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Fitting to wrap up the year looking forward

Happy New Years' Eve to all.  Yesterday was a blah performance by the 49ers and in fact, I spent the second half (plus a couple more hours) at Baker Beach playing football (and I'm paying for it today).  Of course we got to see the debut of Brady Quinn, although I'm disappointed BY or Bamm Bamm didn't get a sack against him.  I'll learn to live.

More importantly, Patrick Willis closed out the season with another fine performance, finishing the year with 174 tackles, 4 sacks, 2 forced fumbles and 5 pass deflections.  There is some significance in this numbers.  3 of the 4 sacks came in the last two games and in Week 16 he had his season high in sacks.  This shows a guy who did NOT hit the proverbial rookie wall so many young players run into late in the season.  And even more importantly?  Well, the league did not keep track of the leaders in tackles each season until 2001.  Bamm Bamm's 174 tackles are the most by any player since the statistic has been recorded.  If Willis isn't one of the 5 nominees for that GMC Defensive Player of the Week (not just the rookie award), then I don't know what to say.  He has been a dominant presence and kept fans interested in spite of much of the rest of the on-field product.

So now that this dreadful season is over (at least for the 49ers), I think it's best to begin looking ahead, considering the New Year is 10 hours away.  I'll certainly do plenty of looking back as we review the various positions and performances.  In the meantime, we can at least look forward to better things next year.  

  • Manny Lawson will be back in the saddle at the outside linebacker position, which I believe will make a big difference for the rush defense AND the pass rush.  
  • We'll have a full-fledged training camp battle at the quarterback position for the first time in years.
  • Change can be tough, but we can expect some new blood along the offensive and defensive line next season.  BY and Larry Allen are certainly Hall of Fame talents, but eventually you have to break with the past and move forward.  While BY certainly played well this season, it'll be interesting to see a guy like Ray McDonald get a little more playing time.
  • Once again, the 49ers will have approximately $30 million in cap space.  We'll have more details on players to resign and players to look at in the free agent market.  There's some quality offensive line talent and with Joe Staley's development alongside the other young guys, things should hopefully improve next season.

As the New Year dawns, we can all look forward to some great features here at Niners Nation.  I'll have some updated salary cap information to go with player contract issues.  We'll have a "You-be-the-GM" feature prior to free agency and the draft.  Additionally, while I can't give out any details yet, expect some big time format changes that will make this a much more all-encompassing site.  It will be several months before you see these changes at NN, but as information comes along I'll keep you updated.  I've seen a tidbit myself, and I can tell you it will rock your world and make this a much better site.

In the meantime, enjoy the remainder of the holiday season, and particularly the bowl season.  My Bowl Pick 'Em has been pretty bad up to this point, but at the very least there are some entertaining games left.  

Also, I'll have more details about the playoff prediction contests later this afternoon now that the results are up.  I see in spite of a solid effort I will not be in the postseason.  Even though I really wouldn't have won anything if I won the postseason tournament (considering I already do the posts and all), I'm still kind of pissed it didn't work out...Oh well.  I'll have information in a couple hours for the postseason participants.  And of course, there will be a general prediction contest for the postseason for all those interested in partaking.  Again, details to follow.

Finally, in a semi-unrelated note, for the Week 17 Rookie of the Week, adopted Niners Nation player Troy Smith is up for the award.  I say, what the hell, head on over and vote for Troy Smith for Rookie of the Week.  He's trailing 46%-27% so let's see if we can help out our adopted hero!