It is safe to say that within the Bay Area, there is a lot of excitement and optimism surrounding the 2009 San Francisco 49ers.
The question is, will they live up to fans' expectations, or fall short of them, like they have since the end of the 2002 season?
While numerous experts, writers, and bloggers have stated that the 49ers are a team on the rise, I cannot help but feel a hint of doubt when I try and get optimistic about this coming season.
There are so many factors that go into a professional football season that it is always hard to predict how a team's fortune will pan out, but the question is: How many of those factors will positively or negatively impact the 49ers?
We have first-year head coach Mike Singletary at the helm for the whole season this time, so it will be easier to gauge his success or failure at the end of the season. Regardless, Singletary showed signs of his inexperience last season, most notably with the time management aspect of the game.
Still, Singletary has the faith and confidence of his general manager, team president, and, most importantly, the players themselves. He seems to have lit a fire under the team, and for that, I will give him the benefit of the doubt.
We almost must remember that the legendary Bill Walsh did not have a very successful early beginning to his head coaching career, and for the fans to have such a high bar set for Singletary might be unfair.
Inexperience is also a question for new team president, Jed York. Although his passion for the game and for winning should go unquestioned, his lack of experience running day-to-day operations should keep fans from expecting miracles.
Still, York made a promise to the fans that 2008 was the last season that ends in December, which further raised expectations of the team.
I have also heard a lot of fans say that this is the best draft the 49ers have had in years. While that statement will not be proven at least until the end of the season, the general feeling is that Michael Crabtree will provide superstar talent at the wideout position.
While Crabtree has the talent and physical tools to become a superstar, it has yet to be seen how he responds to the speed of the NFL's defense. Also, it remains to be seen how he returns from the fracture in his left foot to make any conclusions on how he will affect the 49ers.
Added on to that is the fact that the 49ers have not named a starting quarterback. Singletary has stated repeatedly that it is an open competition, but, ultimately, it is Shaun Hill's job to lose.
Trying to give Alex Smith some confidence by letting him compete for the job is understandable, but what the 49ers need right now is a concrete starting quarterback. The earlier this decision is made, the better, as it will give the starter more reps to get his timing down for the start of the regular season.
If Hill is named the starting quarterback, it has yet to be seen that he can take the punishment of a full NFL season. The 49ers gave up a league high 55 sacks in 2008, and, without major changes to the offensive line, it remains to be seen if they have improved at all.
While I am a diehard 49ers fan and will remain so, it is hard for me to be optimistic about the coming season. There are too many question marks that remain on this team. Hopefully, the 49ers make me eat my words, but we shall see.