The 2015 NBA Finals are officially underway, and the Golden State Warriors took Game 1, taking down the Cleveland Cavaliers in overtime. The NBA requires plenty of teamwork, but unlike the NFL, a single player can often take over a game. The quarterback position is critical in the NFL, but a quarterback still needs his blockers and receivers and so forth. A single player, be it LeBron James, Steph Curry, or even Andre Iguodala for stretches Thursday evening, can put his team on his back and truly take over a game.
While NFL teams require much more teamwork, that did not stop Jason LaCanfora from taking a look at a single "key to the franchise" for each NFL team (NFC | AFC). The list is primarily players, but there are some coaches and team executives in the mix as well.
It is not a surprise that LaCanfora went with quarterback Colin Kaepernick for the San Francisco 49ers. He hit on some of the usual themes:
His huge supporter, head coach Jim Harbaugh, is gone. He's in a new offense with a rookie head coach and a largely overhauled staff. And his contract is set up so that for all intents and purposes this is a make-or-break year in terms of job security. The 49ers could move on from him in 2016 without cap or cash penalty and he will enter the season under intense scrutiny from fans and the media after the 49ers offense slumped drastically in 2014 and their playoff run ended. How much he can evolve into a prototypical quarterback, and how much that's even necessary, will continue to be a subject of great debate.
As much as football is a team game, the quarterback is the most important position on the field. Kap is the easy choice for the 49ers, so I thought I'd consider a few other options. Feel free to drop in your own choices
Jim Tomsula: You could say the whole coaching staff to be fair, but the pressure is of course on Tomsula. And considering the roster churn this offseason, plenty are pessimistic. But, if the 49ers do somehow come away with something solid, Tomsula might be the man partially responsible.
Aldon Smith: The 49ers are making significant changes to their cornerbacks. A strong pass rush would help ease the transition if there are any struggles in coverage. The 49ers have several potential key contributors to the pass rush, but Aldon Smith's 2012 season shows just how dominant he can be.
Alex Boone: I don't think it is easy to slot in one offensive lineman as a "key", but in light of Anthony Davis's retirement, Boone could be that guy. We don't know yet if he will swap out to right tackle, but I have to think it is at least on the radar.
Torrey Smith: While Anquan Boldin has been Kap's favorite receiver the last two years, the 49ers have struggled to get a consistent deep threat. Vernon Davis can be that guy on occasion, but Smith has the tools to be a legit deep threat for the 49ers. He has not been entirely consistent with his hands, but he does draw a sizable number of defensive pass interference calls. Establishing the deep game can open up the shorter passing game a great deal.
Other than Colin Kaepernick, who would be a "key to the franchise" for the 49ers heading into 2015?