2000 and Beyond- 01/01/2000
By now if one can't admit that the 49ers are in serious trouble they just aren't being realistic. The 49ers are suffering from their worst record in the past 20 years, and are hopping to get to 5 wins this week to finish off the season. It is interesting to note that the 49ers play the first NFL game in the year 2000, and hopefully will start it off with a win.
The first win in the year 2000 would be more than just the 5th and final win on the season. It would be a helpful building block for the 49ers future, a building block that could eventually be the turning point of a suffering team. While the 49ers are in serious trouble, and anyone who says otherwise is in denial, it is realistic to say that the 49ers will bounce back quickly and steer the team back on to the winning track.
It begins with a solid core of youth players, something the 49ers actually have. On offense the 49ers have Terrell Owens, J.J. Stokes, Greg Clark, Mark Harris, and Tai Streets; all are young and talented players that will help the passing attack beyond 2000. Speaking of the passing attack, the 49ers may or may not have found their QB of the future. Jeff Garcia has shown a tremendous improvement in his second chance with the 49ers, and has proved that if he can't be the starter, he can at least be a capable back up. Garcia has a large up side, and is learning the offense quickly but will need to learn to stay in the pocket a bit longer before he can be deemed the starter.
The offensive line has some young blood, but it should see some improvement via the draft. The 49ers found out the hard way this season what happens when the line can't protect the quarterback. Steve Young's career may have gone down the drain simply because the 49ers couldn't offer him enough protection.
The 49ers would be very wise to keep Charlie Garner on their roster. This season Garner has shown tremendous running ability, exceeding the 1000 yard mark, a plateau nobody was expecting him to reach. Garner is an intelligent back that will compliment Garrison Hearst very nicely if and when he returns from his foot injury. Fred Beasely won the starting position at fullback over veteran Tommy Vardell early this season. Since then Beasely has grown into one of the best full backs in the league. This crew backed up by Terry Jackson is young, solid and quite possibly the brightest point of the current 49ers.
On the other side of the ball it is no mystery who the future players are here. Bryant Young has worked his way back from an injury to produce 11 sacs heading into the final game of the season. The rest of the defensive line has combined for just 11.5 down from nearly 40 last season. Junior Bryant has 6 of those 11.5 sacs and is a nice compliment to Young along the line. This is one area that the 49ers are desperate for players, and will attend to this off-season via the draft and otherwise. Reagan Upshaw will be available via fee agency, and the 49ers were interested in trading for him last off-season. Reggie McGrew and Chike Okeafor are two players that may or may not be a force for the future, both are young talents injured this season and nobody knows just what the future has in store for them.
The line backing core is currently solid and for the most part young. Winfred Tubbs and Lee Woodall have years ahead of them, while Ken Norton Jr. may be limited to just a few more. Thus the 49ers may skip looking for a future starter in the draft as they have so many other needs to fill.
The 49ers defensive backfield is suffering, but the outlook for the future is not as bad as one would think. Tim McDonald will be replaced by Zack Bronson who will start next to Lance Schulters who this season is leading the league in sacs even though he missed one game and is hobbled by an ankle injury. Last season Bronson had 2 interceptions. Bronson is currently on the injured reserve. Also on the injured reserve is a draftee that most fans and media have forgotten about. Anthony Parker is a big, young corner that the 49ers feel may be able to step in and start next season. Wasswa Serwanga, currently on the active roster but getting very little playing time is also a player loaded with potential. Rookie Peirson Prioleau has also shown he has some good cover skills this season, and may start along with Parker next season. R.W. McQuarters, and Monty Montgomery are currently injured and Darnell Walker and Ramos McDonald round out the group. Several of these player wont be with the team next season as the 49ers will attend to this area through the draft and free agency this season.
The 49ers are not in as bad shape for the future as it may seem. Currently their biggest problem lies on the defensive side of the ball where players such as Gabe Wilkins and Charles Haley on the defensive line and Darnell Walker in the defensive backfield will most likely not return next season. The 49ers will be looking for quarterback too; just in case Jeff Garcia is not the man of the future. Providing the 9ers can restructure 20 million dollars worth of salaries to get under the salary cap for next season, it should not take long before they are back on top of the NFL.