As this calendar year comes to an end I can't help but think about how different it has been compared to what next year will be like.
Personally, I am graduating from college this year. Frankly, my excitement is tempered by a fear of having to enter the (/deep, ominous voice) real world, world, world, world, world.
For me, and I suspect for many of you, last year started with a bit of disappointment and confusion. Disappointed - bitterly disappointed - that the Rams so ably knocked the 49ers out of playoff contention. Clearly the Mike Singletary experiment was a failure, Jed York was looking like an idiot for guaranteeing our playoff success after a string of losses, and the 49ers had no GM.
Problems to say the least and - oh yeah, I should mention this too, there was some sort of lockout thingy in which all the problems above seemed to be suspended, melting away in pain, like the Sybil hanging in her jar.
Even the draft, one of my favorite yearly activities, occurred against the ghastly backdrop of player representatives with horrid hats. And though Harbaugh was already hired, the draft itself was even a bit stressful: Aldon Smith? Clearly a reach and going to underperform, COLIN KAEPERNICK!, Culliver was some stupid safety wearing a CB mask, and then HUNTER!
So, clearly, I shouldn't be a scout and Trent Baalke has my draft trust. He seems to know what he is doing.
Once the lockout was resolved and training camps were sort of in full swing, the year felt a bit normal. Week one felt a bit normal. We should beat Seattle. Week two felt a bit normal. The Cowboys are a good team and we showed promise. From then on out, however, was an exhilarating ride nobody on this site could imagine. Seriously. I dare you to post a quotation from before this season predicting a 13-3 record.
As we have jumped from 2011 to 2012 so we should jump from the introduction of this article to its conclusion.
This year starts with unbridled optimism. Sure we should probably work on some red zone problems and sure we should probably teach Dashon Goldson that he is supposed to actually perform the coverages assigned to him. But, SUPER BOWL! guys and gals. We could totally go to SUPER BOWL! this year.
And after this season, however it ends, we don't have to clean house; we don't have coaching problems. Really, the only potential coaching problems coming up would be if somebody poached our coordinators. That would suck.
I am really looking forward to the draft this year too. I think we enter the draft with just a few clear "needs," but not so many that we can't go the BPA route almost the whole way through the draft. As I see it, this team could use a WR (probably in the first round), a CB or Safety, and an upgrade at Right Guard. But, I mean, should Andrew Luck fall to us, I wouldn't really complain about taking him either.
Really the only other factor that makes this offseason potentially complicated, that I can think of at least, is that so many of our FA signings from last year are on one year contracts. Now this whole playoffs thingy helps considerably, not only because players want to stay with a winning team but also because a playoff run brings an incredible amount of money to franchise. Baalke should be able to spend what he sees fit to win (with obvious caveats for cap space considerations and other boring things I don't want to write about).
And hey, the biggest help would be if we met SUPER BOWL! with success this year.
The biggest worry, in my mind, this coming year is our schedule. Oooh, this could be a hard year for us. Green Bay, New England, and New Orleans on the road this year? That's tough. We also have cross-country trips to the Vikings and Jets.
Scheduling aside, I am so excited for this upcoming year. I am excited to be watching 49er football in January. I am excited that we have a full year to have a real offseason for the team. I am excited to apply to graduate school, and pending failure, to apply for a job. I am excited that the 49ers will be with me every step of the way in that process. And, I am excited to be a part of this community, where we can all come together around a team for as far as the team will take us.