The San Francisco 49ers finished the 2009 Regular Season with an 8-8 record. But don't let the par .500 season surprise you.
There was miracle game-winning touchdown pass by Brett Favre.
Then despite having the lead for the first three quarters against the Indianapolis Colts, the 49ers lost 18-14 at Lucas Oil Field. It took a fourth-quarter reverse touchdown pass by Joseph Addai to Reggie Wayne to finally subdue the 49ers.
Then a costly turnover with the lead in the final minutes at Seattle.
Take away those scenarios and the San Francisco 49ers would have been 11-5.
I know... "coulda, woulda, shoulda," right?
But, let's take a look at why Mike Singletary and his San Francisco 49ers will win the NFC West this upcoming season and be a legitimate playoff contender.
That's the points per game the 49ers allowed in the 2009 season. They ranked fourth in the NFL.
With a defensive-minded head coach in Mike Singletary, the 49ers look to improve on last year's mark and become one of the league's most feared defenses.
The 49ers solidified themselves until 2016 when they signed their best defender, three-time Pro Bowler Patrick Willis, to a new $50 million contract extension.
"Im very excited to stay a 49er. I've always believed in playing for one team. And I look forward to bringing a sixth championship to San Francisco." Willis told the media after signing his new contract.
Along with Willis, veterans like DE Justin Smith, LB Takeo Spikes, S Deshon Goldson, DT Aubrayo Franklin and CB Nate Clements will bring chemistry and notoriety to a promising defense.
One of their defensive flaws is their coverage, mainly giving up the deep pass. They addressed that issue by drafting Taylor Mays in the second round back in April.
Mays is an All-American out of USC who is a very quick and hard-hitting Safety who will fit right into the defensive philosophy that Singletary and Defensive Coordinator Greg Manusky are trying to build.
Surrounded by the leadership of Willis and Singletary's tough mentoring look for Mays to have an immediate impact at Safety for the 49ers.
"Our formula is this... we go out there and hit people in the mouth."
Draft bust? Far from it.
People, fans, and professional analysts were quick to throw Alex Smith under the bus prior to last season. For whatever reason, I dont know. All I know is this writer never gave up on first pick of the 2005 NFL Draft.
It's been a roller coaster ride for Smith ever since he got drafted.
He was drafted on to a team that had no true identity at the time with no veteran leadership.
His best season prior to last season was in 2006, his second year in the league, when the famous Norv Turner was his offensive coordinator.
Smith improved in that year by throwing as many touchdowns as interceptions. He threw for 16 TDs, 16 interceptions, 2,890 yards and a 74.8 quarterback rating, all improvements over his rookie year, and all well above what would normally be expected of a 22-year-old-quarterback.
Smith also became the first 49ers quarterback in club history to take every snap from center over the course of a season in 2006.
All of that was forgot about though in 2007, Norv Turner took the Head Coaching job for the San Diego Chargers, leaving Smith with his third different offensive coordinator in as many years.
Smith didn't play the second half of the 2007 season due to his shoulder injury. In 2008 the 49ers hired Mike Martz as their offensive coordinator, Smith's fourth offense to learn in his fourth season. In the preseason of the 2008 season, Smith's shoulder injury persisted and he lost the starting job to J.T. O'Sullivan who eventually lost his role to Shaun Hill.
Smith had to have surgery on a broken bone in his right shoulder forcing him to miss the entire 2008 season. Not to mention, the 49ers fired head coach Mike Nolan half way through the 2008 season and naming Mike Singletary as interim head coach.
Going into last season Mike Martz was fired by Singletary and Jimmy Raye was named the new OC for the 49ers. Smith entered the 2009 season as the backup to Hill and having to learn a new system under his fifth offensive coordinator.
After the 49ers started the 2009 season 3-1, Hill started to struggle. In a Week Seven game against the Houston Texans, Smith replaced him in the third quarter, after Hill had performed poorly in a 21-0 first half deficit. Smith led the team back with three touchdown passes, all to tight end Vernon Davis, but fell short, losing 24-21. Singletary named Smith as the 49ers starting quarterback the next day.
Smith threw for 232 yards, two touchdown passes while posting a 96.8 passer rating in a 20-3 win over visiting Jacksonville in Week 12.
In a Week 13 matchup against the NFC West division rival Seattle Seahawks, he recorded the first 300-yard passing game of his career, completing 27-of-45 throws with two touchdown passes.
In week 14, the 49ers were at home in a Monday Night Football showdown with defending NFC Champions and rivals the Arizona Cardinals. Smith threw two touchdown passes, one to Davis and a 35-yard strike to Crabtree in route to a 24-9 victory.
Smith finished the 2009 season going 5-4. He went 225-372, for 2,350 yards with 18 touchdowns and 12 interceptions.
As we get closer to the 2010 season, Smith's confidence is at an all-time high. He knows he is entering the season as the starter. He finally has a second-year coordinator.
He is surrounded by a plethora of offensive weapons, most importantly a young go-to receiver in Michael Crabtree and a big, strong, fast Pro Bowl tight end in Vernon Davis. And the 49ers addressed their offensive line problems by drafting two big linemen in the first round, Anthony Davis and Mike Iupati.
The 49ers offense finally has an identity and a direction of where they want to be.
Look for Smith and the 49ers offense to have a breakout season.
Frank Gore has been the face and most consistent offensive figure in the 49ers lineup for the past four seasons.
He has complied four 1,000 yard seasons in his five-year career.
His most notable year came in 2006 when he rushed for 1,695 yards on 312 carries. He led the NFC in rushing and set the 49ers franchise record for rushing yards in a single season.
He's a very good receiver as well. Averaging just about 50 receptions each season. He has been a dynamic weapon that has made each defense the 49ers play, very weary and aware of where Gore is at all times.
Mike Singletary has stated he is making the 49ers a smashmouth football team first and foremost. With Frank Gore leading the way, there is no doubt they have accomplished that.
Gore is coming off of a spectacular 2009 season. He played in 14 games, rushing for 1120 yards with a 4.9 yard per carry average. He had 10 touchdowns rushing and three receiving. His most notable game of the season was in Week Two against the Seahawks.
After dashing for a 79 yard first-quarter score, Gore took the opening handoff of the second half and sprinted 80 yards for a touchdown. He finished the game with 216 yards and two touchdowns.
You add last years third round draft pick Glen Coffee into the mix, and this year's rookie, a powerful running back in Anthony Dixon and the 49ers have developed a very underrated backfield.
Rumors going into this upcoming season are stating the 49ers are going to utilize the spread offense more. That could be very scary because if the 49ers can stay healthy and have a consistent offensive line; to me, that looks like a offense that can control the clock and put up an efficient amount of points.
Let's not forget, they addressed their offensive line problems this year by drafing the very big Anthony Davis out of Rutgers and Mike Iupati out of Idaho, both in the first round.
Whether they run it or pass it... the San Francisco 49ers offense will average more than 23 points per game this year, guaranteed. That should make them a Top 15 team in terms of PPG.
In order to score points, you need weapons.
Do the San Francisco 49ers finally have weapons?
6'3'' 250 lbs. 4.38 NFL combine speed. Wow.
A first round pick in 2006, he finally had a breakout season. In 2009 he had his best season as a pro and amongst the rest of the tight ends in the league, he statistically had the best season. Seventy-eight receptions for 965 yards and 13 touchdowns. Not to mention he was sent to his first Pro Bowl.
His 13 touchdowns is an NFL record for a TE, sharing the record with Antonio Gates of the San Diego Chargers who set it in 2004.
I don't know if he will duplicate those same numbers in 2010 but I think he will be selected to his second Pro Bowl.
A first round steal that fell right into the 49ers' lap. The hype surrounding Michael Crabtree was through the roof and it was well deserved hype.
His two-year college career at Texas Tech was a career most dream of having.
- Two time, Biletnikoff Award winner (Best college Wide Receiver)
- Two time, Paul Warfield trophy winner (Most receiving touchdowns)
- Two time, Unanimous First Team All-American
- AT&T ESPN All America Player of The Year (2007)
- Cover Athlete for NCAA Football 2010 on Xbox 360
And the list goes on and on.
After a lengthy hold-out Crabtree finally made his anticipated debut against the Houston Texans in Week Seven, catching five passes for 56 yards.
Making an immediate impact in the 49ers offense. Crabtree showed his teammates and the rest of the league what the hype was all about.
He has strong hands and adjusts to the ball very well, something that can't be taught.
He's a solid route runner, with great breakaway speed.
He finished the season with 48 receptions for 625 yards and two touchdowns. It's safe to assume he would have had a 1000 yards season if he didn't hold out. Look for Crabtree to become Alex Smith's favorite target in 2010.
One of the most consistent running backs in the league he will continue to help the 49ers incline towards playoff contention. A hard runner with Marshall Faulk like receiving skills out of the backfield. Another productive and solid season for Gore in 2010.
Ted Ginn Jr.
The 49ers are never known for having a speedy kick off and punt returner. They do now. Ted Ginn Jr. adds blazing speed to an average special teams. He also becomes a deep threat for the 49ers offense. He will most likely be the third receiver behind Crabtree and Morgan, but look for him to be very efficient on third downs and long play situations. He should take a few to the house too on kick returns.
Along with Josh Morgan, Glen Coffee, Anthony Dixon and Jason Hill, the 49ers have the components to be an effective and talented offense for the seasons to come.
The 49ers have one of the easiest schedules in the 2010 season.
They play only five teams that made the playoffs last year and one of those teams happens to be the Arizona Cardinals, a team they swept last year and who no longer has Kurt Warner or Anquan Boldin. Another team happens to be the Eagles who no longer have Donovan McNabb or Brian Westbrook.
The 49ers also play in the NFC West, one of the worst divisions in the NFL. The 49ers went 5-1 last year in the division and I look for them to go undefeated this season.
St. Louis is rebuilding, with no offensive line and a rookie quarterback in Sam Bradford starting for them. San Francisco should win both games.
Seattle is young with a lot of newcomers, most importantly their Head Coach. They too are rebuilding. They have talent but I think it'll take some time before they are contenders again. San Francisco went 1-1 with them last year, losing the second game by a costly turnover with the lead.
Arizona. Well, I think they are done for a while. They lose their veteran quarterback to retirement. They lose an amazing receiver to the Baltimore Ravens and they lost a good linebacker in Karlos Dansby to the Dolphins. Look for San Francisco to sweep them again this year.
San Francisco should at the very least go 10-6 in 2010. With the reasons stated above and prior.
Most importantly they have a Head Coach that every player will give 110 percent for. Singletary has layed down a foundation and an identity and this team has built chemistry over the past two seasons and it will only progress for years to come.
They playoffs will welcome the San Francisco 49ers in 2010.