Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
Vinnie Iyer of Sporting News sees the glass half full in San Francisco. Among the reasons he think the 49ers could become a surprise team in 2009:
"Wily" offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye is installing a "physical" ground game and a "more versatile" passing game that should benefit a "savvy" route-runner such as Isaac Bruce;
Nate Clements is a "shutdown" cornerback;
Receiver Josh Morgan is ready for a "breakout" season;
Mike Singletary. Iyer: "No one is questioning his ability to motivate and manage his personnel after last season's finish. He just might be the biggest reason the 49ers could make a Cardinals-like climb."
The regular-season gap between the Cardinals and 49ers will be easier to overcome than the postseason gap. Kurt Warner tossed nearly as many touchdown passes in four playoff games (11) as Hill threw in nine regular-season games. Warner's production was unusual, but it also highlights the biggest difference between the teams.
Also: This 2001 Raye interview with Pro Football Weekly includes two comments that could apply to the 49ers this season. Raye was taking over as the Redskins' offensive coordinator.
Raye on how Redskins players were receiving the new staff: The players are excited, and they've been very receptive so far. The big thing with NFL players is how you start. If you can win early and show what you're doing works, things will be fine. But if they question what you're doing and don't buy into the system, then you'll have problems.
Raye on then-Redskins quarterback Jeff George: The toughest thing so far is that our QB is going through his seventh system in 11 years. Luckily, he used a similar terminology when he was in Oakland with Jon Gruden.
The 2001 Redskins lost their first five games before rallying to finish 8-8. Their offense ranked 28th in yards and points despite a No. 8 ranking in rushing yards.