49ers regular-season wrap-up

January, 5, 2011
1/05/11
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Final Power Ranking: 25
Preseason Power Ranking: 13

[+] EnlargeAlex Smith and Troy Smith
Christian Petersen/Getty ImagesIt is unlikely that Alex Smith or Troy Smith will be the starter in San Francisco next season.
Biggest surprise: The 49ers named third-stringer Troy Smith their starting quarterback at midseason even when Alex Smith returned to health and backup David Carr was available. Troy Smith wasn't even on the roster until one week before the regular-season opener. He had two regular-season starts on his NFL résumé and none since 2007. The 49ers had spent the previous five seasons trying to develop Alex Smith, but with coach Mike Singletary's job on the line, they rode a quarterback with 89 regular-season pass attempts to his name before this season. Another surprise: Glen Coffee's retirement at age 23.

Biggest disappointment: Continuity, the primary theme San Francisco hit upon all offseason and through training camp, was vastly overrated. This was supposed to be the season when keeping the same offensive coordinator and scheme allowed Alex Smith and the offense to flourish. Instead, the offense opened the season with a horrible performance at Seattle. The offense was worse at Kansas City two weeks later. Singletary fired coordinator Jimmy Raye after the third game, obliterating the continuity angle once and for all. Not even Singletary would last the full season.

Biggest need: Quarterback, and the right head coach or coordinator to maximize the investment. The 49ers possess talented young players on both sides of the ball. Vernon Davis, Michael Crabtree, Mike Iupati, Joe Staley, Anthony Davis and Patrick Willis are among them. They might have run away with the NFC West this season if they had gotten more consistent play from their quarterbacks. The Alex Smith experiment has run its course. The 49ers need to draft or acquire a young quarterback, sign a veteran and move forward.

Team MVP: Patrick Willis. The 49ers' front seven played effectively against the run. Willis dominated even with a cast on his broken hand. Willis collected a career-high six sacks, earning a Pro Bowl berth for the fourth time in four NFL seasons. He has Hall of Fame potential and lived up to expectations once again this season. Veteran linebacker Takeo Spikes played well next to him.

Talk is cheap: The 49ers' bark was worse than their bite this season. Singletary thanked Seahawks coach Pete Carroll for beating the 49ers in Week 1. He vowed to shut down Drew Brees in Week 2. Team president Jed York guaranteed the 49ers would rebound from an 0-5 start to win the NFC West title. Once Seattle won the West, Vernon Davis said the 49ers were more deserving. York told reporters his team would have won the division, if only he had fired Singletary earlier. Niners fans would be more impressed if the team backed up its talk for a change.

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