For the 49ers to repeat the success they enjoyed last year, they simply need to execute in phases of the game. San Francisco is one of the most talented teams from top to bottom in the NFL. If they put it all together, they are destined for a good year. It all starts and ends though, with the man under center, whom the verdict is still out on.
Alex Smith enters 2012 in the second year of his audition, which last year he barely passed. Although he did lead his team to the NFC West Crown, a 13-3 record and a home playoff win over the New Orleans Saints, depending on who you ask, the 49ers were at least considering singing Peyton Manning this past offseason. The obvious reason was that although Smith had a lot to do with them being in the NFC Championship game, he did nothing to help put his team over the top. Hosting two playoff games far exceeded anyone’s expectations entering the season, but San Francisco is not the type of franchise to hang their hat on moral victories. The reality is that the team was one big play away from a NFC Championship Crown and got nothing from the passing game, where you look to for a game changing play.
There is, of course, the consideration for his supporting cast, as Michael Crabtree was Smith’s number one option last year, and he was far from worthy of that title. This was evident against the Giants when Crabtree and the rest of the receivers accounted for 0 yards. So who is to blame?
Blame falls on both Smith and the receivers, but the 49ers front office made sure that the lack of offense would be the focus in the offseason adding several new weapons. Randy Moss and A.J. Jenkins provide a huge upgrade in downfield speed and will allow Smith to stretch the field. They also added Mario Manningham who can work any part of the field, leaving the middle open for tight end Vernon Davis to wreak havoc. The team also added another dimension by drafting running back LaMichael James whose quickness will certainly be valuable in the passing game. Smith now has the task of trying to keep so many players happy, which is a problem that any quarterback not throwing to Terrell Owens would welcome.
The 49er organization has stayed committed to their former number one draft pick. They finally got him the right coach, and now have added the talent around him on the field. With everything set up for him to succeed, everyone will be watching to see if he fails. With his team as the clear favorite to win the NFC West, some have even picked the 49ers to represent the NFC in the Superbowl. Smith enters the season on the same hot seat, but with far greater expectations, and with added expectations comes added pressure. San Francisco will need Smith to respond well to this pressure. With so many questions lingering, one thing is certain––the San Francisco 49ers will go as far in 2012 as Alex Smith can throw them.
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Jerrell Richardson is a Bay Area native who due to a college career at San Diego State University has grown an appreciation for all things sports related in California. His heart will always remain in San Francisco though where he currently resides and covers everything from the San Francisco 49ers and Giants to the San Jose Sharks and California Bears Baseball team. His work can be found on Examiner.com.