San Francisco 49ers: Loss to Seahawks leaves future questions

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Losing their best linebacker Navarro Bowman to a torn ACL made the Niners loss to Seattle even worse as he might not be ready for the beginning for the start of 2014.

The San Francisco 49ers season has been over for a few days now. Looking back on the season it was successful, they reached the final four and are the second best team in the NFC. However, that doesn’t mean they are satisfied with it because they are in Super Bowl or bust mode. Based on that lofty goal they are 0-3 under Jim Harbaugh and are 0-2 with Colin Kaepernick as quarterback. They have come up short three straight seasons. Moving forward this loss leaves some questions.

The most obvious question that some fans and media people have is whether or not Harbaugh and Kaepernick are winners. True, their records are really good as far as wins and losses; especially Harbaugh who’s on pace for a historic regular season win percentage. But, winning in the regular season is one thing, winning the Super Bowl is another. These Niners haven’t done that yet, so the question remains, can Harbaugh and Kaepernick win a Super Bowl?

A lot of this depends on Kaepernick’s ability to improve as a pocket passer. All season he’s been better throwing from outside the pocket than inside the pocket. He’s faced a lot of criticism about this. It’s accurate, he needs to get better in order for the Niners to take the next step. He does deserve credit as he kept the Niners in the NFC championship game with his first half scrambles and a few sharp throws. However, the fourth quarter of that game showed that he still has a ways to go.

Can he get there? Yes, absolutely he can. He has the best raw skill set out of any quarterback in the NFL including Andrew Luck and Cam Newton, to name two. He has a cannon arm, is athletic, and can makes plays out of nothing. If he learns how to be a consistent pocket passer, improve his accuracy from inside the pocket and learn to better diagnose defenses he will be a deadly quarterback. He has a great coach with Harbaugh helping him out so he’s in good hands.

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Re-signing Anquan Boldin should be a top priority for the Niners as he was their most valuable player this past season

There’s more than just coach and quarterback. The Niners have some contract issues that they need to address; in particular, wide receiver Anquan Boldin and strong safety Donte Whitner to name a couple. The Niners obviously want to resign both those guys, but it will all depend upon the price tags that both those guys are asking for. The Niners showed a willingness last year to let their best defensive back Dashon Goldson leave without paying him an outrageous contract. That could be the case with Whitner if his price tag is too high.

Boldin should be the top priority to be signed because of the season he had. The Niners also could consider giving Kaepernick an extension this offseason, even though waiting until next year would be a smarter idea, to see if he improves into someone who deserves the money he will be asking for.

General Manager Trent Baalke will need to find a way to keep all the key guys as well as be able continue to draft quality players in order to ensure the Niners remain one of the top NFC teams. This is important because windows can close very quickly if a team loses talent as good as the Niners. His track record is very good and if the Niners lose  Boldin or any other key cog on the Niners team he’ll probably just draft to replace them since the Niners have lots of draft picks this year.

A couple things that became alarming was how inconsistent the Niners running game with Frank Gore was this season. The offensive line couldn’t create holes for Gore consistently enough this season, but on the flip side Gore who’s now 31 doesn’t have the explosive that he once did to explode through the holes that might be there.

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2013 Draft Pick Marcus Lattimore could emerge as the starting running back out of camp as he’s expected to compete with Frank Gore for the starting job after recovering from an ACL injury.

This is where Marcus Lattimore comes into play. Harbaugh said that all the players that didn’t play this year will compete for spots next season. If Lattimore fully recovers from his injury he will have a good opportunity to compete with Gore for the starting running back spot.

Another thing that the Niners refuse to address is their secondary issues. Their secondary is successful because of how good defensive coordinator Vic Fangio is at moving the defensive backs around like chess pieces to confuse quarterbacks. Fangio is doing that because there’s nobody in the Niners secondary that can shut down opposing receivers a la Richard Sherman, Patrick Peterson or Darrelle Revis. The secondary also benefits from how good the Niners front seven is at getting pressure on the opposing quarterbacks. If the Niners can add a shut down corner either in the draft or free agency that will make their defense that much better.

Regardless of the result of the game and that the Niners weren’t able to complete their goal of a super bowl, their future remains bright. They will return mostly the same talent that they had this year and should start the season completely healthy. Then hopefully earn the top seed in the NFC this time. Which could make Seattle or some other team go through Santa Clara to get to the Super Bowl.

  • flyhigh33

    Super Bowl or bust?? That’s just silly talk. No sense behind it. When you have a team that has as many victories behind it as the 49er’s do, then to talk about whether “these are the people to win the Super Bowl” is juvenile. You’ve got a group that is solid and well-oiled. Elite team that now has an anger to them.

    Playoff games come down to simple chance more often than not. 49er’s played a very good game in the NFC Championship and it was a flip of the coin (which Seattle seems to have won every time this year against every team). It’s not that they have anything better – but the SeaThugs have just had Lady Fortune spread her legs for them pretty much all year. It’s a matter of luck, officiating, and a bounce here or there. The less “change” here the better. Lots of draft picks coming up. Draft smart into needed areas, but Q-Back and coach are solid from my perspective. I’d ride into battle with them. .

    • David

      Couldn’t have said it better. Every team in the league would love to have the 49ers problems…..

  • Marty

    Battle royal this off season between Harbaugh & Baalke. Harbaugh wants all his vets. back, not worried about cap. Harbaugh wants more personnel control in his contract extension. Baalke is drafting young players, watching them sit on the bench. Coaches not developing them. Could be some fireworks this off season.

  • Marty

    One more point. MacDonald & Patton would have had a great season with NE. NE does a great job with young players. NE coaching staff is great at preparing a NFL team. 49ers staff has the best personnel in the NFL. They have no clue how to prepare a outstanding roster, for game time.