Stirring the Pot: Future Issues for the San Francisco 49ers
Offseason optimism. Gotta love it.
As a cynic, I am always cautious, but here are some legit questions and issues facing the 49ers in the near future. Hopefully, it generates some thought about the upcoming season.
Generally, the sense is that the offense is ready to explode, but before I rave about the two new explosive playmakers, I decided to put on my Debbie Downer hat and ask some unpleasant questions.
Who Will It Be in 2013?
Alex Smith's three-year contract is structured in a way that let's the 49ers let go of him at the end of the year without having to give him any guaranteed money for 2013.
What this really means?
If Smith has a significant regression in 2012, the 49ers will seriously consider not picking up the second-year option of his deal, opening the door for Colin Kaepernick.
The Pressure to Improve Offensively: Can the 49ers Answer the Challenge?
Expect the 49ers defense to be dominant but not plus-28 turnover ratio dominant.
One could say that a handful of 49ers players peaked last season. Some performances you can expect to repeat—Justin Smith, Patrick Willis, Aldon Smith and NaVorro Bowman. But some players may have trouble repeating a successful 2011 campaign—Carlos Rogers, Dashon Goldson.
Ultimately, there's a good chance that the defense will not be able to bail out the offense like it did last year. The 49ers can't expect to have a plus-2 turnover ratio every game, just because turnovers are something that you really can't incorporate into a game plan.
The offense is going to have to have a significant improvement—especially on third down and in the red zone—both of which are very QB-driven.
Excuses will be hard to find this season if Smith underwhelms.
Potential Coaching Staff Change
Regardless of a hugely successful 2012 season or not, a handful of 49ers coordinators may be in line to take up head-coaching jobs in 2013—Vic Fangio, Greg Roman and Brad Seely.
It will be interesting to see how Jim Harbaugh and the team take on this challenge. This could also tie into the Alex Smith question for 2013.
If he has a successful season (I'm guessing this means at least one playoff win or at least a very strong playoff performance) and Roman leaves, I'm sure Harbaugh will be intent on keeping Smith.
But a regressive season coupled with an O-coordinator turnover could prompt a QB change in 2013.
Do You Get That Familiar Feeling of Dangerous Optimism for the 2012 Season?
New offensive weapons, same coaching staff, coming off an impressive record...sound familiar?
Let's be clear—Singletary and Ray are not on the same stratosphere as Harbaugh and Roman. And if the 49ers don't go 13-3 again, it doesn't mean it's a worse season.
However, are fans expecting too much of an offensive breakthrough?
The added speed is nice, but the success of the offense will rely heavily on Smith. Smith will have to prove that he can spread the ball to other playmakers to get some pressure off Vernon Davis—even though they added proven veterans like Mario Manningham and Randy Moss.
Making a Case for Kyle Williams to Stay
The off-season sentiment seems as though Kyle Williams may be the odd man out- not out of spite, but because of the deep WR talent on the roster.
But when it comes to a backup PR, I think he's still solid. He catches the ball very clean and with confidence. The two turnovers were a flukey bounce and a strip during the run.
As a receiver, Kyle Williams has been a breath of fresh air and explosiveness to a receiving core which has been lacking both for a decade. Josh Morgan was solid, but he was never the homerun threat that Williams is.
Moss and Ted Ginn Jr. will likely not return for 2013.
Williams has much better hands, is quicker and way faster than Morgan ever was—but he's a lot smaller.
So that leaves Michael Crabtree, A.J. Jenkins and Manningham (if the 49ers pick up his contract again) on the 2013 squad. What was once a deep position will get thin very quickly.