The first of three OTAs, plus a concluding minicamp, begins Tuesday. I’m not sure if the players get to actually touch each other yet, let alone play partially real football. The offseason rules of the new CBA are convoluted enough to get a mistrial, let alone absorb themselves neatly into the partially existent brain cells of yours truly. If they can mash into each other, the coaches will get a first glimmer of who’s going to play right guard this year.
That the 49ers haven’t seemed in any real sweat over this hole in the lineup, and have made no attempt to sign a veteran, indicates they think any of the candidates currently on the squad would be equal to or better than the departed Adam Snyder. And if that is true, Chilo Rachal’s value certainly plummeted since Mike Singletary said he would be something special in this league, a mere three years ago. Now playing RG for the 49ers: Anybody.
I guess we’ll have to trust management on this issue. And we’re prepared to do that, which is quite a departure from previous regimes, where trust had as much value as a politician’s campaign promise. It’s also possible that Jim Harbaugh has roared into the league like Mike Smith of the Falcons did a few years back, only to settle into a niche as a competitive team that lacked the fire to compete in the playoffs.
That would be a major surprise and disappointment, however. Fire and Harbaugh seem welded at birth.
But the league will be primed to whip him in his second year. Or try. The acclaim he received for his first year no doubt made a lot of other coaches a bit jealous and motivated to hand him his ass this time around. Not to mention the Detroit handshake that set up an immediate grudge rivalry with the Lions and their coach Jim Schwartz. Seattle coach Pete Carroll might be desperate enough to beat Harbaugh this year that he puts in a call to Tonya Harding.
Other coaches are also going to be intimidated by the innovative game plans and plays that Harbaugh came up with game after game in 2011. With new offensive weapons at his disposal, that intimidation will be even greater. Unlike bloggers, coaches are human beings with insecurities and failings. The best they can do when overmatched is try not to let the fear show in their eyes when around their players. If successful at that, they can then blame the players for losing and not themselves. Of course, this only works for about three years, before even a dumb owner knows it’s easier to fire the coach than the whole team.
Some suggest that the whole year depends on Alex Smith now, but that can be said of any team’s QB. No NFL team can succeed if its QB plays like a dog all year, or even for several games. It’s also suggested that Smith needs to step up his game now, but all he really needs to do is play as well as he did last year. Having wide receivers who can actually get open on a regular basis will be the biggest difference in the offense and its increased production. That and the addition of some home run talents like Randy Moss, AJ Jenkins, and LaMichael James. Only Vernon Davis could be called a dangerous threat on last year’s team. And he might be even more dangerous this year.
Time to dust off those pom poms, guys. The 2012 season is coming into view.