In today’s NFL, the hardest thing to do is to not win, but win consistently. To sustain success over multiple years. As team success grows, players feel they deserve more, and so naturally it becomes harder for a team to retain their best talent. So my question is, over the next five years, is anybody better prepared than the 49ers?
I think Jim Harbaugh is a great coach, one of my top 5 favorites in fact. But he came into the NFL with a stacked deck. A solid defense, an all-pro back in Frank Gore, and all-world tight end Vernon Davis were already on the roster upon arrival. Give Harbaugh credit for on-field success, but Mike Singletary was the skipper while this team gelled, and it was Singletary, not Harbaugh, who was crucial in the maturation of Vernon Davis.
What Harbaugh did not have was a lanky kid from Nevada. Colin Kaepernick elevated the Niners in a way Alex Smith never could, and his skill set is undeniable. CK is quick, he is smart, and he has a laser cannon attached to his right shoulder. If Kaepernick can stay healthy, he could lead this team for a long time to come.
So it comes as no surprise that Kaepernick’s friend and former mentor Alex Smith was shipped to Kansas City on Tuesday for two draft picks. This brings San Fran’s total to a whopping fifteen picks in April’s draft, 7 of which are in the first four rounds. 15 Picks! Talk about burning a hole in your pocket; Trent Baalke’s phone must be ringing off the hook. The 49ers are in the unique position of controlling their own destiny in the offseason. If there is a specific player they want in the draft, they will be able to offer any number of packages to teams if they would like to move up in the order.
The 49ers are stacked, but they are by no means perfect. There are still issues to be taken care of for this team before September. Namely, a few big names that need to be paid. Dashon Goldson has been a rock for this team since the moment he put a uniform on, and Harbaugh has said in the past that Goldson deserves a long-term contract. But Delanie Walker, Randy Moss, and others on the interior line are all poised to walk this summer, and it’s fair to say that some will walk for greener pastures.
What to do with the draft picks? As the big days get closer, we’ll break it down and see who the 49ers should be targeting. But with a package like that, many analysts are looking towards blockbuster trades. And if the Jets are willing to part with Darelle Revis, it might be something for the Niners to consider. Having a dynamic shutdown corner added to that defense would prompt me to make a phone call to Mr. Goodell’s office: it’s just not fair.
Although the 49ers would have loved to have kept Alex Smith, it simply was not a sound business decision. Harbaugh made it clear Week 10 that he was turning the page on the Alex Smith era, and Colin is now the Guy. And through 10 games, he’s a pretty good Guy to have. But as the film builds, and coordinators spend the summer strategizing, Kaepernick’s toughest test is yet to come. Because now if he struggles, or takes a hard hit on a designed run, there is no proven backup to turn to. If you’re willing to take that risk, the reward might be a San Francisco team ready to contend for a very long time.