Fellow Niners fans oh how the mighty have struggled since the firing of Steve Mariucci. We've been through a lot lately, and things seem to be turning around in our favour. As passionate fans we await 2010 with optimism, whether it be guarded or not. We calmly sit through this less-than-exciting offseason and anticipate what could be a successful season ahead. But what will make it a success? Well, in one word: playoffs. Under no other circumstances will I consider the 49ers season a success, it's playoffs or bust. Here's five reasons San Francisco's season will be a success.
1. Alex Smith - Yes, that's right. The number one reason the 49ers will make the playoffs will be because of Alex Smith. The question is, will Smith be ineffective and benched early on opening up the door for David Carr or Nate Davis? Or will Smith build upon the progression he showed towards the end of 2009? Well, Smith finally has the same offense for the second straight year, and he finally has talent surrounding him. The team went out and added a couple of humungoids to the OLine, which could pay off sooner rather than later. Regardless of immediate impact as starters, the two shiny new linemen at least provide the 49ers will something valuable at the OLine position: depth. With all the stars aligning for Alex Smith, the 49ers will make the playoffs.
2. The Secondary - This offseason was quite quiet for the 49ers defense, aside from drafting superstar-in-waiting Taylor Mays. Last year's unit was impressive and dominant at times, boasting one of the league's best red zone and rush defenses. The secondary could be an issue, but Shawntae Spencer, Nate Clements and Tarell Brown are a reliable trio when healthy. Dashon Goldson came on strong in the second half, and Michael Lewis (when not concust) is as reliable as they come when stacking the box. With the addition of Mays, the 49ers now have some depth in case Lewis goes down to injury. Hopefully Curtis Taylor and Reggie Smith can mature into solid back-ups as well. Call me crazy, but I think Nate Clements will be playing the 2010 season with a giant chip on his shoulder which could mean a season that finally lives up to the giant contract he signed as a free agent in 2007. San Francisco's secondary is going to be a big reason why the 49ers make the playoffs.
3. Ahmad Brooks - I'll try to keep this brief, because the 49ers boast one of the best front sevens in all of football (and that's not being a homer). Ahmad Brooks will see an increased role in 2010, and we could see a 49er reach double-digit sacks for the first time since Andre Carter way back in 2002 (guess when the 49ers last playoff appearance was). San Francisco's linebacking corps is a strong unit, and not one individual will need to get 10+ sacks for the unit to have success, much like 2009. However, Brooks is the guy that will do it, and the 49ers will be in the playoffs because of it.
4. Brandon Jones - Before your eyes fall out of their sockets, take a second and relax. Brandon Jones makes this list because he's going to a key component to San Francisco's success. Why? Because Brandon Jones will be cut before the regular season, opening the door for rookie Kyle Williams and Ted Ginn to take the reps and run. One of the most important ingredients will be one that's not even with the team. If I had any say, the team would send Brandon Jones a "49ers NFC West Champs" hat just for being bad enough to get cut. Maybe even a blinged out sixth Super Bowl ring too, but let's not get ahead of ourselves.
5. Coaching - Ok, so this is likely the number one reason the team will make the playoffs in 2010, largely in part because it's the reason Alex Smith will be successful, and the reason the defense will continue to swarm. Jimmy Raye returns as the Offensive Co-Ordinator which may upset some fans, but Smith will show such great command of the offense, people are going to forget about Shrek. Greg Manusky will be the 49ers Defensive Co-Ordinator in what will likely be his last season with the team. Let's face it, he's been so good there's no way he won't be head coaching a team soon. Mostly all of the remaining coaches carry over from 2009, which is a great thing. The addition of a new OLine coach, Mike Solari, and his assistant Ray Brown, will take this team to the playoffs. Oh yeah, Mike Singletary.
What are your five reasons the 49ers will make (or miss) the playoffs?