For those who know me, you know that I have been writing for years and you have read many of my ramblings over that time. Writing has always been my passion, but it’s been a good 3-years since I wrote anything of substance when it comes to sports. Call it writers block or even a lack of time. However, as we approach the start of the 2015 NFL season I wanted to lay down my thoughts on this horrendous offseason and get them out of my head.
If you’re like me, as a fan of the San Francisco 49ers, you’re tired of hearing it. You’re tired of seeing it. It’s become the bane of our existence as lovers of one of the crowned jewels in the National Football League. It’s inherently impossible not to come into contact with the endless droning on and “sky is falling” rhetoric we’ve been blasted with. Most likely because it’s seemingly pasted all over every single blog, website, and bathroom stall that you’ve been unlucky enough to come into contact with since this horrid offseason began.
I am nothing if not a realist however and of course I acknowledge the complete and utter debacle that the 2015 offseason has been for the 49ers. What I cannot and will not acknowledge is this apparent shared belief from anyone outside of Santa Clara that the events of this tumultuous 8-months, spells certain doom for a team who is just two seasons removed from three straight NFC Championship appearances and one Super Bowl Berth.
Yes, I know the turnover has been significant and virtually unprecedented in any sport, ever. Yes I know the changes that saw ultra-successful head coach, Jim Harbaugh take his talents back to Michigan and left the team with the unproven Jim Tomsula at the helm. And of course I know the legal issues which have beset the franchise over the last three-years.
I’m going to step out onto what some might classify as a very unstable and wobbly branch here. None of these incidents are cause for the rampant concern and doomsday scenarios that the so-called pundits and prognosticators have saddled the 49ers with this season. Let’s take a look at exactly what those who have called for the 49ers to finish dead last in the NFC West are basing their opinions on.
End of the Harbaugh era:
Yes, it’s over. It’s been over (officially) since the final game of the 2014 season. That is basically the same amount of time that new head coach Jim Tomsula and his staff have had to implement a new plan and put their stamp on the team. This is not the end of the world as there is still a great deal of talent on this roster. The 49ers have approached the drafts since Harbaugh took over with the idea and belief that they would be drafting players to take over in 3-4 years once others retired or exited via free agency. Which leads us to the next point?
Players no longer on the roster include, Frank Gore, Mike Iupati, Michael Crabtree, Stevie Johnson, Patrick Willis, Chris Borland, Anthony Davis, Chris Culliver, Parrish Cox, Aldon Smith. Overcoming these losses would appear to be a daunting task and one that is certain to end in disaster. Breaking these down individually however gives a different perspective.
Frank Gore: As much as it pains to me to say that it was time for the team’s all-time leading rusher to move on, it simply was. The 49ers have a stable of running backs that are young and extremely hungry. Leaving the talents of Carlos Hyde, Reggie Bush and the absolute sparkplug that is Jarryd Hayne on thebench another season was not in the cards, therefore the team made Frank an offer he ultimately turned down.
Michael Crabtree and Stevie Johnson: Neither of these players was offered contracts in the offseason. Pretty bad when the team who people are predicting to be one of the worst in the league doesn’t even want them. Crabtree was and always will be a prima donna who from the time he was drafted in 2009 never appeared to be bought into being a 49er. Also, unfortunately he did not bounce back from the torn achilles he suffered in 2013. Johnson was the same receiver the team already had two of last season in Anquan Boldin and Crabtree and was expendable to say the least.
Patrick Willis, Anthony Davis and Chris Borland: As I said, I am a realist and these three retirements hurt the team, not only from a production standpoint but in other facets as well. Willis’s leadership will be sorely missed. However he only played in six-games last season due to injuries and appeared to have lost at least a step dating back to the 2013 season. Novarro Bowman has been the backbone of the 49ers defense since the 2012 season and he will continue to be so once again this year. While Davis’s departure has left a 323-pound sieve on the right side of the offensive line, I believe the team will get this fixed through putting the right personnel at that spot and schemes to help protect the quarterback.
Chris Culliver and Perrish Cox: Both of these corners have been perennial underachievers with Cox only coming out with a career year last season. He had five-interceptions in 2014, before that… just one, which came during his rookie season in Denver. Culliver is best remembered as the player who created a homophobic sideshow during the week leading up to Super Bowl XLVII with comments he made about not accepting openly gay players on the team. Couple that with his overall lack of production on the field and his May 2014 arrest for hit and run and threatening a teenager with brass knuckles and using racial slurs in the incident… bye Felicia.
And finally, Aldon Smith. Nothing else to say about his here. The team had given this kid numerous chances to turn his life and career around. All signs were pointing to Smith doing just that this offseason, after missing 9-games to suspension for multiple DUI’s and a weapons violation, last year. He had played in only 18-games from 2013 to 2014,mustering just 10.5 sacks over that time. He also seemed to disappear in games where the now retired Justin Smith wasn’t on the field. While the team was expecting a full season from him and somewhere around the neighborhood of 15-sacks, they will have to get those numbers from a committee of linebackers who are ready to prove their mettle.
The players who will step in as a result of these departures include names like, the aforementioned Hyde and Hayne. As well as Torrey Smith, Eli Harold, Tank Carradine, Corey Lemonier, Shareece Wright, Kenneth Acker, Quinton Dial, Dontae Johnson, Aaron Lynch, Marcus Martin, Keith Reaser, and DeAndrew White. You should learn these names as you’re going to be hearing a great deal about them this season.
Notice that the majority of these men play on the defensive side of the ball, there’s an easy explanation for that. The fact is that this 49ers offense, while still completely untapped, is the most talented at the skill positions than the team has had since the days of, Steve Young, Terrell Owens, and Garrison Hearst. There is no telling what this offense can accomplish and it’s going to be exciting to see what they become.
All in all, things are not as bad as they seem. No matter what the media or fans of other teams, most of whom only read what the media says or writes, have to say about it. I am not predicting a Super Bowl win here, not by any means. I am simply saying that it’s not going to be as bad as most are leading us to believe. I believe this team will shock a great many people, journalists and fans alike… when they do I’ll be here to say, I told ya so.