(Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP)
(Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP)

49ers Preview: Don’t Crown Them Yet

They were the darlings of 2012, but—despite boasting talent and good coaching—more than a few warning signs point to a regression in San Francisco

By
Andy Benoit
· More from Andy·

There’s plenty of evidence that the Super Bowl hangover is real. Since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970, 28 of the 42 Super Bowl losers failed to win a playoff game the next season. The last Super Bowl loser to make it back the following year was the Buffalo Bills. (And the year before that, it was the Bills … and the year before that, also the Bills.)

Who knows why Super Bowl losers fare poorly. Could have something to do with an emotional letdown. It could be subtle evidence of parity. Could be pure coincidence. Or maybe it has something to do with a shortened offseason. Playing in the Super Bowl extends the team’s season by several weeks, leaving a lot of behind-the-scenes people behind schedule.

Whatever the reason for the hangover, we’re going to analyze the football side of these Super Bowl-losing Niners. With vague signs of looming change on offense, there could be more than a few reasons that point to an imminent hangover.

OFFENSE

Jim Harbaugh and coordinator Greg Roman form the best offensive coaching tandem in football right now. In an age of finesse spread passing systems, these two have led an old-school running team to an NFC Championship Game appearance and then a Super Bowl in their first two seasons. The Niners might be the only offense left that lines up and implicitly says, “Here’s our run game; try to stop it.” Last season, according to Football Outsiders, they used some combination of two-back or two-tight end sets on a league-high 48 percent of their snaps. They used sets containing both two backs and two tight ends 24.2 percent of the time, far and away the most in pro football. (This was actually the formation from which a lot of their downfield deep shots came.)

Though the Niners line up with obvious intentions to run, it’s not always clear how they’ll run. Harbaugh and Roman take a very intellectual approach to a lot of their ground designs (the Stanford influence?), focusing heavily on scheming advantageous angles for blockers and runners. (Roman likes to say, “Geometry doesn’t have bad days.”) Their unconventional designs constantly create unexpected running lanes out of unconventional formations or blocking patterns.

In building a ground-oriented offense, Harbaugh isn’t just catering to the throwback values he learned from his old mentor, Bo Schembechler; he’s also catering to his personnel. The Niners have a consummate workhorse back in Frank Gore. And they have perhaps the meatiest offensive line in the league. At right tackle is the steadily progressing Anthony Davis, who got a five-year, $37.3 million contract in the offseason (with a collective $7.25 million worth of annual de-escalators if he fails to complete workouts or make weight requirements). At right guard is Alex Boone, a 6-8, 300-pounder with improved lateral mobility in the run game. At center is a veteran stalwart, Jonathan Goodwin, backed up by 308-pound third-year pro Daniel Kilgore. And, of course, rounding out the front five is the best left side blocking duo in the NFC: Mike Iupati at guard and Joe Staley at tackle. Iupati, though still too inconsistent in pass protection, has an uncommon ability to maintain balance while delivering powerful jabs on the move. Staley, one of the game’s smartest pass protectors, is an equally voracious run-blocker in space.

San Francisco’s rushing attack is as deep as it is diverse. The line has acceptable depth with last year’s developmental fourth-round guard, Joe Looney, and veteran Adam Snyder, who is capable of playing guard or tackle in a pinch. The backfield has outstanding depth, as Kendall Hunter, assuming he’s fully recovered from last year’s Achilles injury, offers more change-of-tempo juice than the surprisingly still-spry Gore. Hunter could push for 10 to 12 carries a game. Also in the mix is diminutive slasher LaMichael James, who has carved out a niche given that he’s the only back with the speed to consistently turn the corner and operate from single-back sets. The Niners also have a short-yardage back, Anthony Dixon, though with a reliable fullback like Bruce Miller there’s no reason Gore or Hunter couldn’t move the chains in these situations, especially considering that both run low to the ground. Originally, Harbaugh installed a run-oriented system to not only highlight his team’s strengths but also to mask the weakness at quarterback. As nice a guy as Alex Smith was, he had very distinct limitations as a dropback passer. That’s why the decision to bench him for second-year wonder Colin Kaepernick really wasn’t a hard one.

This is where San Francisco’s identity dilemma comes into play. Harbaugh must decide how much he wants to tailor his system to Kaepernick. Theoretically, he could keep the same run-first approach. As we saw last year, Kaepernick’s agility and long-striding speed actually add a potent dimension to the ground game. However, as we explored in the Redskins preview, the read-option could soon wane across the NFL. The Niners already saw firsthand in the Super Bowl how defenses are going to react to the novel tactic moving forward: constant, ferocious hits on the quarterback. Kaepernick, highly exposed with his upright running style, was lucky he did not get knocked out of that game.

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What the Niners also must consider is that in keeping Kaepernick in a controlled, run-first system, they’d be leaving a lot of raw quarterbacking talent uncooked. Great as Kaepernick is as a runner, his lanky build and rubbery, quick-snapping arm make him an even more enticing passer.

There isn’t a clear-cut decision for San Francisco to make here; a progression passer can still be a little bit of a runner. Currently, Kaepernick as a progression passer is still more than a little bit of a runner. That must change at some point.

As they did with Alex Smith, the Niners last year confined Kaepernick to a lot of simplified either/or reads. He generally had no more than two reads, and on most dropbacks, it was one. If the initial reads weren’t open, he tucked and ran. Kaepernick thrived with this, in part because defenses had never seen him in person or on tape. He won’t catch anyone by surprise this season. It stands to reason that the unpolished elements of his game—and there are several, including presnap awareness, huddle tempo, progression passing, route anticipation and a few minor glitches in his mechanics—will be more of a problem.

Of course, Kaepernick had time this offseason to work on his shortcomings. But even if he has made progress, he may not reap the benefits in 2013. With Randy Moss gone, tight end Delanie Walker now a Titan and Michael Crabtree out with a torn Achilles, the Niners are minus three enormous facets of their passing attack. Moss was close to washed up, but for whatever reason defenses still played a safety over the top against him. Roman gladly drew up route combinations that took full advantage of that. Walker had the capacity to line up anywhere and create matchup problems, either for himself or, more often, for teammates. This was critical because Roman loves to incorporate shifts and wrinkles in his formations. (And not to be overlooked was Walker’s equally significant impact on the run-blocking designs.) Crabtree was the playmaker. He didn’t have great speed, but his body control and route running were near perfect. By season’s end he’d become one of the most clutch chain-movers in the NFL.

The Niners are hoping they’ve found replacements for all three of these weapons, but nothing is guaranteed. They did not originally plan for Anquan Boldin to be their new Crabtree—they traded a sixth-round pick for the 32-year-old receiver before Crabtree’s injury—but that’s how it will be. At tight end they drafted Vance McDonald in the second round with hopes that he can be the new Delanie Walker. At Rice, McDonald often seemed as if he was playing with oven mitts on. While he did line up at a litany of positions, it takes several years to develop the fine-tuned nuances that had come to make Walker’s game unique.

As for replacing Moss, the hope was that last year’s first-round pick, A.J. Jenkins, could fill the void. It didn’t take long for that hope to evaporate. The man San Fran traded Jenkins for, Jon Baldwin, is more accomplished but by no means a deep threat. The former first-round Chief has circus catch ability but a disconcerting sluggishness in his downfield movement (think running in sand). In fact, Mario Manningham (coming off an ACL injury) may wind up being the No. 2 receiver if he can get healthy. Or even slot man Kyle Williams (also coming off an ACL). Or former Dolphin Marlon Moore. Or fourth-round rookie Quinton Patton, though he may have too limited of a route tree having only lined up on the right side at Louisiana Tech.

The only truly familiar outlet for Kaepernick is Vernon Davis, who is a sensational athlete but constricted route runner (it’s pretty much the seams and maybe a deep cross or two; certainly no option routes for the eighth-year pro). Davis’ heart as a run-blocker has turned him into an admirable all-around tight end, though there’s been talk of playing him more at a true wide receiver spot this season.

Just how sweeping the passing game changes are may hinge on where the Niners feel Kaepernick is in his development as a progression passer. If there are limitations at receiver, it will be harder for Roman to generate easy completion opportunities through one-read designs.

DEFENSE

Somewhat quietly (or as quietly as possible for a team in the Super Bowl spotlight), San Francisco’s vaunted defense wore down at the end of last season. Perhaps this was a consequence of coordinator Vic Fangio’s infrequent substitutions (practically the only sub-package he used was nickel, which had just one personnel change, cornerback Chris Culliver replacing nosetackle Isaac Sopoaga). Not coincidentally, the defense’s late troubles coincided with the decline of its four-man rush.

After having 28 sacks over the first 11 weeks of the season, the Niners had a measly 14 in the last eight weeks (including the postseason). With less pressure generated up front, San Fran’s back seven suddenly had trouble holding up in man-to-man, which is their coverage foundation.

Deep Dive

Everything you need to know about all 32 teams and their prospects for the 2013 season, courtesy of Andy Benoit. The last four teams roll out this week.

Another non-coincidence is that the pass rush’s slide coincided with defensive end Justin Smith’s shoulder injury. It’s been well-documented: Smith, in and of himself, is not a big-time pass rusher (three sacks last season; career high is 8.5), but his brilliance in drawing double-teams and destroying protection walls with crashes and stunts creates invaluable attack lanes and favorable one-on-one matchups for teammates, most often Aldon Smith.

The Niners have recognized that the soon-to-be 34-year-old Justin Smith is indeed mortal. The two-year contract he signed in June is intended to be the final one of his career (and he may not play out the final season). In April general manager Trent Baalke spent a second-round pick on Tank Carradine, who figures to be Smith’s understudy. Before that, Baalke signed ex-Chief Glenn Dorsey, who could push for a long-term role. Ideally, Dorsey and Carradine won’t have to play much in the meantime, as Smith, recovered from his triceps injury, and the feloniously underrated Ray McDonald can remain dominant every-down forces up front. They’ll be especially critical on running downs, given that new starting nosetackle Ian Williams has played just 39 snaps in his two-year career. (It’s worth noting that the Niners at least seem to be high on Williams, as they let free agent Sopoaga walk and, despite a wealth of picks, did not address his position in the draft until Quinton Dial in round five.)

Just going off skill set, starting outside linebackers Aldon Smith and Ahmad Brooks shouldn’t be easily neutralized no matter how the defensive ends/tackles alongside them are playing. The supple Smith has freakishly long arms and frighteningly strong hands. Brooks is an explosive, unsuspectingly well-rounded athlete. Both have dynamic speed.

In 2012 the Niners carried only one scantly used backup outside ‘backer on their roster (Clark Haggans, now out of the league). By season’s end Smith and Brooks had both played around 1,200 total snaps and may have been dragging. There will be chances to keep them fresher this year, as there’s newfound depth with third-round rookie Corey Lemonier coming aboard.

The Niners also took measures to improve their secondary. Chris Culliver was actually progressing nicely as the nickel outside corner. Aside from the big touchdown he surrendered to Jacoby Jones, the then-second-year pro had a very good Super Bowl (the Ravens just happened to make a few spectacular plays at his expense). Nevertheless, the temptation to sign Nnamdi Asomugha on the cheap was one Baalke couldn’t resist. (The move proved extra beneficial after Culliver tore his ACL early in training camp.) Asomugha is no longer considered an upper-echelon corner after two disappointing years in Philadelphia. But in returning to the Bay Area (he spent his first eight seasons with Oakland) he is returning to the two-man base scheme that suits his press-boundary style. Asomugha won’t beat out solid seventh-year pro Tarell Brown for a starting job, but he should get plenty of nickel work outside, with Carlos Rogers sliding to the slot. Also in the mix is Trumaine Brock, talented but troubled ex-Buc Eric Wright and incumbent backup Perrish Cox.

At safety, the departure of Dashon Goldson hurts, particularly in run defense, where he and Donte Whitner were like dual missiles firing down from the third level. Whitner is back at strong safety, while first-round rookie Eric Reid is being counted on at free safety. Unsure if they’d be able to draft the LSU playmaker (or risk-taker), the Niners had previously signed Craig Dahl in free agency. That leaves them with improved depth, as Dahl, though not as athletic or fast as blitzing specialist C.J. Spillman, has 42 games of starting experience in a variety of systems.

Saving the best for last, what allows this man-based defense to eschew complicated tactics and just focus on playing with speed and aggression is having a pair of superstars in the middle. Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman are the two best 3-4 inside linebackers in football (who is 1 and who is 1-A is a matter of personal preference). Both are sensational at shedding blocks. And, though not quite blankets, both can hold up in solo man coverage. (Willis generally takes the tight end, Bowman the running back.) That gives Fangio freedoms most coordinators don’t have.

Venture into the middle of the 49ers' defense—right into the arms of NaVorro Bowman (left) and Patrick Willis—at your own peril.
Venture into the middle of the 49ers’ defense—right into the arms of NaVorro Bowman (left) and Patrick Willis—at your own peril. (Jeff Chiu/AP)

SPECIAL TEAMS

The Niners can only hope that their newly signed veteran kicker, Phil Dawson, works out better than the last one, David Akers. At punter, they have nothing to worry about; three-time All Pro Andy Lee remains one of the best. In the return game, LaMichael James can handle kicks. The team is hoping he can also handle punts, but if he can’t, Kyle Williams—now more than 18 months removed from his 2011 NFC Championship debacle—would make the most sense on punts.

BOTTOM LINE

This team is deep and well-coached. But it’s also facing some inevitable growing pains on offense. Expect the Niners to take a small step backward before resuming their forward march.

81 comments
PC95
PC95

"Aside from the big touchdown he surrendered to Jacoby Jones, the then-second-year pro had a very good Super Bowl (the Ravens just happened to make a few spectacular plays at his expense)." 

How does losing a championship somehow get spun to "a very good super bowl".  What moronically homerish statement. The 49ers did not address their secondary well enough - Brown should'nt be starting.  They focused on safety when they should've been focusing on cornerback.  Time and time again teams don't learn.

BY
BY

"because defenses had never seen him in person or on tape".... Do NFL teams no longer have access to opponent's game tapes? Silly comment.....

DasDweeb
DasDweeb

The popular opinion among pundits last season: The 2011 Niners were great, they're loaded, but they were underestimated and lucky there were so few injuries and will regress in 2012. And they went to the SB.  This season, they are improved in almost every way - obviously McDonald can't replace Swiss-Army-knife Walker straight up, so that's a dropoff in versatility, but although Goldson was an all-pro, Reid is reportedly faster and smarter. At the very least, he'll collect fewer personal fouls (no knock on Dashon, who was a great Niner). Losing Crabs for most of the year hurts, but the WR corps is far superior to what it was last year - and now there's a QB who can terrifyingly stretch the field. The pass rush evaporated after Cowboy's injury; Harbaalke addressed that depth, big time, in the draft. Williams is reportedly an upgrade at the nose. And does anyone think Kaep, in his 2nd year as a starter, isn't a huge upgrade over Alex Smith - a true standup guy, an honorable warrior, wish him well in KC but he couldn't scare anybody deep? Dawson and the new guys on ST figure to drastically improve kick coverage. The depth is improved all around and a lot of young players (Kaep, James, et al) look ready to really make their mark.


All respect to the fine team in Seattle, but this Niners team looks poised to take a big step forward, not a small step back.

Erocks49ers
Erocks49ers

I think everyone places too much on Kaep. I was not that impressed with his preseason mechanics. 7 of 13 against last years Vikings 24th ranked pass defense was concerning. Granted I know they were running a vanilla offense but still.

I think this season will consist of some big plays but a lot of 3 and outs. The 9ers D will get little or no rest. By game 3 the "Read Option" will go the way of the famed "Wildcat". Hopefully by then Kaep will be better at pre snap and at pass progressions.

Lets not even talk about Kaep getting hurt. Slide man slide!

Vermonator
Vermonator

I suppose I should be depressed, but it seems Andy Benoit has consistently regressed every year as a self proclaimed prognosticator. All signs point to another Superbowl birth.

geewhiz
geewhiz

"Venture into the middle of the 49ers’ defense—right into the arms of NaVorro Bowman (left) and Patrick Willis—at your own peril."

Sounds terrifying..

gary41
gary41

There are 8 playoff teams--all relatively well matched these days.  It comes down to a matter of health and momentum at the end of the season--both factors impossible to predict.  It is thus not surprising the 4 best rated QB's are not necessarily SB winners.  Ben got hot and Eli got hot and Joe got hot, accounting for frank & relative upsets.  So the numbers alone say the Niner's are not likely to win.  What we have here is an attempt to read the hand backward, looking at positional weaknesses.  The Niner's are different on offense, but certainly not weaker.  Thanks for the breakdown, but the Niner's have sufficient offensive ability and diversity to win on paper, but lets face it, there are lots of playoff caliber teams out there, including another powerhouse in the NFL West.      

thegbinsider
thegbinsider

"They were the darlings of 2012, but—despite boasting talent and good coaching—more than a few warning signs point to a regression in San Francisco"

People said the same thing last year. There were more obvious signs, but the team didn’t really regress other than winning two less games because of field goals vs. the Rams. Grantland had the big piece last year about why the 49ers would regress, and that same writer (Bill Barnwell) basically explained (in January) that he underestimated the Harbaugh effect:

"Harbaugh’s brilliance is obvious: He’s aggressive when he should be, conservative when it suits his team and the game situation, and he uses every little trick in the book to gain advantages for his team up and down the field. It’s not even that he’s the new Bill Belichick. He’s the first Jim Harbaugh."

Trying to make an argument that they’ll regress is dependent on looking at things with the “half glass empty” perspective, such as the wide receivers, Justin Smith’s age, teams “figuring out” this offense, etc. That perspective doesn’t change the fact that this team boasts the NFL’s best defense when healthy, and will have a full season of the guy who transformed this offense from average to explosive: Kaepernick.

Using the argument that Super Bowl losers experience a drop-off is the same kind of argument that people used last year, saying that teams that have a colossal spike in wins (6-10 to 13-3) experience a huge drop-off the next year. Sure, just like the Super Bowl losers argument, there’s evidence to support it, but albeit historical evidence that ignores the fact that every team is different, and as Barnwell said explained earlier this year, you can’t underestimate the Harbaugh effect.

Gs1
Gs1

Interesting. The 49ers are regressing, why? Because they have more youth, depth & talent on the defensive line (Dorsey & Ian Willams are alot younger & mobile then Sopoaga)? More speed, depth & talent on the edge, which should should scare every team they play. More depth & talent at inside ILB, as if that could be possible. The starting D hasn't given up a TD all preseason & that's considering that 49ers don't scheme AT ALL for these games. 

So they lost one WR? So what, they're a RUNNING TEAM! The 49ers line up & MAUL you. Who's going to stop them?  Delanie Walker has been replaced by a 270 lb. TE that's so athletic he played slot receiver in college and is already our leading pass catcher. Where does MMQB getting their info? Who's going to stop them? The Seahawks at their house, with their best D-linemen either hurt (Clemons) or suspended for cheating (Irvin) for their second week game? Not happening. Harbaugh has owned Pete Caroll since college. People want to point to the Seahawks win last year. So what? The 49ers had just won one of the most emotional & memorable games in a decade on the road against the Patriots. The Seahawks were playing THEIR Super Bowl, the 49ers had bigger fish to fry.

Who else is gong to stop them? The Packers who just lost their starting RB & left tackle for the year? The Saints that have no defense? The Patriots that just lost 3/4 of their offense? I just think it's funny that while all these teams are trying to prepare for the Read Option, Harbaugh is probably already evolving to something else. That's why he is one of best coaches in the league.

So I find it interesting that the 49ers with more speed, youth, and depth then last year; more favorable schedule; with one of the most innovative coaching staffs in the league is somehow going to regress this year. 

Jumbotron
Jumbotron

Isn't this "step backwards," what was said about the Niners 2 seasons ago when they were fresh off of a 13-3 year and advancing to the NFC title game? By all conclusions, I take it step backwards meant advancing to the Superbowl the following year, so by using the formula of these writers' math (I know, oxymoron right?), another step backwards should mean a Superbowl win this season? Well, okay then. 

merpington
merpington

Sorry, 28 of 42 not winning a playoff game doesn't even count as evidence ignoring the number of teams that have historically gotten into the playoffs.

Charlie P
Charlie P

"...defensive end Justin Smith’s shoulder injury."  Hmmm, first I have heard of this.  So his torn left tricep last year was just a smokescreen and a huge lie then.

Charlie P
Charlie P

A free hit on the zone-reading QB may seem like a cool idea, but what's left unsaid it that takes the OLB/DE completely out of the play and leaves them playing 10 on 10 in any given running play.  It may not seem like big deal, but on any running play, 10 on 10 is an enormous advantage to the offense.  Exhibit: Baltimore had an excellent rushing defense in regular season and through AFC Playoffs last year and Frank Gore was gashing them for 6 yards a carry in the Super Bowl because of that hit-the-QB strategy.  Also, if the QB finishes his hand-off and throws up his hands in time, he is no longer considered a ball-carrier and the defender MUST pull up or risking getting a 15-yard personal foul.

Furthermore, an option offense means the opposing D has to spend time preparing for something extra and something they are not used to, and that's ALWAYS an advantage to the offense.

Anyway, IMHO, the read-option is not going away any time soon.  Just look at the 49ers, who drafted BJ Daniels, and signed McCoy and Wallace to back up Kaepernick, all of whom are mobile QBs and it is decidedly NOT a coincidence.

TrackStarGazing
TrackStarGazing

LOL.  This article was clearly written by someone who doesn't follow the 49ers.  As others have said predicting a step back is easy when predicting it on either team in the last SB. 

There are some wrinkles here.  The 49ers has WR issues last year.  Moss was uneven, Crabtree didn't catch fire until Kaepernick took over. 

The smartest thing to say, is that it is too early to tell how the additions to the 49ers work out.  The key factors are Gore staying healthy, the RB's rotating, and the new receivers getting chemistry with Kaepernick. 

As vaunted as the 49er coaching staff has been the last two years, they've made their share of errors.  Harbaugh's clock management can only be better in NFL year 3.  Roman, while often an innovative and exciting OC, also often laid eggs for entire series, of the "wait, what?" variety.


Lastly, this article took a complete "glass half empty" approach.  Another writer could have taken a complete "glass half full" approach. 

This wasn't exactly riveting journalism, it seems you had to take an editorial stance, and took the first one in the book. 

A much better approach would have been to analyze the 49ers changes against the Seahawks changes and progress, and take a look at how that might influence the division. 

Also, the preseason has already seen the benefit of Kaepernick getting all the #1 reps at QB, as noted by his ability to go to his 3rd progression, and his improvement (also due to off season work) on short range and touch passes.  Steve Young raved that Kaepernick has already improved on making "all the throws," something he was pretty good at last year, except for one notorious SB drive.

I read a lot of wishful thinking from opposing fans around the league...let's just get real, no one, at this point, knows anything.

RobertSellers
RobertSellers

IF DE's start B-linging for the QB on zone reads watch all the read teams start to use packaged plays more than option.  I'll take the free 15 yards for roughing please!!

RonaldDodgen
RonaldDodgen

Before Kap won the job everybody was complaining about his long release, carry's the ball like a loaf of bread and those skinny legs.

Interesting how my Niner fans never say that anymore.

randomdeletion
randomdeletion

The Niners success the past two years is not a sign of how great Harbaugh is or the GM is, it is a sign of the growing parity in NFL football.  They will take a step back because that is what happens.  Just like the Ravens won't repeat.  

The Niners have many issues.  One is no receivers.  Boldin is in no way shape or form a #1 receiver.  Put the best corners on other teams on him and he will be shut down.  The Niners don't even have an adequate #2 receiver.  So the passing game will suffer.  Not having it roll like last year will mess with a young QB's head.  Will he have the patience to read defenses and find holes?  Doubtful.  He won't be able to just take off either.  Defenses will adjust their rush technique for his running threat.  Without a solid passing game, the running game will struggle more.  Defenses will stack the box.  It doesn't matter how much FLUFF this writer put in the piece to try and build up the Niners unrealistically.  They are not the best offense in the NFL and never were no matter what this writer says.  

The defense won't be as good either.  Heck toward the end of last year they flat out sucked.  Less talent this year?  How is that going to make them better?  

Funny stuff...

gymviking
gymviking

Well, the idea that the 'Niners might take a step back is reasonable, because they were in the Superbowl last year. But, of those other Superbowl losing teams you looked at, how many had a defense like this and a young, super-talented quarterback just coming into his own? They may take a step back, as you say, but if you say that, tell me who is going to beat them in the first round of the playoffs?

SF49FCKYOUALL
SF49FCKYOUALL

Good read, agree with alot of your points, but you state the obvious, "Niners will regress..and so on". How is that news? A team that has exceeded expectations is bound to regress, thats just elementary. Your not really saying anything new or informative, just the same old regression argument, which is the safest prediction anyone could make.

knightrider
knightrider

@Bayertoe  I couldn't have said it better myself. This article seems like a lazy summation of everything else that has been flying around the internet... from July. It's a dead giveaway when a writer attributes regression based on the loss of Crabtree, but the fact is that they went to the SB with only 1 solid WR. As we stand today it looks like they have actually IMPROVED at the position over last year. 

Another key point you made is about Delanie Walker, who dropped nearly every important pass that went his way. Even in just a few preseason games McDonald appears much more promising (blocking skills notwithstanding).

The biggest obstacle this season, or reason they may regress, is due to the strength of the schedule and ever-improving NFC West.

CJA333
CJA333

Alex Smith was hurt, that is why Kaep... was put in.  Why do they keep giving Harbaugh credit for the "decision" to change  quarterback.  Where was his choice?  1 hurt, 1 not.

B.T.
B.T.

Culliver had a good Super Bowl? He was brutally bad.

Dresy5B
Dresy5B

Peter King has lost touch.  What was "deep" about this article?  Peter King has gotten lazy.  He knows nothing of what he's talking about above.  Well, not "nothing" but WOW is he off the mark.  This is the same Peter King that said Harbaugh and Schwartz should travel around the country to elementary schools to talk about the importance of being a "good sport"........... Blah blah blah Peter.  Please either do more homework and think more before you write, or disappear.  

bpeterson464
bpeterson464

@Erocks49ers The Wildcat was a formation, the read-option is a play. If defenses assume that if the 9ers line up with the pistol they're going to run read option the defense will get burned by play action every time.

Vermonator
Vermonator

@Gs1 I could not say it any better! Why is it that these negative type of articles directed at the 49ers are always by the same doubters? It's hate plain and simple. They hated the 49ers growing up and still hate them today. Hell, if I was in the media, I'd probably be saying negative things about the Cowboys every year, just because and for no other reason. And yes, I hate the Cowboys!

Go Niners!

Hank4
Hank4

@Charlie P To give him the benefit of the doubt, he was probably confused by the other Smith on defense that had a shoulder injury. Even so, I don't take much stock in what he says anyway. Last year he had the Packers and Patriots in the SB. The year before he had the Chargers there.


Jumbotron
Jumbotron

@randomdeletion Did you even read the article? The writer built up the Niners in this piece? The exact opposite is actually what was written, about their inevitable regression. Funny stuff...

Hank4
Hank4

@randomdeletion If it takes an offense that isn't the best in the NFL and a defense that flat out sucks to make it to the SB, I'll take that.

TrackStarGazing
TrackStarGazing

@randomdeletion WRONG, the Niners success the past two seasons was a sign of how much talent was on a team so poorly coached by Singletary.  And also Baalke made some great moves.

randomdeletion
randomdeletion

@gymviking Any team they face can beat them in the first round, provided they get there.  Oh and a defense like what?  One that can regress in the season so much that they pretty much suck at the end of the year?  A defense that will be worse this year?  That defense? 

Bayertoe
Bayertoe

@knightrider @Bayertoe There are no original comments or insights that haven't been made by 1000 football writers already.  More like cliff notes of conventional wisdom than a deep dive.  My opinion on the read option or running quarterbacks is that the threat of a run and the ability to elude pressure is much more valuable than the actual running.  Steve Young did not become a HOF QB until he learned to become a pocket passer and looked to throw when running.  What impresses me about Kaepernick is his velocity combined with accuracy.  He has a gun and when he fixed his throwing mechanics he became more accurate and thus the starter and sudden superstar.  Yes he can run, but he can throw REALLY well.  And his size allows him to develop into a great pocket passer and (hopefully) be more durable than RG3 or Wilson.

knightrider
knightrider

Also, the screenshots featured from the SB were highlighted during the last preseason game. Kinda seems like we're just regurgitating the same ideas here.

Hank4
Hank4

@CJA333 The decision Harbaugh made was to keep Alex on clipboard duty after he was healthy. He was one of the top ranked QBs before he was hurt and Harbaugh saw that Kap would be better.

gymviking
gymviking

@CJA333 Alex getting hurt gave Harbaugh the opportunity to bring in the guy that he wanted to go with at that point, which is the one that he felt gave him the best chance to win. Alex could have played the next week, or certainly the one after it. You can say that you didn't like the way they made the switch, but a choice was certainly made.

JAEAls
JAEAls

@CJA333 um because most  other coaches would have went back to smith when he was healthy which he was after one week

Bayertoe
Bayertoe

@Dresy5B In Peter King's defense, although I agree that there was nothing deep about this article, it was written by Andy Benoit.  Says so clearly and even has his photo at the beginning.  

modsuperstar
modsuperstar

@Vermonator @Gs1 It's to get you here. Blowing smoke up the Niners butts isn't going to generate nearly the page views as an article finding flaws in a very solid team.

Gs1
Gs1

@Hank4 @Charlie P Yeah and this year even if Brooks,and both Smiths are injured at the same time like at the end, we have a lot more depth backing them up. Tank Carradine will be a monster like he was in college subbing or replacing the Cowboy once he's healthy & Lemonier has already shown a quicker first step off the edge then Aldon Smith did in his rookie year. We have Eric Wright coming in after the 6th week, Manningham, Quinton Dial etc. While the rest of the league will be dealing with injuries, our reinforcements will be fresh. What other team can afford to redshirt all half their new players?

randomdeletion
randomdeletion

@Hank4  I would to.  It worked for the Giants all the way to winning a Super Bowl.  Well except their defense picked it up and played well in the post season.  They did suck in the regular season, though.  My points were to add some realism to the reaction to this fluff piece.  They are by no means as great as this writer would like to portray them to be.  

Hank4
Hank4

@randomdeletion @gymviking The Niners defense this year is already better than the one they put on the field last year. The line is stronger, the OLBs are faster and Reid will be better than Goldson. Hang around until the end of the season and we'll see how well you did in your estimations.

CJA333
CJA333

@JAEAls @CJA333 It was clear after giving Colin his opportunity that he was better and the decision at that point was easy to not put Smith back in. 

gary41
gary41

@Bayertoe @Dresy5B The authorship was deceptive since under MMQB it says 'with Peter King' yet off to the side it says by Andy Benoit's with a photo.  The article itself is fairly typically written from a national, not regional perspective---that is lacking in subtle factual details.  It would have been much better if written by a beat writer, who knows the NFL West, instead of someone who has never spent any time talking with coaches and players.  Benoit simply does not know enough about these individual teams and it shows, especially when drawing conclusions.   

Dresy5B
Dresy5B

@Bayertoe @Dresy5B MY BAD.....maybe i've been waiting to rip peter king publicly and everything sort of spilled out......


RonaldDodgen
RonaldDodgen

@JAEAls @CJA333 Yes and Alex was 1 for 13 on 3rd downs in the NFC championship vs the Giants. New York came to SF last year and Alex got blanked 17-0 at home and that my friends was the nail in the coffin for the stiff.

JAEAls
JAEAls

@CJA333 @JAEAls i politely disagree but not disrespectfully it wasnt as easy a decision as you are making it seem. there was heated debates as to who should be the starter consider alex had led us to a nfc championship game and a really good record this past year.

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