The Colin Kaepernick regression has been a really frequent topic of conversation this year, but he still looks pretty good to me. How much of the complaints were justified and how much of it was just people unnecessarily wringing their hands?
I think it was a combination of both. Kap put together such a dynamic start to his career last season that he set a rather high bar. Add in an offseason that featured some high profile situations (endorsement deals, the Dolphins hat nonsense and so forth), and any slip-up was going to bring about questions from fans.
That being said, he has shown some inconsistency at times. That is due to a variety of reasons. The easiest explanation is not having Michael Crabtree. Anquan Boldin and Vernon Davis have done plenty, but Crabtree was his security blanket. He is just now getting him back from his Achilles injury, so it could be something that leads to more consistency as December rolls into January.
The next explanation is the 49ers offensive line is not playing quite as well as last season, and also is dealing with some injuries. In reality, you could point to a host of reasons for his inconsistency. Among other things are coaches taking all offseason to figure out his tendencies, the 49ers play-calling being a bit questionable at times and Kap being a bit more hesitant. His stats are down from last year, but he is still making big plays, and things seem to be slowly coming together at the right time. This month of December will be important for assessing him now that the rest of the team is getting healthy.
The receiving corps has been an injury-wracked disaster this year. How have the 49ers managed to be productive on offense without many of their playmakers?
The key on offense has been Frank Gore, Vernon Davis and Anquan Boldin. The ground game is not quite what it was last season, and part of that is due to similar reasons for Kap's inconsistencies. The offensive line is not quite what it was, and the lack of consistency in the receiver corps has led to stacked boxes. Gore is still on track for another 1,000 yard season and is coming off a 110-yard performance, so we won't quite bury him yet.
In the passing game, Anquan Boldin has been Kap's security blanket, while Vernon Davis has been more of the big play threat. Prior to Crabtree's return, Kap would zone in on Boldin. While he did avoid interceptions, there were plenty of tipped passes by defenders reading his eyes. Now that Crabtree is back we don't see that quite so much.
One other player to watch in the passing game, even now, is fullback Bruce Miller. He became a significant check-down option for Kap, and continues to get plenty of looks.
Aldon Smith's substance abuse issue was big news at the start of the season but disappeared from view as he returned to play. How has he looked after undergoing treatment?
On the field he is coming back into his own. He has a rare combination of speed and power that allows him to both bullrush offensive linemen, and whip around them incredibly fast. He recorded two sacks against Washington three weeks ago, but has no sacks since. However, he is showing a solid all-around game in getting pressure and helping contain the run. The rehab stint could prove beneficial in terms of his stamina as he does not have a month plus of games on his back.
Of course, the thing that really matters is how he is doing mentally. Reports are that he is doing well, but this is obviously a long-term issue. We don't know what was discussed while he was in rehab, so it's hard to know how his mental development is coming along. Things seem fine, but with addiction issues, you never really know when it can spring up sometimes. We are hoping for the best.
Greg Roman's name keeps coming up when Bucs fans discuss possible new head coaches if Greg Schiano is fired. What's the view of him in San Francisco? Would he make for a good head coach?
There are few topics that get fans fired up quite like Greg Roman. He found great success turning an Alex Smith-led offense into a solid unit, and it led to his climb up the charts for potentially coaching jobs. However, there are times he leaves us wondering what exactly he is thinking. His play-calling sometimes appears to leave something to be desired. We don't know the exact plays or what is going through his mind with his selection, but it can be frustrating when we don't see the team running screens or slant passes to take advantage of aggressive defenses.
At this point, I imagine his NFL head coach stock has taken a bit of a hit. The players and other coaches seem to have his back, but we can't really say for certain what the opinion is of his play-calling and the like. I do think he could still end up with some head coaching interviews for teams not looking to bring in the same old retreads. He has shown he can be a brilliant play-caller, and he seems to have the right temperament for the job. If the Bucs dumped Schiano, Roman does seem like the kind of softer temperament a team would bring in to replace Schiano's harder edge.
Are the 49ers going to win the Super Bowl?
Sure, why not! I think the team has the pieces in place to win the Super Bowl, but there are a couple concerns. The first is getting some measure of consistency on offense. The offense has shown at times it can do big things, but then at other times it seems like the blind leading the blind. If they can work Crabtree back in and get healthy along the line, this offense could be a great complement to the defense.
The bigger concern for now is going in to Seattle to win a playoff game. The 49ers can win in Seattle, but the Seahawks are looking tough to beat at home. They are close to securing home field throughout the playoffs, so the odds are pretty good the 49ers will have to win in Seattle to get to the Super Bowl. The 49ers have struggled their last two times in Seattle, so who knows what a third trip would bring.
This is not to overshadow the AFC, but the biggest hurdle to a Super Bowl right now is beating Seattle.