With Kurt Warner Retiring, Expectations Will Rise in San Francisco

Andy Bensch@@AndyBenschSenior Writer IJanuary 30, 2010

SAN FRANCISCO - DECEMBER 14:  Kurt Warner #13 of the Arizona Cardinals is sacked by Patrick Willis #52 and Justin Smith #94 of the San Francisco 49ers in the fourth quarter at Candlestick Park on December 14, 2009 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)
Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

Another San Francisco 49er nemesis has retired. The 49er faithful hope this one stays retired.

If he does, the NFC West will be wide open in 2010.

Early Friday afternoon, Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner officially hung up his cleats after a 12-year career that included two MVPs and three Super Bowl appearances, including one Super Bowl ring.

Two of the three teams (and the two that saw him lead them to the Super Bowl) Warner played for were division foes of the 49ers.

Warner first torched the 49ers as a member of the St. Louis Rams and the "Greatest Show on Turf". Then, after a dismal stint with the New York Giants, he returned to the NFC West as a member of the Cardinals and decimated the 49ers secondary just like he never left St. Louis.

But cheer up 49er fans, this one appears to be done. No. 13 has officially called it quits, and unlike that No. 4 guy, this one has always been good to stay true to his word.

And while No. 4 tore your heart out back in September by making something out of nothing and pulling a throw out of his a**, you can rejoice knowing that at least now your team has the best offense in the division.

That is correct. Even before fixing the offensive line, even before adding one more weapon and even before figuring out if your No. 1 overall pick has what it takes, your team has the best offense in the division.

Without Warner, the 49ers are instant NFC West favorites. No more "well, maybe we can make the playoffs", no more "our goal is the playoffs", and no more "oh well, there is always next year".

Playoffs or bust will be the expectations in San Francisco next season. If they don't qualify then you can say goodbye to Alex Smith, Mike Singletary, and Scot McCloughan.

With two first-round draft picks, money to spend in free agency, and an improving quarterback who finally has the same system two years in a row, there is no room for failure.

Questionable timeout usage and clock management and poor challenge calls were one thing when Singletary was in his first full year as head coach. But next year, those rookie mistakes aren't going to cut it.

A poor draft strategy and signing free agents who don't live up to the hype won't be enough to keep Scot McCloughan around. San Francisco's GM hasn't done much to keep his job; each good move made has been compiled with a poor one during his tenure.

But having two first-round draft choices should give the 49ers two more impact players in 2010. Both need to be ready to play. None of this drafting Tim Tebow nonsense.

If the 49ers fail to qualify for the postseason, McCloughan will be gone. No doubt about it.

And with the GM will go the head coach. Why? Because simply, there is only so much pant dropping a coach can do. Motivation can only go so far and if the Xs and Os don't align in 2010, there will be plenty of coaches available who actually have coordinator experience.

It is one thing for Singletary to change around Vernon Davis' attitude, but it is a whole different ball game to make the right on-field decisions in the most crucial situations.

No more can the 49ers burn all three timeouts in the first quarter, including one that is called before the first play from scrimmage. It just cannot happen.

A team so close to getting back into the playoffs for the first time in eight years cannot afford to shoot themselves in the foot with questionable coaching decisions.

No more reverse punts when your team doesn't have a proven return man on the roster.

No more benching and then subsequently cutting the only decent return man on the team when there weren't any other quality options at that position.

And no more running the ball three straight times and punting when one first-down pass would ice the game.

Singletary needs to have learned from these mistakes and make the most of his game decisions come 2010.

The time is now and the 49ers have what it takes to get to the postseason; but the captain of the ship has to make the right decisions, or even the most talented roster can miss out on the playoffs.

On the same token, a head coach doesn't actually play in the game and there is only so much he can do. He needs a quarterback who can sustain drives and protect the football.

If Alex Smith wants to remain the starter in 2011, he is going to have to cut out the colossal mistakes. No longer will overthrowing Frank Gore by 15 yards and giving up an interception be something the team can just forget about and move past.

No longer can the quarterback rely on receivers to make adjustments time and time again to make him look good. Throws need to hit his receivers in stride to allow them to run after the catch.

No longer will he be able to rely on the excuse that he doesn't know the offense or that the chemistry hasn't yet developed. No longer will he have the excuse that there aren't enough weapons around him.

The system is still intact, and the weapons are plentiful.

With that in mind, Smith needs to be able to figure out when to pass, when to run, when to throw the ball away and when to let it fly.

50-yard under-thrown passes to Michael Crabtree need to be 60-yard touchdown passes right on the money.

The execution just hasn't been there. Not from Smith or by any of the key contributors to the 49ers organization over the last few years. However, this time around there are no more excuses.

With the door now wide open and the division available for the taking, the 49ers have to execute.

For the first time in years, playoffs will be expected by the 49er fan base.

Now it is time for the team to execute and reach those expectations. If they don't, many within the organization will be looking for another job.

The pressure is certainly on in San Francisco; only time will tell how the team responds.

This article was orginally published on NFLtouchdown.com: http://www.nfltouchdown.com/with-kurt-warner-retiring-expectations-will-rise-in-san-francisco/


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