LISTEN: The 49ers' Secret Weapon On Defense →

Two or Three Things about the 49ers’ Off-Season

Jul 6, 2013 at 7:07 AM


The 49ers identify their own weaknesses, and attack them.

Going into the off-season, many perceptive Niner-watchers focused on three areas of roster need: pass defense, special teams, and free agency losses. The 49ers, after the smoke screens cleared, addressed each of these perceived needs.

First, they have replaced the main free-agency losses almost one-for-one with early draft picks and free-agent signings of their own: Dorsey replaces Sopoaga, Reid replaces Goldson, and McDonald replaces Walker. These new additions may or may not play as well as the departed initially, nor will their assignments necessarily coincide, but the rookies have the advantage of youth, and their differing skill sets will tweak their respective positions, perhaps, for 49er fans, pleasingly. Meanwhile, we can also hope that Quinton Dial or one of last year's holdover defensive linemen or the Downton Abbey refugee with Olympian athleticism can replace Ricky Jean Francois.

Second, the Niners' brass obviously noticed, possibly even fretted over, the decline in the 2012 season's special teams play. They will have a different placekicker this year. Additionally, they have added talent by every means possible to bolster coverage and return units. Players such as Skuta, Dahl, Moody, Cooper, and others will serve not just as backups, but will be expected to jolt the special teams. Further, LaMichael James, not exactly a back-of-the-roster player, has been working on his return skills, along with legions of the usual suspects.

Third, regarding improving the pass defense, the 49ers, for now, appear to come down on the chicken-or-the-egg pass-rush-versus-coverage debate slightly on the side of pass-rush importance. While awaiting the injury recoveries of the Smiths and Cam Johnson, they also drafted two potential pass-rush rotation (and future starting?) players, Carradine and Lemonier, in the early rounds. Of course, many 49er fans wish the team had done more to strengthen the secondary coverage. We shall see. Asomugha may prove better than expected, or one of the long-shot youngsters, or last year's reserves, may burst out as a shut-down demon.

In a perfect world, the Niners might have addressed all their needs perfectly, and nitpicking will always thrive within the brash light of hindsight. But, for now, give the 49ers credit. They addressed roster needs as they saw them. They did not pussyfoot. They pounced. Other challenges, such as the Crabtree injury, will come along. But the team has assembled enough talent so that future such surprises should not leave them completely bereft. And, rest assured, this bunch will continue to tinker with their roster year-around.

A team-first attitude applies not only to the players, but to the coaches.

Did certain other teams out-coach the Niners last season? The 49ers' staff works hard and usually has the team primed to play well every game. On the sideline, the head man and his assistants display enthusiasm, alertness, and a passion for the game. However, most of the current coaches have been together for several seasons, going back to their Stanford days and beyond. In such almost symbiotic situations, a subtle form of intellectual incest can creep in, unalleviated because undetected. In fact, the very discipline and daily focus that enables success can also cause a single-mindedness verging on myopia. In these cases, a fresh point-of-view may help.

Enter Eric Mangini. Others have speculated, thoughtfully, on exactly what role Mangini could fill. Suffice to say here that, though the Niners themselves may yet not know precisely how Mangini's magic might fit, part of his responsibilities will surely entail providing that fresh point-of-view. Even before they hired the former wunderkind, the 49ers showed concern that their self-scouting had become stale, that the team had become too predictable on defense, and that opposing teams seemed to have inordinate success anticipating red-and-gold offensive plays. Craig Dahl's revelations about the Rams' pre-reads last season only confirmed to fans what the Niners' staff already suspected. So, as with their perceived roster deficiencies, they attacked this weakness with the Mangini hire.

Mangini's role will undoubtedly become more defined as the season progresses, but his intellect, experience, as well as the sense of renewal he may feel from working with his fellow coaches as he embarks on a new challenge, will surely serve the Niners in good stead. Al Sacco wrote, a while back on this website, a recommended article on Glenn Dorsey in which he detailed how the man may have been miscast, and given a bad rap. As with Dorsey, the Niners may find a niche for Mangini in which he will excel, benefitting both the team and his own career. The former target of hooligan anti-intellectualism may yet achieve a creative revival.

But Mangini will not succeed if the other Prospector coaches indulge in petty jealousies, back-biting, or public handwringing about their own job securities. So far, they have not. So far, they have put the team first, modeling in their own behavior the very dedication and teamwork they ask of the players. In fact, those veteran coaches have heretofore seized the prospect of working with Mangini as a chance to better both themselves and the team, and to learn. Let's admit it: someday the 49ers will likely face a brain-drain as staff members depart for opportunities, including head-coaching positions, elsewhere. When that inevitably happens, it won't hurt to have an extra brain or two around the place.

The 49ers intend to restore their status as a model NFL franchise.

Not only on the field, but off the field as well, from the new stadium, to the use of analytics, to their crackerjack medical staff, the 49ers seek to stay ahead of the curve. NFL owners recently awarded the team the honor of hosting Super Bowl L, another marker of the franchise's enhanced regard throughout the league.

The Prospectors do not sit around hoping providence will deposit opulence onto their laps. Rather, they anticipate, and act. They do not follow trends, but set them. Their front-office maneuverings, also, keep fans enthused. What will they attempt next? Who knows, but we await with the gold-dust-laden eyes, the forward-looking ardor, of sheer 49er faithfulness. Do we expect too much? Probably, but why not? What's a football heaven for? The possibilities extend deep into the distant football future, full of promise, dread, and pizazz, toward a glittery faraway vanishing point that the 49ers almost surely already grasp.
The opinions within this article are those of the writer and, while just as important, are not necessarily those of the site as a whole.


3 Comments

  • Patrick L. Mooney
    I realy hope that Davis and Boldin can keep the offence headed in the right direction this year. that is my only real issue with the 2013 team. Been a 49er fan as long as I can remember and I can remember alot in my 34 years, but never have I been more ready for a season to start. GO RED AND GOLD, GO 49ERS, QUEST FOR SIX!!!
    Jul 29, 2013 at 12:17 PM
    0
    Response: Yep, this is a much anticipated season, not only because the 49ers have a good team, but also because of the verve with which they play.
  • Mike Kenney
    Mangini is a staff version of Lattimore. We don't want to lose GRo or Fangio, but you can bet we're going to. Pickup the best coaching talent available, and let him integrate...and compete.
    Jul 18, 2013 at 12:13 PM
    0
    Response: Sounds like a sound plan.
  • mbniner
    Good article. You could have also mentioned the addition of Boldin to be our #2 WR and how he is now our #1 guy. If he was not traded for we would be scouring the WR unemployment lines. The team has a group of promising WRs but they are unproven. Boldin provides the mentorship, replacing Moss in that role, while being superior to Moss at his stage of his career.
    Jul 6, 2013 at 1:49 PM
    0
    Response: Good points. Thanks.


More San Francisco 49ers News



49ers create $7.46 million in 2024 cap savings with Christian McCaffrey's deal

By David Bonilla
Jun 4

San Francisco 49ers running back Christian McCaffrey was set to earn a base salary of $11.8 million this year and $12 million next year, with cap hits of approximately $14.14 million in 2024 and $14.34 million in 2025. The 49ers reworked his deal, signing the versatile offensive weapon to a two-year extension that keeps him under contract through the 2027 season. RELATED: Christian McCaffrey: 'I'm really fired up that I'm staying' While Pro Football Talk reported that McCaffrey will now earn $62.2 million over the next four seasons, the contract details are essential,



Kyle Shanahan talks 49ers minicamp, Christian McCaffrey, Brandon Aiyuk, more

By Site Staff
Jun 4

The San Francisco 49ers kicked off their mandatory minicamp this week. Head coach Kyle Shanahan spoke to reporters after Tuesday's practice. Here is everything he had to say. Transcript provided by the San Francisco 49ers Communications staff. What are your thoughts on RB Christian McCaffrey and his extension? He really seemed to deserve it after last year. "Every year he's been in the league, it seems like he's been the same guy since he's walked in the building. He's the same guy every day on and off the field. And I'm pumped to have him here for a long time." Are WR Brandon Aiyuk and T Trent Williams the only guys not here? "Yes." Were reasons given by either



49ers' Kyle Shanahan calls Brock Purdy to Ricky Pearsall connection 'fun to watch'

By David Bonilla
Jun 5

Ricky Pearsall wore a blue non-contact jersey during Tuesday's practice, the first of the San Francisco 49ers' only mandatory minicamp during the offseason program. Head coach Kyle Shanahan explained that the rookie wide receiver had a "little soreness" left over from organized team activities (OTAs), and the jersey was a precautionary measure. "When it's like that, we still want him in there, but it allows guys to avoid him as much as possible," Shanahan said. Despite the minor soreness, the coaching staff has been pleased with Pearsall's early development. The 49ers selected him with the No. 31 overall pick in April's draft, seeking to boost an already talent-filled receiver room. The team's leading receiver from last season, Brandon Aiyuk,



Report: 49ers inquired about trading for Vikings' Justin Jefferson

By David Bonilla
Jun 5

The Minnesota Vikings recently signed Justin Jefferson to a four-year extension worth up to $140 million, making him the highest-paid non-quarterback in NFL history. Long before the deal was finalized, several NFL teams reached out to inquire about trading for the elite wide receiver. According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, the San Francisco 49ers were among those teams. Taylor Wirth of NBC Sports Bay Area reports that, while discussing if trade conversations ever got serious on "The Adam Schefter Podcast," Schefter stated, "Never ever got close. Some teams reached out. The New York Jets reached out about Justin Jefferson. The


Latest

More by D.C. Owens

More Articles

Share 49ersWebzone