This offseason has been tumultuous for the San Francisco 49ers. It officially started minutes after Richard Sherman tipped away Colin Kaepernick‘s potential game-winning touchdown pass intended for Michael Crabtree in the NFC Championship game.
Then came Sherman’s post-game antics, his speech in which he called Crabtree a “mediocre” receiver multiple times and declared — for all the world to hear — himself the “best corner in the game.”
Then, a few weeks later, Sherman and the rest of the Seattle Seahawks blew the Denver Broncos out and took the Lombardi Trophy back to the rainy Northwest.
Not a good start to the 49ers’ offseason.
Although the injuries didn’t officially occur in the offseason, they lost both NaVorro Bowman (who has been placed on the PUP list) and Mike Iupati (who is now ready to start Week One in Dallas) to devastating injuries.
Then Aldon Smith began making news. In April, he was arrested for a false bomb threat at LAX. Although it’s uncertain what he said exactly, police reported that Smith made it seem as if he was carrying a bomb.
Soon thereafter, it seemed uncertain whether Smith would be a 49er in the future. With good reason, San Francisco seemed skeptical of Smith’s future and for quite some time, it seemed as if the 49ers were done with Smith and his constant struggle with the law. Most likely a ploy to get Smith to focus solely on football, San Francisco wasn’t ready to give up on the greatly talented Smith.
Smith also pleaded “no contest” to three weapons charges and two DUIs, further dimming his chance to play a full season.
The 49ers were quiet in free agency like normal, relying on young talent to fill the void veterans leave when they sign elsewhere. San Francisco did sign safety Antoine Bethea to replace Donte Whitner, but other than that, the 49ers made little noise in free agency.
A bright spot in San Francisco’s offseason was the Draft. Many believe the 49ers own the league’s best draft class — especially considering the fact that they originally were scheduled to pick towards the end of every round.
After the 49ers picked South Carolina wide receiver Bruce Ellington in the fourth round, ESPN analyst Trent Dilfer praised San Francisco’s front office, stating that their pick was “kind of a drop the mic walk-off,” meaning the 49ers had absolutely nailed every pick up to that point.
In the second round, they drafted Ohio State-product Carlos Hyde. He’s looked solid in the preseason and looks to be the favorite to back up the ageless Frank Gore. Many believe Hyde was the Draft’s best running back.
And then, of course, they drafted Ellington.
They signed free agent and ex-49er Brandon Lloyd — who did not play in the NFL last season — to join an already deep receiving corps.
Unlike last year, San Francisco made it through OTAs without any major injuries. Last season, the 49ers lost Crabtree to an achilles tear, which kept him out until late in the regular season.
However, once training camp started, San Francisco succumbed to the injury bug. Kendall Hunter tore his ACL during the second day of training camp. Just days later, fellow running back LaMichael James sustained a dislocated elbow. He has since returned to action, but Hunter will be out for the entirety of the 2014 season.
The first two preseason games brought many fans’ worries to life. Without Bowman, the defense would struggle while the offense would find a way to fail to improve despite the numerous additions.
The 49ers were outscored by 54 points against the Baltimore Ravens and Broncos. They responded well in the final two preseason games, outscoring the San Diego Chargers and Houston Texans by 41 points.
Although every team would prefer success in the preseason, it is a horrible indicator of a team’s ability. In fact, the infamous 2008 Detroit Lions (yes, the 0-16 Lions) were undefeated in the preseason.
The preseason is helpful to determine how far along young talent is progressing but besides that, it doesn’t do too much.
Soon after San Francisco finished their preseason with a win in Houston, Roger Goodell finally announced the length of Smith’s suspension. Smith will miss the 49ers’ first nine games — which includes trips to both Denver and New Orleans. The good news is that he’ll be back in time for both matchups with Seattle, but no one expected the suspension to be as hefty as nine games.
Bottom line: McDonald could miss up to six games in 2014, meaning the 49ers would be without three of their front seven defensive players for at least the first third of the season. It’ll be tough to make do without Bowman, Smith, and McDonald no matter how good the rest of the defense is.
The 49ers’ offseason has surely been up and down. The injuries, suspensions, solid drafting, and signees should hurt San Francisco’s defense, but help the offense.
Here’s to hoping the changes result in a net gain in productivity. Now, we just wait and see.