The much ballyhooed offseason practices are in the books. Ballyhooed? Where were the flaming Tweets? The yellow headlines? The steaming trailers? True, there was little hoo in the bally, but the mere existence of offseason practices, where the 13-3 club had none, was cause for unseemly exhuberance at the prospect of improvement that surely must come when there was adequate prep time versus none. Are we clear on the Bally?
Somewhat anticlimactic were the practices themselves. Four weeks of them slipped quietly past us without causing an erection. Presumably, we will be more titillated once the real head knocking begins. Which would be six weeks from now when Training Camp opens in late July, and the long, hard road in search of a magical sixth Super Bowl trophy begins.
Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman explained that “situational” football was an area that gets a lot of attention in the offseason practices, an area that could not be properly addressed last season due to the lockout. “Situational” is code for 3rd downs and Red Zone plays, both eye sores for last year’s team. Either these two areas will be vastly improved this year, or Roman was just covering some butt for last year’s ineptitude. Take your pick. Believers to the former, scoffers to the latter.
There’s not much doubt that all eyes will be on the offense during TC and the exhibition games. The defense will be presumed to pick right up where it left off last year, but the offense will be expected to finally resemble a high octane 49er offense. If it does, look out world.
Last year, three NFC teams had 13 or more wins — Green Bay, New Orleans, and San Francisco. Of course, the 9-7 Giants won the Super Bowl, beating two of the top three aforementioned teams on the road on their way to the SB. We’ll leave that quirky piece of crud for the history books, however. Prior to TC, we’re only focusing on the regular season and homefield advantage in the playoffs.
With the return to health of Jay Cutler and the not-yet-proven-but-highly-suspected further emergence of Detroit, Green Bay does not figure to waltz through the season like they did last year. New Orleans faces stiffer competition in the NFC South this year, too. The NFC East and West look to be dog fights. It doesn’t appear that it will take a 14-2 record, or even a 13-3 record, to acquire the top NFC seed in 2012. The 49ers, despite their difficult schedule, will enter the season as likely to earn that prize as any team in the league.
One thing that won’t happen this year is entering a game wincing that the team will get blown out of the stadium, and hoping only for the team to put on a respectable, unembarrassing losing effort. Those days are long gone. We have entered the golden age of relevance.