2001 In Review
January, 16, 2002
After winning just ten games in two years and with the youngest defence in the National Football League nobody expected the San Francisco 49ers to make the playoffs this season.
Now after the team has been knocked out of the playoffs at the Wild Card stage it seems that next year could be the time for the team to reach the next level.
Looking back to the start of the season, it seems to be an entirely different team that the 49ers put on the field each weekend.
Cornerbacks Ahmed Plummer and Jason Webster showed tremendous improvements on their rookie years, Plummer in particular. The former Ohio State cornerback recorded seven interceptions after having none in 2000.
Linebackers Julian Peterson and Jeff Ulbrich also showed why the team drafted them in April 2000. Peterson was displaying his pass rushing skills more often by seasons end and Ulbrich helped shore up the run defence.
Defensive ends Andre Carter, John Engelberger and Chike Okeafor showed that they have the potential to disrupt opposing passers for years to come.
On offence, the team discovered that it can run the ball no matter which of their backs they give the ball to.
Jeff Garcia proved that his 2000 Pro Bowl season was no fluke and his big contract was well deserved.
And the team found a new tight end for Garcia to throw to.
On offence though the following concerns became apparent;
1) The offence can easily get bogged down and became too predictable and less explosive at times. 2) Garcia takes a pounding and seems to become less effective in December 3) The team lacks a standout tackle to keep the pressure off.
Here's how the team grades for 2001.
Quarterback - Jeff threw for 32 touchdowns this year, with a TD-interception ratio of almost 3-1. While playing with a sprained knee, he proved he can be just as effective as a pocket passer. A-
Running Back - Garrison Hearst thoroughly deserved his Comeback Player of the Year and Pro Bowl awards. Kevan Barlow was a steal in the third round, while Terry Jackson, and to a lesser extent, Paul Smith showed ability when called upon. Fullback Fred Beasley was 1000 times more deserving of the Pro Bowl spot at fullback than Mike Alstott was. A
Receiver - Terrell Owens can take over a game all by himself. He should have been given more opportunities to do that. He also showed an unfortunate tendency to drop passes in big game situations. JJ Stokes averaged roughly the same amount of yards per catch as Jerry Rice did in 2000. It would seem that gone are the days when the second receiver was a consistent big play threat. Tai Streets probably deserves more of a role. Yale receiver-turned-pro Tight end Eric Johnson was a fabulous find, especially in the seventh round. B
Offensive Line - All five starters returned and the cohesion that came as a result of the stability showed. Ray Brown was finally voted to the Pro Bowl. Jeremy Newberry had an excellent year at center. Derrick Deese, Scott Gragg and dave Fiore all had good years. The concerns here are that the team needs a top tackle in the mould of the Redskins Chris Samuels or Jon Jansen; Deese is still undersized although it's not too much of a problem whilst Gragg is a step slow; and depth is limited to Ben Lynch at center with tackle Matt Willig becoming a free agent. B
Defensive Line - Bryant Young is still one of the leagues top tackles, whilst Dana Stubblefield is not the destructive force he was before he left San Francisco. First round rookie Andre Carter figured out the pro game late in the year and it showed in the sack column. Engleberger and Okeafor were both on their way to earning more recognition as solid pro's before injuries struck. Reggie McGrew played much better than at any time in his pro career. C+
Linebacker - Derek Smith was an excellent pickup at inside linebacker giving
the team and experienced veteran to be a steadying influence on the younger
Secondary - Ahmed Plummer has an excellent season recording seven interceptions. Zack Bronson also recorded seven interceptions and is the most experienced of the group. Jason Webster was also much improved and Lance Schulters had a good year despite playing with a badly dislocated shoulder. Depth is a major concern as seen against St Louis and Green Bay. B
Special Teams - Kicker Jose Cortez started strong but tired and started hitting low kicks into the line. Punter Jason Baker was quietly effective. Returner Vinnie Sutherland was okay but not world beating. Terry Jackson, Terry Killens and co were all impressive on special teams. C-
Coaching - Steve Mariucci and his staff did an excellent job. Jim Mora's defensive unit showed tremendous improvement and could well be the single biggest factor in the six game turnaround. Penalty flags were also reduced. Offensive play calling was often too conservative. This led to Owens' constant criticism of Mariucci, who did a good job with the immature superstar wideout. Pat Morris offensive line was very consistent. A-
So on behalf of all fans, thank you for a very good year to the players, coaches and other staff.
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