Football is a strange game. It is difficult enough to decide on a Saturday who you think will win a game on Sunday; so when "experts" try to pick Super Bowl winners way back in August, things usually don't go their way.
So what do these "experts" do when their silly projections end up way wrong? They usually pretend it never happened. After all, everyone on staff was forced to make predictions, so who cares if we're all wrong because these things are impossible to predict!
That is true. But what happens if one of these "experts" happens to stumble upon an eerily correct prediction? They would probably boast about it, half-jokingly, and claim to be a genius.
Well then. Seeing as how I am as much of an "expert" as anyone at ESPN, I'll play by their rules.
Which means, ladies and gentlemen, I can tell you, half-jokingly, that I am a genius.
While Bill Barnwell gave you a myriad of reasons why the 49ers would finish 8-8 and barely win a terrible NFC West Division, I presented you with facts that said the 49ers would finish with at least 9.5 wins (i.e., 10 wins).
While other websites knotted San Francisco at a mean 7.5 wins, saying things like...
"...the 49ers took a huge leap forward last season, after being mediocre to bad the previous few years. Usually teams that make huge gains in one season give some of those gains back in the next. Now, it's certainly possible that Jim Harbaugh is a genius coach and fantastic motivator, but past data indicates it's more likely that the team played over its head some in 2011, and will regress in 2012." (emphasis mine)
... I presented you with data on coaches who improved a losing team by at least six wins in their rookie season. I told you all of them beat the half-way regression mark the following year, and that Jim Harbaugh would do the same by keeping the 49ers above 9.5 wins.
I told you 2010, not 2011, was the 49ers' "exception" year. That the team was slowly getting better until Singletary came along, and that his disappointing 2010 campaign should not be cited as an indictment of the talent on the squad that year.
While Football Outsiders predicted a 7.2 win season for San Francisco, and expected the team's DVOA to drop over 25% points because defense was too variable year-to-year and the offense would get worse, I showed you the numbers of what our points for and points against would have to look like to finish with 7 wins.
side note: I really respect FO and the work they do. So, again, don't take this half-joking boast too seriously. Many of the FO staff actually questioned their system's projection for the Niners and subjectively predicted they would outperform it.
I then projected, at worse, we would finish with a realistic regression of 340 points for on offense - but that I expected the offense to improve with the added weapons and a better offensive line. Turns out we improved by 17 and finished with 397.
I then said our defense would likely give up more points thanks to having to face Green Bay, New Orleans, and New England -- all on the road -- but that they would stay very good otherwise and finish with about 271 points against.
They finished with 273.
And while people cited the 2011 squad's record in close games as a sign of luck, I pointed out their league-leading Pythagorean expectation of 12.3 wins as proof that they barely over-performed by 1 game. Therefore, they should only be expected to regress by 1, to about 11 wins.
I noted, as long as the 49ers did not have an exceptionally unlucky year in close games (i.e., if they finished at .500 or above), that they would win 10 games; and if they finished above .500 in close games, they would win 11.
San Francisco went 2-1-1 in close games - just a notch above .500, and ended 2012 with 11 wins.
All this came from a FanPost I made back in early September that I highly encourage you not to read because it's blasphemy.
So, yes. The 49ers were meant to be bad in 2012. They were meant to finish around .500. Jim Harbaugh was lucky last year and other coaches in the league would catch up to his bag of tricks and odd formations. The 49ers would probably still squeak into the playoffs thanks to how bad the NFC West is, but if anyone was going to win the Super Bowl it would be the Packers, or Atlanta.
So much for that.
But this is what "experts" do. They predict, they project, and then they pretend that none of it ever happened.
Unless they're right. And then we never hear the end of it.
As for me, I'm probably like you: an unashamed, unapologetic San Francisco 49er homer who lets his love for the team -- and his man-crush on Jim Harbaugh -- dictate what he thinks will happen.
When the San Francisco Giants played in the World Series this year, SBNation's Baseball Nation asked its staff for predictions of how the Fall Classic would end up.
... except for one rambling madman:
Turns out Verlander was knocked out in the 4th. And it was Panda who hit .500, not Scutaro for .600 - who instead only managed the Series-clinching RBI. Mr. Grant Brisbee is clearly delusional.
And so am I.
Because we are San Francisco sports fans, and we're sorry for believing in magic. But as I posted that FanPost on the morning of Sunday, September 9th, a few hours before the 49ers' first game of the year, Patrick Willis was getting ready for Green Bay.
By 6:30 PM that evening, the 49ers had shocked most everyone and won the game handily, and #52 informed us of a simple truth:
"I don't know who they think we are. We're on a mission."
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