...but first a few things about the season just gone by...
Ever since the end of the Super Bowl last year, there was something nagging at me. I never gave it a voice because I didn't really want to validate it, but it was there nonetheless.
2013 wasn't our year. It started for me with the records of teams that lose a Super Bowl. It was made worse by the realization that no team had won a Super Bowl after losing one in over 40 years. A Super Bowl held in the cold of New York (although that seems to be the most overthought story ever). Crab ripping up his Achilles did nothing to remove that nagging feeling. Aldons DUI. Vernon getting hurt. Willis getting hurt. Iupati getting hurt. The Ahmad Brooks Personal Foul. No team had ever won back to back ROAD NFCCG's. No team had EVER won 4 straight road games. It just seemed like one thing after another. The fates just didn't seem to want it to happen.
Add to that Seattles stubborn refusal to lose games they seemed destined to lose. Houston. St. Louis. Tampa Bay. Taking nothing away from Seattle for winning those games, but we were all just swearing at the TV as either the team they were playing self destructed at the end or Seattle put up a fantastic defensive stand. Bottom Line?
Not. Our. Year.
DESPITE all that, there our boys were just one pass away from another shot at a Lombardi.
Ya know what tho? All that crap is gone now. No "year after" stuff.
So...on to thoughts about next year.
1) Kaepernick: Kap clearly didn't have the season we had hoped he'd have this year. The reasons for that are multiple. First, he didn't have his favorite receiver for most of the season. That was HUGE and you could really see when Crab came back how different Kap was. Second, he always seemed to lose Vernon when they could least afford to lose him. That left Kap with a bunch of substandard players, rookies, and a double or triple covered Anquan Boldin. Third, there were times that the play-calling really didn't help him. He was often in a bad situation and was asked to do something he just wasn't ready to do. I have a higher opinion of Roman than many on this site do and I defend him all the time, but I have to admit there were some real head scratchers at times this year.
Finally, and most importantly, Kap just wasn't as polished a passer as we all thought or hoped. He had some issues with his receivers and play-calling, but he himself is certainly not off the hook by any stretch. The good news to me though is that he seems to know this and will work his a$$ off to improve. For all the media BS about his clothes, or his comments about Sherman or whatever, he's a good kid. He's bright. He's off the charts physically talented. He doesn't rattle regardless of what fans in Seattle might think (and BTW, can we give Kap a break now for the NFCCG after seeing how a guy who threw 55 TDs in the regular season did against them?). There are times that his youth really shows...especially when he's interviewed...but his future is BRIGHT.
2) Draft: God I love the draft. I love it even more when we have 12 picks. Even more because 6 of them are in the first 3 rounds. To put it in perspective, Seattle has 2. The NFL Draft is like Christmas for me. The only part that sucks is that you often don't get to open up your gifts until August. Obviously WR and CB have to be high on the list. I'd also expect a RB (Andre Williams is my draft crush), and even a QB. I'm just mad I have to wait till May now for one of my favorite events of the year.
3) Marcus Lattimore: MAN I can't wait to see this kid play. Who knows if he can be what he was before the injuries. Who knows that he would even be a great player had he NEVER been hurt. I just can't wait to see him TRY. The attitude and work ethic just make me pull for the guy. The fact that he was a stud in the SEC just makes me want to see him more. I don't know how much longer Frank can play, but I suspect it's not much longer (more on that later), but Lattimore seems to have a number of attributes that made Frank great. He will never give up no matter what happens. He has excellent vision. He can get low and drive a pile. I am just really pulling for the kid.
4) Tank Carradine: I am really looking forward to finally seeing him, but I'd be lying if I said I had no concerns about him. It worries me a bit that they activated him, saw him practice, and then deactivated him. It could be that his knee will never be the same. It could be that he was just overrated. It could be that he's a slow learner. It could be that he simply isn't suited to play 3-4 end. It could also be that he was just too far behind with no training camp. It could be that they felt they didn't need to push him with Dobbs and Jerod-Eddie playing well. Who knows...it could be a combination of some of those factors. What I do know is that I'd like to see him play and see if he can be an eventual replacement for Justin. He seems to have all the athletic ability you could ask for and has a great motor. We'll just have to see.
5) Frank: I say this every year, but Frank isn't getting any younger. He had a good season, but we just can't count on him holding off father time...especially when the run game is SOOOO vital to this teams success. It just isn't smart to put all your eggs into a 31 year old RBs baskett. Lattimore will be interesting, but they need to supplimant in the draft as well. As I said before, I love Andre Williams and he might be able to be had for a day 2 or day 3 pick. Dixon will be gone and I have a sneaking suspicion that either Hunter or LMJ will be as well. If I'm betting, it'll be Hunter only because he has only a year left on his contract and they might be able to get a future draft pick for him. LMJ still has 2 years on his rookie deal. I think they know that neither of those guys will be "the guy" when Frank leaves.
6) Navorro: I think Navorro will be back to being the same rolling ball of butcher knives that he was before. I think it will be toward the end of next season though. The 49ers have no reason to rush this. Thats the really nice thing about having TWO All-Pro middle linebackers and 4 LBs capable of making the Pro Bowl. In addition to that, I really like what I saw from Michael Wilhoite when he played for Willis this year. My guess is that Wilhoite, Moody, or Skuta will probably get first crack to play at least the first 6 weeks of the season as the 49ers give Bowman the first 6 weeks to recover and take it week to week thereafter.
7) Crabtree: I can't stress enough how impressed I am with Crab that he tore his achilles in May, worked like a madman, and came back DURING THE REGULAR SEASON. That's just crazy. Moreover, he was effective. There is no way in hell he was 100% out there yet when I watch him play I have real trouble figuring out which leg he injured. Now he'll have the offseason to get that leg just right. I can't wait to see him in week 1 this year. Just hopin' #81, his buddy in crime, will be there with him.
8) Patton: I can't put my finger on it. I can't quite explain exactly why I feel this, but I think this guy is going to be HUGE. He lost most of this season to injuries. He's not real fast and he's not real big, but he's got something. He played so seldom this year that I really don't have any argument to present as "proof" of that, but there is just something about him that makes me think he's going to be something in this league. I love the fact that's he'll be training with Kap in Miami and I like even more that Kap INFORMED him. He didn't ask. LOL. I think Kap may see it too...and I am much happier seeing Kap pal around the offseason with Patton than I was last year with Lockette.
9) Aldon: When Aldon came back, he was a man possessed. I don't know if it was that he was just fresh from not playing? Perhaps not drinking showed you how much better he was than he had been? Perhaps he was motivated to prove a point? Who knows. He faced countless double and triple teams and teams couldn't run at him or eliminate him fro the pass rush. He still has his DUI hanging over him but I think there is a real possibility he faces no suspension because he voluntarily left the team for 5 weeks. As Goodell said when asked last year, they will "absolutely" take into account the fact that he went into treatment. He said that the goal was not to punish players but to change the behavior. Going to treatment and missing 5 games just might eliminate the suspension.
Despite constant double and triple teams, Aldon still produced 12 sacks in 12 starts last year (including playoffs and excluding the first 2 games back where he hardly played). All we can hope is that he can keep himself out of trouble this offseason and comes into next season motivated to break the Single Season sack record.
10) Seattle: Well, they got themselves a ring. It sucks. There is a bit of a silver lining though. The pricetag of a number of their free agents may have just gone way up. There will be players now who got their ring and are less likely to stay "just to get the ring". The downside is that there will me more vet players in free agency who will choose to play for them because THEY don't have a ring. The nature of this league is that when you play well it is almost impossible to keep your team together. Seattle is one of the youngest teams in the league and has ALOT of talented players still playing on rookie contracts. That won't last forever. The common thought is that they are soooo young so they could be on top for a really, really long time. That may be true, but the problem with that reasoning is that no matter how young they are, there will be a time where they simply have to pay the big guys and can't afford the players that are very good and can't fit under the cap.
They have gotten good on the strength of superior drafting, so perhaps they can replenish from the draft just as the 49ers did last year and will do again this year...but the difference right now is firepower...IE, the number of picks to replace the guys you will lose when those sweet rookie deals expire.
Don't get me wrong though. I'm not saying Seattle will fall apart or something. They will be a thorn in our side for a long, long time. They aren't going anywhere anytime soon. All I'm saying is that there is a smal (very small) silver lining.
MAN!! I am pumped for next year!!
All that stuff about why the SHOULDN'T have won last year? All gone...and this upcoming Super Bowl will be Super Bowl 49. I mean seriously....how can we NOT make a run for Super Bowl 49? LOL.
[ Edited by Marvin49 on Feb 3, 2014 at 11:26 AM ]