Fooch over at NINERS NATION took some time to answer some burning questions about Frank Gore, Alex Smith, and the state of Niner Nation. Head on over to see how I answered his questions.
MHR -- Frank Gore is a stud, no doubt about it. By nature, the running back position is short-lived, the average career just under 4 years. Are the 49'ers worried about Gore's long-term potential. Do they have a depth available moving forward to protect themselves now that the Kevin Barlow era ended?
NN -- Even though Gore had a very solid rookie season, the team wanted to see if he could make it through a full season before rewarding him with a long term deal. Outside of a concussion in Week 10 I think Gore has shown he can handle a full work load and carry things the entire season. Depth at RB is quite suspect as Hicks is solid as a backup but nothing special and Michael Robinson is a converted QB, meaning PROJECT. Rather than draft another running back the team will have plenty of money in free agency to bring in a solid veteran backup (Correll Buckhalter or Arlen Harris are a couple of solid options to fill the backup role)
MHR -- Alex Smith showed flashes this season after a horrendous rookie campaign. What is the feeling in 'Niner Nation' about Smith, and do you think he is the guy to lead this team well into the future?
NN -- Alex Smith is a tough sell to some, while others saw the Seahawks game and think he's the next great thing. Prior to being drafted he'd never played in a Pro-Set offense which certainly increases the learning curve. At the same time, he's a smart guy (graduated in 2 years) who's one of the youngest players in the league. He's got the arm strength and just needs another weapon or two. It's just a matter of learning to trust his abilities.
MHR -- It's a safe bet to say the Niners surprised some folks this year, including a fair share of 49'er fans. What is the pulse of the fans. Was the loss last weekend to Arizona a huge disappointment despite the fact that no one thought the team would be in the race, or is there optimism towards the future because of this year success.
I can't imagine anybody thought the team would be competitive for a playoff spot in week 15. I personally stated at the beginning of the year that I'd be excited with a 6-10 finish. It was quite disappointing to get eliminated by a team they should have beat, yet at the beginning of the year the Cardinals were viewed as the sexy sleeper pick in the West. Circumstances can change so quickly. There is definite optimism going ahead, particularly with the development of Frank Gore. Many think a solid draft and free agency period (49ers will have tons of cap room) will take them to the next level. There is worry of regression but I think the team has so much room for improvement and in fact a guy like Alex Smith improved but not nearly as much as many think. He was clearly better than last year, but still has a lot to learn in terms of managing the game and avoiding mistakes.
MHR -- After some tumultuous moments, everything seems to be ok between Niner Fans and Niner ownership. Is that the case, is there still some distrust there? What is the status of the new stadium and it's location?
NN -- I think the fact that the York's were willing to turn things over to Nolan in terms of football operation has breeded a little more trust than in the past. However, you ask any 49ers fan and they'll probably say they prefer Eddie D. Personally, he just seemed like a football owner, while John and Denise York just don't seem to fit the mold. In terms of the stadium, I think fiasco would best describe it. The team abandoned the city plans and introduced their own plan for down in Santa Clara (the South Bay near San Jose). However, nothing is done anywhere and the politicians are trying to get San Francisco and the team back to the negotiating table. Outside of the phone company baseball field, developing new facilities in the Bay Area creates such huge problems that it's a wonder anything gets done.
MHR -- I have said on the MHR that I am concerned about this game because the 49'ers have shown flashes and can do some things that usually give the Broncos fits. What concerns you about the Broncos and what must the Niners do to win the game.
NN -- Frank Gore has to dominate this game for the 49ers to win. I mean 150 yards and a TD or two type of domination. The worry for the 49ers is two-fold. The offensive line has been decimated by injury which could allow your superior linebackers to bust through and wreak havoc. The worry for the 49ers on defense has to be stopping the run, considering how well Shanahan teams move the rock. As on offense, the defense has been rocked with injuries which makes stopping the Bell's that much more difficult. I really think this game will come down to the running game and who can dominate time of possession. A little old-school Nebraska-Oklahoma option battle!
MHR -- BONUS - Prediction Time - Who ya got?
NN -- Broncos come out tight and the 49ers take advantage behind Frank Gore and a big game from Vernon Davis - 49ers 23 - Broncos 20