Posted by Will Brinson
Eye on Football's playing doctor for every NFL team with our Offseason Check-ups.
The 49ers were doomed almost from the very start of last season. After all, check out their schedule for the first five games – the Seahawks, the Saints, the Chiefs, the Falcons and the Eagles (all made the playoffs and combined for a 51-29 record while knocking off the 49ers) – but two weeks after running through that gauntlet, San Francisco fell to the Panthers also. So, that’s not too good.
Neither, for that matter, was coach Mike Singletary, who was fired after Week 16, and neither was much of anybody else. The offense ranked 24th in the league – almost a miracle considering Alex Smith and Troy Smith traded off starting QB spots and RB Frank Gore missed the last five games because of a fractured hip – and though the defense was actually slightly better than average, San Francisco just couldn’t put it together under Singletary’s leadership.
When Singletary named Troy Smith as his starting QB midway through the season, you knew neither of them were long for their respective jobs. When Singletary replaced andinjured Alex Smith with Troy Smith in Week 10 and then switched back to Alex the next week (and then continued to switch the two throughout the rest of the year), there was almost no chance San Francisco would win consistently.
Actually, the trouble began earlier in the season during that infamous Sundayy Night Football game when the San Francisco fans booed Alex Smith and demanding to see the backup QB, and Singletary thought hard about replacing him with David Carr. Smith then led a near comeback attempt vs. the Eagles. Still, not a great sequence for San Francisco.
1. Patient History
We gave the patient history of this position in the section above, so now, let’s figure out what the 49ers will do about it. They actually could keep Alex Smith – they’ve already offered him a one-year contract – but it’s unclear whether Smith will sign it. But yeah, it might make sense for San Francisco to look for quarterbacks in the draft. And remember, Kevin Kolb and Donovan McNabb are still out there as well.
2. Jim Harbaugh
He’s got zero NFL head coaching experience, but 49ers fans have to be excited about the possibilities (considering his success at Stanford and because his brother, John, has done such a bang-up job with the Ravens), and considering he’s getting paid $25 million over five years, he’d BETTER have more success than Singletary. And don’t forget: San Francisco also hired Trent Baalke as GM in the offseason. So, the 49ers are kind of starting over.
Nate Clements is fine at one CB spot, but Shawntae Spencer didn’t have a great year last season. Which is why it makes sense for San Francisco to grab either LSU’s Patrick Peterson or Nebraska’s Prince Amukamara with the No. 7 pick in the draft.
The defense is good enough to compete. The 49ers LB corps with Patrick Willis and Takeo Spikes (and maybe Manny Lawson) is pretty darn good, and the defensive line, led by Justin Smith, does a nice job as well. The problem here is offense, and not just at QB either.
Gore is coming off a bad injury, and WR Michael Crabtree still hasn’t broken out in a big way. Assuming Harbaugh can get the respect of his team right away – something Singletary struggled with last season – San Francisco could get back to 8-8. Which means the 49ers could contend for the NFC West crown.
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