Four more days till the 49ers kick off the 2011 season by slaughtering the helpless Seattle Seahawks. Four more days till I have to stop writing fiction and start reporting the truth. Sigh.
The truth in these parts of the globe has generally been associated with grimness. Or harshness. Even plain and unvarnished. It has often come down to the bare bones of We Stink. Some people like to embellish this simple sadness with On Ice.
It’s always possible that offseason optimism will turn out to be justified, but that hasn’t occurred here very often. The last sighting was the 2006 season, where a team expected to go nowhere unexpectedly ran off a three game winning streak and found itself in contention for the division title at the ten game mark with a 5-5 record. It turned out to be the pinnacle moment of the Mike Nolan era, however, as the team promptly lost three straight and followed that up by imploding in 2007 and crashing to earth in 2008.
This offseason has featured the most restrained optimism of any season since 2005. Very few people expect big things from this team. Most are content to simply see meaningful progress. Not sure what that means, but I guess it involves noticeable improvement as the season wends its way along. I don’t know what that means, either. We’ve got some games to play that we’re either going to win or lose. What happens next year is way past my bedtime.
The thinking, provided by league experts and local experts, seems to be that the 49ers have suffered the most of any team from the non-existent offseason and have too much to overcome to be competitive. This implies the team is going to lose games by a lot of on field communication break downs, with players playing slow because they are thinking too much about the new offensive and defensive systems being installed by Jim Harbaugh/Greg Roman and Vic Fangio and not just wham bamming around like every other team.
Some cynics suggest that this learning/playing curve will be even steeper because there hasn’t even been an offensive system in Ninerland since Mike Martz was fired after the 2008 season, and the players have an additional “whoa nelly look at all these X’s and O’s jumping around like crazy” factor to digest. That implies Harbaugh is making matters worse this season by being better at what he does than the ordinary new coach would be, or in the case of the previous coach, any nary at all.
On the other hand (or OTOH for you thumb typists), one might posit that if this team knows anything at all it’s going into a season with a new playbook rattling around in their heads. The business as usual notion. Unfortunately, that business has been underachieving or downright awful, so that udder of hope ain’t got no milk.
I guess we’ll get an inkling of Alfie in four days. Hopefully, maybe just maybe, miracles can happen, it will not be just another stinking inkling.