marvin49 on Jul 9, 2013 at 4:47 PM ]