In this morning's Golden Nuggets, Ninjames included a link to a Phil Barber blog post about Roger Craig. Craig spent this past weekend up at Infineon Raceway serving as Grand Marshall of the Toyota Save Mart 350. During his time up in Sonoma, he spoke with media (Barber and Nancy Gay among others) about a variety of subjects, with the 49ers being the most notable topic. I thought Craig's comments were particularly interesting, and thus worth pulling out as their own post
In his dealings with the media, Craig was not shy about expressing his feelings about the 2010 49ers:
"They're (the 49ers) gonna be strong contenders this year. You think about Kurt Warner's not with Arizona anymore. They're gonna be rebuilding. Anquan Boldin is gone. And Pete Carroll's gonna have a tough time first year. He's gonna come out the gate and not really dominate the West. So 49ers are a perfect team to annihilate the West. And they got the right ingredients right now. They must have listened to my prediction. I said they should draft linemen before the draft, and they draft the two biggest guys on the planet."
Now, even though Roger Craig is one of the 49ers all-time greats, his comments were similar to what we might hear from many of the fans out there. Nonetheless, Craig is just one more high profile figure to hop on the 49ers bandwagon as we approach the peak of the summer. As we get closer to the season we'll have a variety of previews from every media source under the sun. As they are unveiled I'm thinking I'll put together a spreadsheet of predictions for the West, and the 49ers in particular.
It seems like every year a different team becomes the hot pick to make a big move. The 49ers were the hot pick heading into the 2007 season after a strong 7-9 showing in 2006. We all know how that turned out. More importantly, it seems like the sleeper team du jour often falls flat on their face in the subsequent season. So the question then is whether the 49ers are going to be that sleeper team the media slobbers all over, and if so, will they in turn fall on their face?
In terms of potentially winning the NFC West, I don't see the 49ers as a "sleeper" at this point. Heading into 2007 they weren't the favorite to win the West, but many folks thought they might sneak up and surprise the Seahawks. Heading into 2010, the 49ers are generally considered the favorite to win what could be a fairly weak overall division. As Craig mentioned, the Cardinals have the wrong kind of momentum and the Seahawks are dealing with a brand new coach, and a fairly old team. There's no mention of the Rams because even if they take a step forward, it'd need to be pretty huge to win the NFC West.
Given all that, the 49ers would be more of a sleeper when it comes to being an impact team in the playoffs. Not making the playoffs would be probably be a disappointment for most folks here, and such disappointment would seem to move the 49ers out of traditional "sleeper" territory.