Quite a few bloggers casually mention that this is essentially the same team as last year. Some mention this as a reason to trash the optimism of other posters, and some mention this as an aside before going on to list how the team is slightly different and might therefore be just a teensy bit better this coming year.
Ahhhhhhemmmmmmm. Dig it out, fellas. This team is not slightly different than last year’s team, it is fundamentally different. At this time last year, Isaac Bruce was the #1 WR. That spot is now occupied by Michael Crabtree. That is a quantum leap in betterness. Last year, Shaun Hill was the QB, now it is Alex Smith. Once again, a vast improvement, regardless of what Smith haters feel about it. I doubt if there is anybody in the league who would not call Smith an improvement over Hill — certainly not the Defensive Coordinators of opposing teams who feasted on Hill’s limitations last year. These two improvements alone, at two of the most vital positions on a team, are reason enough to claim this team is different and it is significantly better.
However, we won’t stop there. Last year Dashon Goldson was an unproven 3rd year player starting at a crucial spot in the secondary. This year he’s a proven player and a very good one. Last year, Mark Roman was the dime DB, this year it will be a younger, faster, playmaking fellow named Reggie Smith. Last year, our DB depth included a rookie 7th round draft pick (Curtis Taylor) and this year that guy is Taylor Mays.
I will not go into the vast difference between who will be our LG and RT this year. It was covered quite extensively in the first round of this year’s draft. Or is someone out there going to tell me with a straight face that David Baas is going to beat out Mike Iupati and Adam Snyder will fend off Anthony Davis? Who is this rash and ridiculous fellow who would spurt forth such brazen horsecrap? Chilo Rachal will be entering his 3rd year and is not the same confused lumberjack that he was last year at this time. If improvement to 3/5ths of your O-line doesn’t qualify as pretty honking significant, then significance must have grown a different meaning from the one it has long had in Webster’s.
This team has three candidates with super speed who can take a kick off or a punt to the house. Last year there were none. This year, every member of the offense knows the playbook. Last year there were none who did. NONE. Is it really that hard to understand what a difference this tidbit will make on the team this year? For an enterprise requiring eleven gentlemen (okay, young adults) to be completely in sync about sixty times per game, sometimes in frantic situations, it is a huge difference. I don’t follow college football, but I am aware that “returning” players in the “same scheme” is considered to be a big plus for any team. Why don’t people who follow the 49ers give this any value?
Last year’s team had an OC who had to call plays for a team that didn’t know many of them, and for two different sets of teams during the course of the year. This kindly fellow took pretty much all of the abuse heaved at the offense’s production last year and never lost his cool or his humor. Clearly, SOME of the blame for the problems with the offense fell upon the players themselves not executing the plays. Why would anyone expect the offense to be the same or less this year when the OC can call more plays and have guys who can execute those plays better than they could a year ago?
The 49ers also have two new O-line coaches this year, Mike Solari and Ray Brown. These gentlemen are quite highly thought of throughout the league and by the players. They replace a guy who did not seem to have much luck here getting the O-line to mesh and play well. Perhaps that was the O-line’s fault, but only the “playing well” part, which never seemed to experience any growth. Meshing (i.e., having a clue) would be more attributable to the coaching.
So, once again, is this the same team as last year? Nubba dubba, bubba!!!