I’ve been a little hard on the 49ers lately. While most readers have understood why, considering recent actions taken by the front office, a vocal few have let it be known than they’re tired of the negativity. So I decided to show some Bruce Miller-like versatility today, with a post describing five things I’m looking forward to as the 49ers prepare for free agency in March, offseason workouts in April, the draft in May, and everything else that’ll lead to the team’s second game with Jim Tomsula serving as head coach.
He seemed to get better by the game in 2013, making huge plays whenever the team was on the ropes. There was the two-sack game in St. Louis when the 49ers were in dire straits after a 1-2 start, the interception he returned for a touchdown against the Falcons to give Candlestick the perfect sendoff, and that play at the goal-line in Seattle that erased his 2014 season.
Since this is the “optimism” post, I’m going to assume that the 49ers were excessively cautious with Bowman over the last six months and he’ll be all the better for it next season (which means I’ll refrain from expressing any sort of concern that he’ll never be the same after tearing his ACL and MCL).
2. The Three MLBteers
That’s a horrendous nickname that should never be uttered again (not only is it not catchy, but most people see “MLB” and think “Major League Baseball,” not “Middle Linebacker”). But goofiness and optimism often go hand-in-hand, and fans probably know what I’m talking about.
Provided that Bowman and Patrick Willis (toe) have recovered fully from their surgeries, they’ll team up with Chris Borland to create the best inside-linebacking triumvirate in the world. There’s been a lot of chatter about how to put all three guys on the field at the same time, and people are worried about potentially switching from a 3-4 to a 4-3 base defense, but these are good problems to have. It might not be such a horrible thing to rotate guys and keep them fresh … but how is a coach going to tell Willis that he needs a breather? Again, good problems to have.
None of us have any idea what’ll happen with Kap. He’s training with Kurt Warner and some other guys in Arizona, which either means (1) he’ll come to the first workouts on April 6 as a more refined passer or (2) absolutely nothing will change as far as his mechanics, accuracy or decision-making.
However this goes, it’ll be fascinating. There’s a reason why Kaepernick became a national star in such a short period of time. Winning helped, but he’s got star quality bursting from his pores. Or maybe that’s sweat. Regardless, it was clear that he got a little too comfortable in the last year or so. Not in the pocket, where he was frequently forced to run for his life, but with Jim Harbaugh never saying boo about him publicly. Someone got in Kap’s ear at the end of last season and let him know that his sullen, “we just need to execute” act wasn’t going to fly anymore, and training with Warner is a different choice than heading to Miami and pumping iron with his buddies.
This is Kaepernick’s do-or-don’t year. If he leads the 49ers to eight wins or fewer, and shows no growth as a passer, he’ll find himself on a new team in 2016. I can’t wait to see what he does under all that pressure. OK, I can probably wait about six months or so … this last NFL season was exhausting — and not just because the 2014 49ers were like a season of “Days of our Lives.”
4. Fewer delay of game penalties and timeouts at weird times
I’m just assuming that Trent Baalke and Jed York will make this a top priority. While I thought the time management issues were overblown when Harbaugh and Roman ran the show, it was certainly annoying to see professional coaches and players dilly-dally as the play clock ticked away toward zero.
5. A huge draft for Trent Baalke
The 49ers are scheduled to make their highest draft choice (15th overall) since they took Aldon Smith with the seventh pick in 2011. We can almost certainly expect a couple things when Baalke gets to work in May.
1. A dynamic wide receiver with size who can stretch the field and present a better red zone threat than than anyone currently on the roster.
2. No redshirt picks. The 49ers don’t have the luxury of waiting for guys to develop anymore. They’re right up against the cap, and this offseason hasn’t exactly been a PR delight. They need guys who can contribute, and contribute from the start. Baalke may continue targeting guys with long arms, but you won’t see anyone with a torn ACL on the 49ers’ draft board.