Season finally ends for 49ers, but there were bright spots

By Marc Hudgens  |   Sunday, December 30, 2007  |  Comments( 3 )

San Francisco 49ers
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San Francisco closed its season Sunday, losing 20-7 to the Cleveland Browns. The 49ers' 5-11 mark is another in what's becoming a long line of failure for a once-proud organization.

The last time the Niners had more wins than losses was 2002, when they went 10-6 and got to the second round of the playoffs.

Presently, it's likely difficult for 49ers fans to find any silver lining in another dreary season, but there were some rays of sunshine.

Rookie linebacker Patrick Willis leads the NFL in total tackles with 162, for instance. Willis' closest competitor is Denver's D.J. Williams, who has 29 fewer tackles than San Francisco's first-rounder from last April. Willis is also the league leader with 123 solo tackles, which is 22 better than second-place man Nick Barnett (Green Bay). He's also just one away from tying the assist leader, Buffalo's Angelo Crowell, who has 40. Needless to say, the ex-Ole Miss Rebel is doing just fine in the pros and is a shoo-in for defensive rookie of the year honors.

Another rookie, offensive tackle Joe Staley (Central Michigan), came in and filled a need that was created by Kwame Harris' lack of blocking skills. Though the offensive line was still porous throughout, Staley's presence appeared to be some level of an upgrade.

Finally there's quarterback Shaun Hill, who made his season premiere at the start of the second half of the Minnesota game three weeks ago and gave the team the emotional shot in the arm it direly needed. In parts of the three games Hill played, he had a higher completion percentage and almost twice the passer rating of original starter Alex Smith and veteran Trent Dilfer. Also, unlike his counterparts, Hill actually had more touchdowns than interceptions. But the biggest positive about Hill is the 49ers rallied around him during his brief stint as the offensive leader. There is no question that Hill's presence fosters a better team, so San Francisco needs to pull out all the stops to re-sign him.

Despite the bright spots, the 2007 season was a complete, utter failure for San Francisco. Whether it was poor game-day decisions or his relationship with Smith, coach Mike Nolan was a train wreck, and the 49ers' questionable front office isn't helping matters.

Owner Denise DeBartolo has strongly considered bringing in a general manager, and that might help. Doing so would strip some of Nolan's authority away and make him more accountable, which would be a major plus.

It'll be a long, interesting offseason for the 49ers.
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About Marc Hudgens

Marc Hudgens has been with RealFootball365 since 2007, covering college football, specifically Clemson and Oregon. He also writes for SouthernPigskin.com covering the ACC. He enjoys the acidic wit of Hunter S. Thompson, is a freelance graphic designer and has written several screenplays. He...
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