It is mid-May and the San Francisco 49ers begin OTAs next week, which means an early round of power rankings makes all the sense in the world! The latest NFL power rankings come from USA Today, and they are not particularly high on the 49ers. In fact, they are quite down on the team. They rank the 49ers No. 28, ahead of only the Cleveland Browns, Washington, the Tennessee Titans and the Chicago Bears. Here is what they had to say in their brief comment:
How much are a hard-driving coach and 30-year-old workhorse running back (and team heartbeat) worth? We're about to find out.
Clearly USA Today has joined the pain train that is Team Pessimist!
I am not overly surprised they are down on this. I disagree, but I also can see why people would be skeptical about the 49ers heading into 2015. They lost a coach who helped guide them to three straight NFC Championship Games and a Super Bowl appearance, and they lost the heart of their offense. And of course we can't forget the Patrick Willis and Chris Borland retirements (and potentially Justin Smith). It is easy to get sucked into the bad things that have happened this offseason.
We've had this discussion over and over again, and it really is not going to change a whole lot between now and the start of training camp. Some people might switch sides if anything particularly notable happens in OTAs and minicamp, but in the meantime, "team optimist" and "team pessimist" is what it is. I lean toward the optimist side, but I do think there are some ways in which I try to go with more of a wait and see view. I imagine some would say this makes me inherently optimistic because I am hopeful.
I do think there is a difference between being optimistic in waiting, and just blindly thinking everything will be OK with these changes. I think there are reasonable arguments to be made that the negative things will be offset by positive changes. I don't think anybody can say that will most definitely happen or not happen, but I like to think it is on the table.
Maybe a Carlos Hyde-led running back group will take a step forward, or maybe Frank Gore really was the heart and soul of the offense. Maybe Vernon Davis will bounce back, or maybe he's just getting old. Maybe the 49ers coaching staff and scheme will put the young cornerbacks in position for success, or maybe they really should have gone with a corner early in the draft.
There are quite a few question marks. Some would say that the 49ers need to hit on so many that it seems unlikely. Others (occasionally me) might suggest what we believe are questions really are not in fact unknowns to the team. I don't know. It makes for all sorts of additional debate, and it is not going away anytime soon.