I am optimistic about the 2010 49ers, however, there are way too many fans overestimating where we are at.
I understand wanting winners and going out, hitting people in the mouth, and having a team capable of physically dominating others. But, what concerns me is the notion that it also means, more often than not, we're running the football.
Why does that bother me?
Running the football doesn't yield big plays nearly as often as passing. It is not come from behind football.
Why does that matter?
Take 2009 for example. Packers, Eagles, Falcons, Titans, Texans. Five out of our eight losses we trailed the entire game. I'm sorry guys but grinding out four yard runs all day only takes time off the clock. Show me the defensive standout player who is going to stop us from going behind early... any takers?
The fact of the matter is that we were far enough from a complete team that one draft could not have put us there.
Our selections in the 2010 NFL draft certainly put us closer to being a smash mouth type of team, however, that is what makes me nervous. Last year, Singletary and Raye changed to a spread style offense due to concerns from players that their offensive line was a tad shy of pounding the football down people's throats.
I see that we drafted two top-notch offensive linemen, but does that mean it's fixed now? Would it even mean that our pass protection has improved? Is Taylor Mays ready to step into the secondary in 2010 and solve our pass coverage issues? Is Navarro Bowman going to line up next to Willis on opening day with Spikes on the bench? Does he have a reputation as a feared pass rusher?
Many fans talk like this draft addressed all the issues that prevented us from making the playoffs last year. I stipulate that if that was the case, Dez Bryant, Kareem Jackson, Kyle Wilson, or Jason Pierre Paul would have been pick No. 17. With pick No. 49, Jason Worilds would have more directly addressed a need, not Mays, whose downside potential is steep.
This draft was about two things, setting foundation and building a smash mouth team, but not about building a Super Bowl contender.
Make no mistake, I agree with what Singletary is doing, and based on quotes from him and what I have seen with this team, he is setting a foundation for players to either step up or be replaced.
"All I want is to restore a sense of pride," Coach Singletary stated. This NFL.com coach's blurb pretty much says it all to me. He is working on bringing fundamentals up to par so the playmakers feel like the team has a chance.
I hope that I am proven wrong about our pass rush, because I personally don't see it. I think he is setting the stage for a do-or-die evaluation of Josh Morgan, Glenn Coffee, Alex Smith, and the defensive secondary, although without a pass rush, the secondary evaluation may have to wait till next year.
The 49ers were killed through the air by nearly every team that beat them, and I have yet to see a player transaction who I believe will change that in 2010. I am optimistic about the strengths and areas in which we have improved.
There is just no getting around the reality that we are a strong team in a weak division with questions to be answered.
Can Josh Morgan elevate his play enough to become a viable number two receiver? Do we have a viable number two running back? Will someone emerge as a feared pass rusher in 2010? Was Alex Smith's career to date a product of poor upbringing or was he a bust?
Perhaps the biggest question of all is will Singletary and Raye remember that utilizing big beef is no substitute for a balanced offensive attack?
Winning the NFC West is a realistic outlook, however, once we get to the playoffs we all know who will be waiting for us... Vikings, Falcons, Packers, Saints, and Cowboys. All teams that we will not beat by playing a one dimensional smash mouth offense.
Could I see us pulling off 12-4? Yes, but I could also see us going 9-7 with growing pains.
Those who are predicting 12-4 are the same people who found reason to be excited about J.T. O'Sullivan. This has been a recurring theme I've seen with this team, and I know all fans have a tendency to be excessively optimistic before the season.
The important thing to realize is that we are moving in a positive direction, one area at a time. You can only pay so many players on a team the big bucks. Nonetheless, it's much easier to find the players demanding it than it is to find out what positions your team needs, especially when the number you can have is limited.
In my opinion, having a coach that realizes this, at the stage we're at, is about the best thing we have going for us in our quest for our sixth Lombardi Trophy. Best of luck to the team and the faithful!