Shutdown Corner - NFL

It's too early for '09 season previews, and too late for '08 season reviews. What's an NFL blog to do in the never-ending quest to overcover the bejeezus out of the NFL? Offseason progress reports. Let's go in alphabetical order. Today, the San Francisco 49ers.

Free agents lost: TE Billy Bajema(notes), DT Ronald Fields(notes), OT Jonas Jennings(notes), WR Bryant Johnson(notes), S Keith Lewis(notes), QB J.T. O'Sullivan(notes), TE Sean Ryan(notes), CB Donald Strickland(notes)

Free agents gained: S Lewis Baker, CB Dre Bly, DB Demetric Evans(notes), LB Marques Harris(notes), QB Damon Huard(notes), WR Brandon Jones(notes), FB Moran Norris(notes), OT Marvel Smith(notes), LB Mark Washington(notes)

Drafted: WR Michael Crabtree(notes), RB Glen Coffee(notes), LB Scott McKillop(notes), QB Nate Davis(notes), TE Bear Pascoe(notes), FS Curtis Taylor(notes), DT Ricky Jean-Francois

I understand the optimism, 49ers fans. I really do.

You've got Frank Gore(notes), the rock at running back, who has always produced, no matter what sort of trash has been stacked around him in matching clothing.

You've got Michael Crabtree, the best receiver in the 2009 draft, a man seemingly genetically engineered to play receiver in the NFL, who was gift-wrapped for you by the Oakland Raiders because they generally prefer inferior players.

You've (probably) got Shaun Hill(notes), who managed to win five of his last seven games last year as quarterback of this very team.

And you've got Mike Singletary, the fiery new head coach who will expose his genitals to make a point, deliver brilliant post-game press conferences like this one, instill a sense of discipline, and finally bring a winning attitude to a football team from the Bay Area.

So I get it. I get why you think the 49ers can make a run in a mostly weak division. I get why you think the 2009 49ers will be the 2008 Dolphins.

But I think you should calm yourself. The 49ers aren't the unlikely scrappers who will jump up and sock people in the mouth in 2009. The 49ers are the little darlings who everyone falls in love with as dark horse candidates for the playoffs, but ultimately let you down. We have one of those every year, too. The 49ers are my top candidate.

I love Michael Crabtree as much as the next guy, but rookie wide receivers, even the extremely gifted ones, are rarely difference-makers as rookies. Isaac Bruce(notes) is a year older. It's time we all started to accept that Vernon Davis(notes) just is what he is. And as much as I like Mike Singletary, he can't create quality depth where there is none.

That leaves Frank Gore and Shaun Hill as your beacons of immediate hope. Gore, again, as good as he is, has always been that good, and the 49ers have still managed to be awful with him. And I'm not among those who buy that Shaun Hill is the answer at quarterback. He's still Shaun Hill.

I offer two things as evidence: One, he's currently locked in a quarterback battle with Alex Smith. Can you name another good quarterback in the NFL who would not, at this point, already be named the starter in favor of Alex Smith? And two, if the 49ers though Hill was the answer, would they have made such a massive effort to lure Kurt Warner(notes)?

Progress: Let's give it another year. It's not that I think the 49ers have made bad moves, it's just that they're not ready yet. Singletary's the right guy to lead the team, and Crabtree will eventually be great, but it's not their time yet. I apologize for my parade-raining.

Minus one game. 7-9 last year, 6-10 this year.

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