Since 2002-2003, the San Francisco 49ers haven’t had a winning season. They went through multiple head coaches, from Dennis Erickson, Mike Nolan, and Mike Singletary. Everything changed for the 49ers when the organization hired former Stanford head coach Jim Harbaugh. The 49ers also hired Trent Baalke as General Manager to improve the team’s personnel. In 2010 the 49ers had a dismal 6-10 finish, and many in the organization, NFL analysts, and fans did not expect the 49ers to have a winning season the following year.
In 2011, the 49ers shocked the NFL world, finishing at a record of 13-3 winning the NFC West division. With their spectacular performance during the 2011 season, the 49ers earned a first-round bye in the playoffs. The 49ers defeated the New Orleans Saints 36-32 in the last drive of the game, in a classic fashion, which has elevated the struggling career of quarterback Alex Smith. The following week, in the NFC Championship game, the 49ers cinderella season game ended when the Giants defeated them 20-17 in thrilling game. The 49ers were one game away from the Superbowl.
After coming off an excellent season, the 49ers have the momentum to continue last year’s success. The organization feels they can continue what they started from last year. To date, the 49ers have had a successful 2012 off season General manager Trent Baalke, quickly made all the right moves to insure the 49ers will continue to have success in the near and long-term future. Veteran Ahmad Brooks and Carlos Rodgers were re-signed immediately. Former Oakland Raiders kick-off and punt return specialist Rock Cartwright signed a deal with the 49ers. Cartwright is a multi-talented special teams player who could be a leader on the special team side of the ball.
The 49ers defense was one of the best in the NFL in 2011, and their offense was solid, but it does need improvement in the passing game. The 49ers signed former New York Giants wide receiver Mario Manningham. In 2011 while with the Giants Manningham played 12 games out of 16. He has a tendency to be injury-prone. Last season, in 12 games, Manningham had 39 receptions, 539 receiving yards, and 4 touchdowns. General manager Trent Baalke hopes this move will help the 49ers receiving core, and give quarterback Alex Smith another weapon on offense.
The 49ers also signed future hall of fame wide receiver Randy Moss. Many in the NFL world were surprised that the 49ers would take a gamble on Moss, who in 2011 was retired. In 2010-2011, Moss was traded by the Patriots to the Vikings after having problems with the coaching staff and front office in New England. After only four weeks, after openly criticizing head coach Brad Childress and the Vikings organization, Moss was released by the team. Later, that month, Moss was signed by the Tennessee Titans, where he was criticized for having a lack of effort and production, Throughout his NFL career since 1998, Moss has been a very controversial, but explosive player. He is a dynamic wide receiver who is strong, extremely fast, and has the ability to jump up and make big catches. He is a play maker that is competitive. To date, Moss has played in 202 NFL games, 954 receptions, 14,858 receiving yards, and 219 touchdowns. Moss is willing to put 2010 behind him, and move forward to a new start in San Francisco, which both him and the 49ers are excited for the upcoming 2012 season. Moss’s signing by the 49ers is a risk, because of past attitude and work ethic issues, but the team is hopeful he will me a veteran leader in the locker room. In the 2012 NFL Draft, the 49ers, with the 30th pick in the first-round selected wide receiver A.J. Jenkins from the University of Illinois. The 49ers hope that Jenkins can be the face of the receiving core in the near and long-term future.
The biggest headline of the 2012 NFL off season was where former Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning was going. The 49ers front office and GM Trent Baalke made a huge interest in Manning and delayed to resign quarterback Alex Smith, who felt disrespected by this move. Smith met with the Seattle Seahawks and the Miami Dolphins to discuss potential contracts. In the end, Peyton Manning signed a five-year $96 million deal with the Broncos. On March 20th, 2012, the 49ers resolved their differences with Alex Smith and resigned him to a three-year $24 million dollar contract. Smith had the best year of professional career in 2011 after years and years of struggles. Last season, Smith started all 16 games, threw 445 passes for 3,144 yards, 17 touchdowns, and 5 interceptions. He also ran 52 times, for 179 yards, and 2 touchdowns. With Harbaugh’s confidence in Smith, the 49ers believe he will have another successful season in 2012.
In the 2012 NFL Draft, the San Francisco 49ers main concern was their aging running game. 49er all-star veteran running back Frank Gore, who is going into his 8th NFL season at the age of 29, is starting to show the wear and tear of the running back position. In this day and age in the NFL, every team needs two running backs to compliment each other. The 49ers needed a second top running back to do so. Thinking of their future, the 49ers selected running back phenom LaMicheal James from Oregon in the second-round of the NFL Draft. The 49ers hope that James will be that second complimentary back, and eventually the starting running back in the long-term future. In order to beef up the running game in goal-line situations, GM Trent Baalke signed former New York Giants running back, Brandon Jacobs on March 28th, 2012.
The San Francisco 49ers have had one of the busiest off season’s of any NFL team. They resigned quarterback Alex Smith, they resigned key defensive players, such as Ahmad Brooks and corner back Carlos Rodgers. The team addressed the needs of the wide-receiving core, with the signings of Randy Moss, Mario Manningham, and with the first-round draft of A.J. Jenkins. The 49ers also addressed the needs of the running game, signing power-runner Brandon Jacobs, and drafting LaMicheal James in the second-round of the draft. The 49ers are coming off a great 2011 season at 13-3, and they expect to have the same success in 2012. With the free-agency signings and the draft, the 49ers have all the right pieces to be a top team in 2012. The 49ers will be a top team for the next few years to come if they continue what they did in 2011.