If it wasn’t for the Dallas Cowboys, it is safe to say that the San Francisco 49ers would have earned the distinction as the NFL’s most underachieving team in 2010. They came into the season expecting great things. By season’s end, with just six wins, the wreckage was all over the place:
• Three players either quit or were shipped out directly as a result of their relationships with the coaching staff.
• The offensive coordinator was sacked midseason.
• By the end of the season, the head coach went out the door, too, and he had been anointed as a savior just two seasons prior 2008.
The reasons for the excitement were plentiful. Defenses had to consider the very difficult-to-defend Vernon Davis, perhaps the league’s best tight end. They had to worry about Frank Gore, the NFL’s most persistent runner. There was Michael Crabtree, who in 11 games in 2009 turned heads with his sure hands and his ability to find the seams in the zones.
The 49er defense, anchored by Patrick Willis, who many think is the best inside 'backer in the game, proved to be tough against the run. The defensive line was decently deep, and safety Rashon Goldson appeared capable of making big hits.
That’s why at the start of the season they were the overall favorite but not the predominate favorite, and rightly so. They had questions about their secondary that proved to be critical. They had questions about the quarterback, which proved to be unsettling (and ultimately personifying the disconnect between the players and the head coach).
They had two rookies on the offensive line, which is never a good thing for a team built around the simple belief that they wanted to run on anyone at anytime. Their quarterback has issues. The defense couldn’t get enough pressure on opposing quarterbacks.
By and large, though, through the clues and cracks that came out of the locker room, 2010 was a season where it seemed that former coach Mike Singletary lost the team. They knew his philosophy and came to the realization that it wouldn’t work.
Now that the 2011 season may or may not be upon us, pending issues with the lockout, 49er fans wonder if the reset button has been pushed and the entire culture has been rebooted. And perhaps, that’s the best thing that new coach Jim Harbaugh needs to do: instill some confidence, and it starts with offense.
With that, here are the six top offseason priorities coming into 2011.