Preface: Before I get into 49ers football, I figured I'd briefly explain my lack of fanposts and lack of general presence on NN this year. The first half of my year was plagued with health issues (mostly physical, some mental) which included an uninsured visit to the ER and a separate, unrelated visit to urgent care. The first half of my year was a frightening blur, but as the 2nd half of the year approached, I regained strength and maybe more importantly, my mental energy. I also am co-planning my wedding which is this coming October. With an NFL lock-out at hand, it was hard to find the time or energy for the joy of NN.
But now, as if nothing happened, football is back and all is well. Okay... maybe for Philadelphia Eagles fans, at least.
This won't be a detailed analysis (I'll save that for the season), but rather an observational and extended discussion on my thoughts of the San Francisco 49ers at this moment in time.
Let's first get this out of the way: In this QB-driven league, I would be remiss if I didn't discuss the QB situation. My last fanpost (all the way back in December) was a farewell to Alex Smith. At that point, I felt there was very little chance Alex would be returning. That was a pretty unanimous thought among 49ers followers. Well, for better or for worse, that little chance came to fruition.
We have all hammered our thoughts on Alex Smith into the ground like a jackhammer. But as it stands in 2011, the starting quarterback for our beloved 49ers is yet again going to be Alex Smith. Some people think this is like the movie Groundhog Day... the same thing over and over, with the same unfortunate result. Some others think it isn't a bad move considering the year in the NFL and the weak FA market at the position. And the most optimistic think this coaching regime will be the answer to his struggles, and he will thrive with the bright, offensively minded Harbaugh.
For myself, I will be reserving judgment until I see real games. I consider myself in that 2nd bracket ("not a bad move considering") but I reserve hope the optimists are correct for once. I do hope Harbaugh leads the way for 49ers success, both Alex Smith and otherwise. But at worst, at least it is a veteran QB which can buy Kaepernick time to develop. I'm unsure of the pick on Kaep... I like his tools and work ethic, but I do question his ability as an NFL QB.
But moving on... I believe in Harbaugh. I have a bit of unease simply because it is his first time being an NFL head coach... but I truly, truly believe in Harbaugh, unlike I have believed in a 49ers coach in decades. I am a huge Stanford fan, and I think what he managed to do was really unbelievable. The pool of players coaches at schools like Stanford have is miniscule compared to most other schools because of the academic (and other) requirements. Yet with 4 years, Harbaugh turned a laughing stock team into a national contender and bowl game winner. Yes, it was college, but it was a very impressive feat that started at the bottom of Mt. Everest. With Harbaugh's family of coaching, his NFL/QB background, and his brief but close relationship with Bill Walsh... I couldn't be more excited. I was jumping out of my boots when "Harbaughcolypse" concluded with the 49ers as victors.
But we have concerns about talent. We have to sit as we watch veteran leader after veteran leader leave the 49ers (defense in particular) and big name FA after big name FA sign with another team. This is clearly a bit of a rebuilding year for the 49ers, and so I have adjusted my expectations with that in mind. Maybe the vets leaving doesn't bother Harbaugh. After all, is this team going to win it all this year? No. That is the long shot of all long shots. He is shaping the team, and vets on the back half of their careers ask a lot of money and have a win-now-or-never mentality.
We are already hearing from media reports that this 49ers coaching staff is far more detailed, fast paced, and technical than the previous 49ers staff. We may not know a lot of young players (which is a bit uncomfortable), or we may know many current 49ers... but in the context of sub-par coaching. We had our hopes high with the big names of free agency, yet we seem to have lost more than we gained. But that is our position. We sit outside the building, and we can only relate to what we know. I like the Harbaugh/Baalke approach of "judge us by our success." In the end, that is all that matters. It doesn't take huge free agent signings to be successful. Look at the Tampa Bay Bucs, for instance. That team is heavy on coaching and drafting. You could say the same thing about the Atlanta Falcons. Let the 49ers be the next team to storm the scene with new coahcing and young talent. Aldon Smith, Colin Kaepernick, Chris Culliver & co. may lead the way to a new era of winning 49ers football. We just have to wait and see. It's better than knowing your coach is going to be out-coached week after week (see: Singletary regime).
So I welcome the new 49ers, I say farewell to those leaving, and I embrace the Harbaugh Era of 49ers football. Let it be a successful era, and I will root for every coach and player that wears the beautiful 49ers red & gold. And yes, that includes the 1st pick of the 2005 NFL draft, as well as the most recent pick (and the next to come pick) of the 49ers.
Go Niners! And welcome back National Football League! Game on. I'm tapping my foot for August 12th, let alone September 11th.