Sports News Without Fear, Favor or Compromise
Sports News Without Fear, Favor or Compromise
Illustration for article titled NFL Season Preview: San Francisco 49ers

The NFL season begins in earnest in about 48 hours, so it's time to finish the impassioned season previews from various writers, bloggers, diehard fans, cooks, TV personalities, and numerous others who consider football the only sport worth watching. You will see many of these today, because we're a little behind. Right now: The San Francisco 49ers. Your author is Rick Chandler.I drafted my NFL fantasy league team on Wednesday night, and I won't bore you with the details except for two things. By the end I had resorted to Isaac Bruce and the Detroit Lions defense (laugh track). And earlier, I had chosen as my backup quarterback one John Thomas O'Sullivan. That's right, you homos. When Peyton Manning has his bye week on Sept. 28, J.T. O'Sullivan is going to work his pointy-shoe magic and guide my team to victory. You may think I'm crazy, and in fact many of you have already said as much. And Brazil Thrill, I will somehow get my revenge, mark my words. But once every few seasons a journeyman quarterback decides to rise up and go all Kurt Warner on the league and fool everyone, and there is no one who has but the journey into journeyman like O'Sullivan, who's been with seven NFL teams and one team in NFL Europe. One of those teams was the Lions, where Mike Martz coached him as offensive coordinator last year. And now Martz serves in that same capacity with the 49ers. Or let's be real here; Martz is running the team. He's our Dick Cheney, pulling the strings behind the scenes as Mike Nolan plays video games and chokes on the occasional pretzel. The moment I realized this came in the third quarter of the 49ers final preseason game, against the Chargers. Alex Smith (remember him?) had just thrown a TD pass, and then headed tright to Martz to talk about it. Smith then moved further down the sideline, where Nolan attempted to talk to him ... but Smith just kept walking, barely acknowledging him. Alex Smith isn't in a position to snub anyone important. If the 49ers don't make the playoffs, Martz is your head coach in '09. And make no mistake, the 49ers will not make the playoffs. But improvement on last season's 5-11 season is a certainty. This may not be in evidence early: After throttling the Arizona Leitchs in Sunday's opener at Candlestick Point, the Niners meet Seattle, New Orleans, New England, Philadelphia, Seattle again and the New York Giants in six of their next seven games. But a couple of upsets in there are not out of the question. Running back Frank Gore is the best offensive player — remember when he led the NFC in rushing in '06? — and, sadly, Bruce is their best receive. He's older than John McCain, you know. The offensive line is "rebuilding," although it's looked perfectly fine in the preseason. The opener should be pretty fun for former Cardinal Bryant Johnson, whom the Niners are counting on to be their No. 2 receiver. Defense: Justin Smith was a major free-agent acquisition, a 4-3 defensive end who is moving to linebacker in the 3-4. They brought in cornerback Nate Clemens, and second-year middle linebacker Patrick Willis is pretty great. But it's O'Sullivan who is going to drink your milkshake; and it will be that mint kind that you get at McDonald's around St. Patrick's Day.


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