First of all, happy New Year! Secondly, some fantastic questions, and I apologize I can't answer all of them. (See: last question for reason)
Q: 49ers PodcastÂ â€@49ersCast:Â How the team could be affected if Tom Gamble ends in JAC or another team? Is he that important for the organization?
A: Tom Gamble has a ton of respect around the league, and the 49ers surely will miss him if he goes elsewhere. However, there are a lot of smart, talented guys - Mike Williams, Matt Malaspina, Ethan Waugh, Justin Chabot -- in the scouting/personnel department and the 49ers will adjust accordingly. The bigger consequence may be in whom Gamble takes with him. Gamble mostly has been associated with Jacksonville to this point.
The Jaguars reportedly are a lock to sign Tim Tebow in the offseason. Is that a deal-breaker for a prospective head coaches? I don't think it would be so for Greg Roman, who A.) Really wants to be a head coach and B.) Probably thinks he can squeeze a lot of productivity from someone like Tebow. Jim Tomsula's name also has been associated with that job. If either of those guys leave, there might be a domino effect on the rest of the 49ers' staff and with potential free agents.
Obviously, Alex Smith would not go to, say, Jacksonville if Tebow is there. (Follow Norv Turner's wherabouts for Smith's destination). But Delanie Walker would be a good pickup by the Jags if Roman's there; Sopoaga or Jean Francois would go if Tomsula's in Jacksonville.
Q: Lewis WiltshireÂ â€@LewisWiltshire:Â Would Niners have considered re-signing Nedney during the kicker troubles? Good kicker in his day and roughly same age as Akers.
A: I spoke to Nedney a couple of days ago. He said he dreams of being signed by the 49ers in the playoffs and then booting a game-winning field goal for them. However, he noted one needs cartilage in one's knee for the scenario, and he has precariously little after all the knee injuries he's had. I wondered about Jeff Reed, whom the 49ers brought in after Nedney got hurt in the 2010 and who missed only one field goal in 10 attempts for the 49ers that year. A number of Reed's kicks came in bad-weather games, and I was impressed by his focus and resolve that season. Reed has plenty of playoff experience and wants to get back in the game but did not receive a call from the 49ers during their kicker search.
Q: NicoleÂ â€@Darling_Nikki49:Â Do you think that with the way LaMichael James has been playing, will he replace Kendall Hunter as Frank Gore's backup?
A: I think it's obvious now that James - and A.J. Jenkins, for that matter - were drafted with the assumption that Colin Kaepernick would be the starting quarterback in the near future. That is, the offensive players were selected with Kaepernick's skill set and background in mind, and they were expected to complement Kaepernick. Hunter also is part of this future plan. His Achilles injury obviously complicates things for the 2013 season, but I expect him and James to be featured prominently in the future. The question is, how soon do the 49ers think about replacing Gore?
Q: J.V.T.Â â€@2JVTs: Do you think Harbaugh will hire Pep Hamilton of Stanford as OC if Roman left the 49ers?
A: He's been around the 49ers facility at times in the offseason, an indication he has a close relationship with the Stanford-turned-49ers coaches. The 49ers also could fill the position in-house with Geep Chryst, John Morton or Tim Drevno. Chris Ault? Dunno.
Q: Andy HarrisÂ â€@aharris916: should the niners offense be concerned about their losses at WR?
A: Absolutely. Crabtree and Moss are good enough, combined with the team's other offensive weapons, to get this team to a Super Bowl. But the 49ers now are at a point where an injury to either would be catastrophic. Ted Ginn and A.J. Jenkins have done nothing - zero - to this point. Warning: thin ice.
Q: Robert MusallamÂ â€@RobertMusallam:Â In what order would you list the NFC teams that present the biggest challenge to the Niners?
3. Green Bay
Q: Freddie P SoftÂ â€@FreddiePSoft: Lack of Aldon Smith sacks in the final 3 games, area of concern or is it Justin Smith's impact surfacing? A lot of dirty work!
A: Harbaugh said today on KNBR that Aldon Smith definitely will benefit from the time off. Translation: He's worn down. Remember, Smith played less than half the team's snaps last season. This year, that number is in the 90 percent range and the 49ers have played two overtime games and a marathon contest in New England. He hasn't looked good from the second half of the New England game onward. That's due to Justin Smith's absence but also to the fact that Aldon Smith is beat. He's also been dealing with a shoulder injury that should benefit from the time off.
Q: KrugerÂ â€@TeutonSF: Why did Roman/JH run Gore less in Seattle, and will they again lean on physical OL in playoffs?
A: Harbaugh indicated that Gore was a bit run down in that game. Also, they fell behind so quickly that the run game became moot by the second quarter. Gore bounced back the next week, however, and one of the positives for the 49ers heading into the playoffs is that he's stronger now than he was at this point last season.
Q: Keval PatelÂ â€@keval81: I've noticed that the pistol disappeared since the Pats game. Any chance Harbaugh and co. are hiding it until the playoffs?
A: Noticed the same thing. Obviously opponents know it's in the 49ers' repertoire. They may be keeping a lid on it to hone Kaepernick's skills in other areas and to keep him healthy. Running out of the pistol exposes the quarterback to big hits. (See: Griffen, Robert, III).
Q:: DreÂ â€@draymondgreen23:Â Would you rather fight 1 horse-sized duck or 100 duck-sized horses?
A: Giant duck. I have one of those typically male brains that only can focus on one thing at a time. Buy groceries and pick up Nana at the airport? What am I, a juggler? Those mini horses would drive me bonkers.
- Matt Barrows