Lessons from the Super Bowl? The most important one is something the 49ers already knew going into the game - they were oh-so-close to winning a championship this year and that their biggest priority for the offseason should be keeping the current squad together.
That starts with the coach staff. Remarkably, the 49ers have had no major defections since the season ended on Jan. 22, and the coaches I've spoken with have said there's been a concentrated effort to keep everyone together. That, of course, can change quickly. If an assistant gets a high-ranking job on another team, he often will leave with several other coaches. So far, however, the only coach to leave is offensive quality control coach Bobby Engram, who was hired by Pitt to coach its wide receivers. (Side note: The Raiders' defensive coordinator position was filled with former 49ers linebackers coach Jason Tarver. Last year Tarver was Stanford's defensive coordinator).
The tougher task will be retaining the team's unrestricted free agents, six of whom were starters in 2011. The 49ers can begin going about that at on Feb. 20, which is the first date to assign the franchise tag (see calendar below).
On a related note, it must have been painful for the 49ers players - especially the defensive players - to watch the Giants win the Super Bowl. Eli Manning now has two titles, and he's not only attracting the word "elite" but the moniker, "Hall-of-Fame quarterback." The 49ers, of course, squandered two, perhaps three, chances at interceptions of Manning in the NFC Championship game. Had they taken advantage of those opportunities, the Manning rhetoric would be subdued.
The Super Bowl also was interesting because, like the 49ers, the Patriots needed at least one more dependable pass catcher. Tight end Rob Gronkowski was obviously limited throughout the game, which left Tom Brady and the offense with fewer options than he had in the regular seasons. Like the 49ers, New England could stand to add a young receiver or two in the draft. They'll have the 31st pick in the draft - one selection behind the 49ers.
Feb 20-Mar 5: Teams may designate franchise or transition player
Feb 22-28: Scouting combine
March 13, 1 p.m.: Start of league year (beginning of free agency)
April 26-28: NFL draft
-- Matt Barrows