September was my least favorite month when I was a kid. It meant the end of summer vacation and time to go back to school. One of the happiest moments of my life occurred when I walked out the door after the last class I would ever have to attend and waved good-bye to the last teacher I would ever have to endure as I finally exited from the school system that had ruled my life for seventeen precious years.
What happened after that has been no piece of cake, but at least the mayhem was my own creation, my own load. One of those creations was turning September into an entirely wonderful month. It became the month the kids went back to school (hahaha) and the football season began.
Kicking off this month, we have the game nobody wants to play and nobody wants to watch. The Fourth Exhibition game. Only bad things can happen in this game. The Hold Your Breath game. Right now, the 49ers are in pretty good shape. Only one key player was seriously injured during Training Camp, center Eric Heitmann, and he has been capably replaced by David Baas. Heitmann’s injury will cause him to miss the first month, however, not the entire year. Many teams around the league have not been so fortunate. Clearly, they should have run the Nutcracker to appease the football gods.
Arizona is having an interesting end to their TC. Unless you are an Arizona fan, that is. Matt Leinhart was supposed to be the QB down there this year, but now appears to be a waiver candidate come Saturday. He can now get down to the career that apparently suits him — an idle rich kid who might possibly resurface in ten years pleading bankruptcy and trying to explain how he somehow managed to blow $50 million. His reply: “Babes, booze, and bongs, Buddy.”
Which means the 49ers will not be facing Kurt Warner this year, but Derek Anderson. This news doesn’t impact the 49ers much, since they had no trouble dispatching Warner last year, but it does severely impact the Cardinals ability to compete in other games around the league. AZ has feasted for the past two years on Kurt Warner blow out victories. Massive offensive assaults. That won’t happen with Derek Anderson. There will not be a single game on their schedule that they can be sure of victory. The 49ers are quite familiar with having to work hard for victories, but AZ has little experience in this sort of sixteen game focused grind.
Hard to know what to think of Seattle. They have Matt Hasselbeck and a bunch of head scratchers. Their off season has been a roster roulette comedy. It does not seem likely this rebuilt mix ‘n match ensemble can immediately jell into a cohesive team. Hasselbeck makes them somewhat dangerous on any given day, but that team can also lose any game it plays. And get stomped pretty badly in several of them.
It’s a QB driven league, so you have to think the Rams, with Sam Bradford, will resurface as the 49ers main competition. Not this year, but soon.
The 49ers will win the NFC West this year. The only question about this team is just how good they really are. Virtually all the key players are young and entering their prime years. They should show signs this year that they are capable of winning a Super Bowl and are on the verge of elite status. If they win the West by default with an 8-8 record, it will not be a good season. It would be an alarming season.
Getting to the playoffs was once a fairly acceptable goal for the 49er franchise, prior to Bill Walsh’s extraordinary elevation of franchise goals. This sort of achievement is an acceptable goal for most of the franchises in the NFL. The Texans, for instance, would y’all themselves into apoplexy if that team makes the playoffs this year. Since Walsh, however, the 49ers will never feel complete without winning a Super Bowl once or twice, at least, each decade.
Does this team have that potential? We will get a glimpse in the 2010 season ahead.
Good night, Mrs. Calabash. Wherever you are.