There was a lot of excitement for Jim Harbaugh‘s first season as the 49er HC, but it was muted somewhat by the shortened Training Camp, due to the long battle over the new CBA, which lowered hopes for what he could reasonably accomplish in his first year. When the team went all the way to overtime in the NFC Title game, it was a surprise, more than an expectation.
But it signaled the return of the franchise to its rightful place as a power in the NFL.
In 2012 and 2013, there was excitement. A belief we had the team to win a Super Bowl. We got there and lost in 2012, and came up inches short in 2013, a year ultimately crippled by the loss of Michael Crabtree in the offseason, which exposed a wide receiver group that was flat out terrible. The failure of 2012 first round pick AJ Jenkins was a critical liability without Crabtree.
The excitement is still here in 2014 and maybe more so than ever. Defense may win championships, but fun football ogling is at his funnest when your offense is dynamic and prolific. The team has the WRs to do that this year, the best cast of receivers this century.
Trent Baalke has been good drafting the beef guys and LBs, but not so good drafting the playmakers. In addition to Jenkins, there were Kyle Williams, Ronald Johnson, and LaMichael James. Quinton Patton may yet be a good WR, but he spent most of 2013 on the injured list.
Baalke has preferred Free Agency for his skill guys. A washed up Brayon Edwards, a half-hearted Randy Moss, an oft-injured Mario Manningham, and a host of camp fodder NFL marginals with nary a nugget in the bunch. Not a good track record in FA or drafting.
Maybe he’s learning. Last year, he brought in Anquan Boldin and that move saved the season from disaster. This year, it’s Stevie Johnson and Brandon Lloyd — moves that look good now. We’ll see how they look at season’s end.
But heading into Training Camp, this looks like the most dangerous team of the Harbaugh era.