Alex's 32 Teams in 32 Days: Team 20—San Francisco 49ers

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Alex's 32 Teams in 32 Days: Team 20—San Francisco 49ers
(Photo by: Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

2008 Record: 7-9

2008 Season Review

The 2008 season was a tumultuous one for the San Francisco 49ers.

After getting out to a 2-1 start, the 'Niners appeared in good shape to make a possible playoff run. However, after four consecutive losses head coach Mike Nolan was fired.

Former Chicago Bears linebacker (1981-1992) and Pro Football Hall of Famer Mike Singletary was named the interim head coach. Singletary quickly set a new tone with the 49ers players.

During his first game as head coach, a 34-13 loss to Seattle at home, Singletary called out tight end Vernon Davis and sent him to the locker room after Davis committed an unnecessary roughness penalty.

In a postgame press conference, Singletary went on a rant about the incident, saying he wants "winners."

At halftime of that same game, with San Francisco trailing 20-3, Singletary dropped his pants in an effort to "dramatize" his point that the team should be humiliated for the way they were playing. (Be thankful I didn't link to that video too.)

Under Singletary the 49ers won five of their last seven games to finish with a record of 7-9.

Among Singletary's multitude of changes around the club was the benching of quarterback J.T. O'Sullivan and the promotion of Shaun Hill to the starting job. Hill being under center was a key factor in the team's impressive final stretch.

In 2008, the 49ers had their best season in yards gained and points scored since 2003 but still came in at 22nd and 23rd in those categories. They also ranked 27th in rushing yards and 13th in passing.

Despite the success passing, the offensive line's pass protection was sub-par. For the second consecutive season they gave up 55 sacks.

Defensively, the 'Niners ranked 13th against the run, 20th against the pass and 23rd in points allowed.

After the season, the "interim" tag was removed from Singletary's job description and he was officially named head coach.

Key Additions 

WR Brandon Jones, WR Michael Crabtree (draft), CB Dre Bly, DE Demetric Evans, FB Moran Norris, RB Glen Coffee (draft), QB Damon Huard, OT Marvel Smith

Key Losses 

LB Tully Banta-Cain, WR Bryant Johnson, CB Donald Strickland, QB J.T. O'Sullivan, DT Ronald Fields, S Keith Lewis

2009 Preview

Mike Singletary will see his first full-time action as the 49ers' head coach in 2009. He's got a tough job ahead of him. He will attempt to get the most out of a very young roster and lead San Francisco to it's first playoff berth since 2002.

A competition for the starting quarterback job is underway in training camp. Former first overall selection Alex Smith will give it one last shot to make it in the NFL. He'll be challenged by Shaun Hill.

Looking at win-loss totals Hill clearly has the edge over Smith. In 10 career starts Hill posts a record of 7-3 (.700 percent). Smith, on the other hand, is just 11-19 (.367) as a starter. However, when you take into account that Smith was drafted in 2005 to be the future of the franchise, you've got to think the organization is pulling for him.

To help out whoever is calling the signals from behind the line, the team drafted highly-touted wide receiver Michael Crabtree with the 10th overall pick in the 2009 draft. Crabtree caught a total of 231 passes for 3,127 yards and 41 touchdowns in just two seasons on the field at Texas Tech.

However, the winner of the Smith/Hill competition may not ever get to try out their new toy if Crabtree goes through with his threats of sitting out the '09 season and re-entering the draft in 2010 if the team doesn't meet his lofty contract demands.

Other notables on the receivers depth chart are future hall of famer Isaac Bruce, second year wideout Josh Morgan, Jason Hill, Brandon Jones, and Arnaz Battle.

The 49ers also hope Vernon Davis can finally reach his potential and emerge as one of the league's top receiving tight ends.

Davis was highly sought after coming out of college, but he's yet to make the impact many expected of him. His career has been plagued by inconsistent performance and production.

The rushing attack, led by Frank Gore, will benefit from new offensive coordinator       Jimmy Raye's run-first mentality. Gore has rushed for over 1,000 yards in each of his last three seasons.

Joining Gore in the backfield will be rookie Glen Coffee. Coffee's hardnosed, no-nonsense running style is perfect for the 49ers' down-hill running game.

The offensive line saw a slight upgrade with the signing of tackle Marvel Smith. Smith will likely take over the starting duties at right tackle in replacement of the Barry Sims/Adam Snyder combo from 2008.

Defensive coordinator Greg Manusky, as he did late in 2008, has simplified the defense for the '09 season. The more basic approach will benefit the entire unit but specifically guys like linebacker Manny Lawson, nose tackle Aubrayo Franklin, and defensive end Justin Smith.

Franklin is not one of those hogs in the middle that can dominate the middle of the line. He will not be required to line up right over the center and command multiple gaps. Instead, he will mostly slant to one side or the other.

Last season Smith would line up at multiple positions prior to the snap. In '09 he will spend the majority of his time at right defensive end.

Lawson will now get a chance to play just outside linebacker. Over the last couple seasons he was called on to play linebacker, defensive end, and safety in the dime defenses. In 2009 he will be able to focus on just linebacker and perhaps put together his athleticism and skills to become a dominant player.

The 49ers linebacking corps consists of Patrick Willis, one of the best young stars in the NFL and Takeo Spikes inside, with Lawson and young Parys Haralson on the outside.

Walt Harris' season-ending knee injury opens up a starting cornerback spot opposite Nate Clements.

Tarrell Brown and Shawntae Spencer will each have a chance to win the job. Newly signed Dre' Bly will also have an opportunity to take the job but is a better fit for the nickel position.

Bottom Line:

Singletary brings a great attitude and mentality to the 49ers. I think he will get a lot out of this very young roster. However, I think they're still a season away before they become a legitimate playoff team. But considering they play in a weak division it is possible we'll see them in the postseason.

I see between 7-10 wins for the '09 'Niners.

 

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