The San Francisco 49ers are putting their cards on the table early, and the coaching changes for th Offensive Line and Special Teams may be revealing their intended draft and free agent plans.
By introducing Mike Solari (as the new O-line coach) and Kurt schottenheimer (as the new ST Coach) they are making preliminary moves -- assembling the mentors necessary to improve the areas in which they were lacking last year.
Schottenheimer comes from coaching stock as the brother of Marty Schottenheimer. His vast and versatile NFL experiences should benefit many of the young players the 49ers depth chart figures to be flaunting. And he cares deeply about the return game. One specific question he asked during his interview with Coach Sing was regarding the Return Man position: Do we have one?
What do I take from this? It means we're going to get one. I like to believe it shows we'll be Drafting C.J. Spiller wit our first pick, or possibly trading down our second pick slightly to get Jahvid Best out of Cal. It could also agree with rumors that have SF bartering with Cleveland for Josh Cribbs.
Schottenhiemer did not coach last year, but that doesn't mean he slept through the season. He spent time with his family; he visited several colleges. There, he studied the principles of the spread offense and how to defend against it.
I'm willing to bet he also kept his eyes open and noticed a player or two who stood out as athletes with NFL potential.
Besides kick returns, what problems did the 49ers have least year? Oh yeah, that stink-rotten O-line.
Enter Mike Solari. The linemen on the roster are not bad. They had a couple damn-fine games where they opened up huge holes for Gore to jog through. But there were also some disgusting ones (Atlanta, Seattle.) Solari has an impressive resume, but the part that grabs my attention is his 1992-1996 service with the 49ers. (Who?) They were pretty good back then, right? He coached TEs and assisted O-Line coaching legend Bob McKittrick (who happens to be a personal hero of mine.)
I used to compare those O-lines to Voltron: nothing too impressive until they come together as a unit. He was also able to get more than one would expect from an aging Right tackle in Willy Roaf for several years with the Chiefs. In fact, there were a couple years when I remember Kansas City having the best O-line in the league. Keep them healthy; keep them winning.
So I wont be suprised if the O-line continues to improve, even if the 49ers don't go O-line-crazy the first round. Given last years training camp catharsis of hill running, Staley will be better - Snyder will be better - Heitman will be better - Baas will be better - and the supporting cast might improve as well.
And now that the General has chosen his Colonels Majors, Captains and Lieutenants; it's time for the Red and Gold to rally some troops and prepare all Spring and Summer for a sixteen-game war.