You are disappointed by the end of 2013. We all are. Cheer up. The start of 2014 is going to be awesome. Here's 10 pieces of evidence:
10. The Development of Reid at Safety
Jim Harbaugh has said a player can make the most strides in his career after year one and before year two. That's why it will be so interesting to watch the progress of
9. The Slate of Games, Home and Away
Alex Smith is coming back… to face his former team. The 49ers will host Smith, their quarterback for seven seasons, and the Kansas City Chiefs as part of a very enticing – and competitive – regular season schedule. The team will also welcome Robert Griffin III and Washington to the Bay Area. On the road, San Francisco is going to Dallas, New York, Denver, New Orleans and, if you can call it a roadie, to Oakland. There are those two divisional games versus the Seattle Seahawks, too. Those should be, well, anticipated.
8. The Coverage of 49ers Studios
In Santa Clara, San Francisco now has its own full-service production house. You probably noticed the crew's "Mic'd Up," "Weekly Conversation" and "Niner Talk" series' this season, but that's only scratching the surface. In addition to a rapidly growing website and social media presence, this group of producers and writers are getting ready to unveil two new TV shows for next season. Expect the kind of behind-the-scenes, unparralelled access you saw this season taken to a new level. More specifics to come.
7. The Real Rookie Season of Mr. Lattimore
6. The Return of Nine Pro Bowl Players
5. The Offseason's Free Agency Period
4. The Wheeling and Dealing of May's NFL Draft
Like last season, GM Trent Baalke and the 49ers are well-stocked, with 11 picks to employ. Coming off a draft that netted the team safety Eric Reid and tight end Vance McDonald, significant contributors to the defense and offense respectively, Baalke will look to fill any team voids created by free agency with more young talent. This won’t always happen by simply picking a player at their spot. While selection order and compensation picks have yet to be finalized, the team’s brass has shown, with Reid and
3. The Road to Recovery for NaVorro Bowman
The injury, suffered in the fourth quarter of the NFC title game, was ugly. The rehab, which will begin soon after surgery, will be hard. But nobody in the Bay Area doubts the fortitude of the 49ers inside linebacker. The torn ACL – and potentially MCL – in Bowman’s left knee will heal. Patrick Willis, his best friend on the team, expects his fallen teammate back better than ever, and he will be at his side every step of the way. There is no timeline for Bowman’s comeback, but fans can hold out hope for a September return to the field, when he can create more moments like this one:
2. The First Full Season of Kap and Crab
It’s hard to believe, isn’t it? Quarterback Colin Kaepernick and his favorite target will embark upon their first full NFL campaign together come 2014. Remember: Kaepernick didn’t become the team’s starting signal-caller until Week 11 of the 2012 season, and
1. The Inauguration of Levi's® Stadium
Yes, the 49ers have some captivating happenings with players, new and not so new, and the games they’ll be playing next fall. But, uh, one big detail is missing: Where will they be playing? The answer, of course, is their new digs at Levi’s® Stadium. After 43 seasons at Candlestick Park in San Francisco, the 49ers have a new home and an entirely new gameday experience for fans. Well, not entirely new. There will still be lots of winning on the field. What’s going to be happening elsewhere – in the stands, concourses, on the video boards and in the historical museum, to name a few examples – will be new and improved. Stay tuned.