A New Era- 06/16/2000
ATTENTION 49ers Faithful: This article may be found controversial, but should be taken seriously. Failure to do so could result in an empty stadium, an embarrassed team, and a destiny of losing.
That's right, the Steve Young hoopla is finally coming to a close, and the team is entering a new era. An era, they may not be as pretty as the last two decades have been to the team. An era that will see Jeff Garcia step to the helm, at least in the interim, and may eventually see Giovanni Carmazzi work his way to the top. In the mean time, the team will have to rebuild.
Yes, that's right rebuild. And we all know what that means. Two seasons, maybe more of the team working its way through growing pains, and even those dreaded losses. It can be an exciting time though. As 49ers fans, we can see the team start from scratch, rebuild and reclaim the victorious status they have reached so many times before. It all banks on one thing though. That thing is us.
There is nothing more aggravating than seeing a camera pan the empty seats of a stadium, as two teams battle it out. The pain, frustration and sheer embarrassment this must be to the home team, is reason enough to stop trying. It's not motivation, it's aggravation. The empty seats quickly turn to a team that is looked down upon throughout the league, and quickly the team seems doomed to fail (see Bengals, Cincinnatti).
There is no reason for this to happen to the 49ers. There is no reason that fans should follow the bandwagon as was seen in St. Louis this past season. The 49ers have given us two decades of championship football. Twenty years of fond memories, and reasons to root for the team. Now it's our turn; to make sure that the team is not hit when it is down, to make sure the players look up to the stands and feel they have a reason to play and perform. It's our turn to give something back. 49ers Faithful do not fall back into the shadows, the team is rebuilding, and this is a very exciting time.
At quarterback, new faces are seen up and down the depth chart. Projected starter Jeff Garcia is worlds a head of where he was at the end of last season. Players and coaches are constantly pointing out how far he has come in such a short time. Behind Garcia, rookies Giovanni Carmazzi and Tim Ratty are hoping to have a bright future with the team. Recent addition of nomadic, veteran Rick Mirer is a move that I don't agree with, and can only hope Walsh and Mirer prove me wrong.
The wide receiver position will see Tai Streets, who was drafted last season, but saw only limited action due to an Achilles injury is sure to make an impact. He will join Jerry Rice, JJ Stokes and Terrell Owens as the team creates one of the most productive groups of receivers in the league. Coaches are impressed with Streets' talent. Tight End Greg Clark has re-signed, and the team is implementing a new blitz protection package that will get Clark more active in receiving as he in many cases will become the go to guy when the QB is being blitzed. Running back Charlie Garner is entering his second season with the team, and is looking to have another season averaging about five yards a carry. The team may also see running back Garrison Hearst return to the line up. Full back Fred Beasely and Terry Jackson are two very young and exciting players.
The offensive line will miss coach Bobb McKittrick who passed on earlier this off-season. The starters, Derrick Deese, Ray Brown, Chris Dalman, Dave Fiore and Jeremy Newberry came along way last season, allowing Garcia to achieve the third best pass attempt to sac ratio. This season will depend on the health of this group, as the team is very thin in this area.
The defense is going to look completely different this season. The only hold overs from last season are linebackers Ken Norton Jr - who will be moving to middle linebacker, Winfred Tubbs, Lance Schulters - who will move from free to strong safety, defensive tackles Jr. Bryant and Bryant Young. Chike Okeafor who did not start last season, but did play is expected to start at defensive end.
All this means the team will see new players throughout the defense. Starting in the defensive backfield where safety Peirson Prioleau (who the coaches rave about) and Zack Bronson will battle it out for the free safety position. The 49ers also have lots of faith in this years draftee SS John Keith. If Keith picks up enough of the defense as the season progresses, he may be moved into the starting strong safety position, allowing ball hawk Schulters to move back to free safety.
At defensive back, rookie Ahmed Plummer, and Anthony Parker (who missed out on last season due to injury) are the projected starters. Both players are faster, stronger and more skilled than last season's starters and should grow nicely into their positions. Back up's Monty Montgomery, Ramos McDonald and Jason Webster are all an upgrade over last season. Webster has drawn rave reviews from the coaches, but at 5'9”, he is seen as to small to be a starter.
Linebacker Julian Peterson has been very impressive thus far in practice. Coaches and players are amazed at his natural abilities. Peterson will benefit tremendously from playing beside veteran Ken Norton Jr. who moves to the middle. Peterson really excels in getting to the quarterback. Some scouts were originally worried about his intelligence, but playing along side Norton should allow him to grow and learn quite nicely.
Reggie McGrew is likely to crack the starting defensive line this season. McGrew was drafted last year in the hopes of replacing Dana Stubblefield, but due to injury and a long rehab, never was able to beat out the players already in place. The 49ers are hoping this season will be much different. McGrew would compliment Bryant Young very nicely inside, allowing Jr. Bryant to move outside where he can better utilize his speed. The team may also bring back Roy Barker, who prior to last season in Cleveland recorded over 10 sacs with the 49ers.
The team is currently very young, and inexperienced, the growing pains are simply inevitable. That is why, now more than ever we should be watching. Watching the team grow into a competitive team once again. Again, to the 49ers fans all over, the team needs our support. Support, in this very exciting time of rebuilding.