A Dent in the 49ers Lineup

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The recent arrest of Aldon Smith, linebacker for the 49ers, has left fans uncertain about the team’s potential success in the upcoming season

When Jim Harbaugh took over as head coach in 2011, the 49ers began to inch closer and closer to that coveted Super Bowl trophy. In 2012 and 2014, the team lost in the conference championships, one win away from making it to the big game. 2013 was probably the most memorable  year when the 49ers made it to Super Bowl XLVII, only to come up short with a loss.

But is this streak nearing its end?

Smith was arrested on Aug. 6 for a DUI and a hit and run in the Santa Clara area. But this, according to NY Times, was not the first offense to appear on his record. “Smith was suspended for nine games last season for violating the N.F.L.’s policy on substance abuse and personal conduct. In April 2014, he triggered a bomb alert at an airport. Despite his prowess on the field, Smith was released from the 49ers on Aug. 7, leaving a major dent in the team’s lineup.

But Smith’s trouble off the field is not the only cause of the team’s uncertain future. Following the 2015 season, several key players departed. Some were traded, including wide receiver Michael Crabtree, who hopped over to the rival team, the Oakland Raiders. Surprisingly, we also saw the retirement of players who valued their health more than money.

Patrick Willis, 30, another key linebacker, retired due to risk of injury. Just days after, Chris Borland, a rookie who had just completed a phenomenal season, retired over concerns of his safety. Borland told ESPN that his health was his main priority, not wealth. “From what I’ve researched and what I’ve experienced, I don’t think it’s worth the risk,” he told the magazine. While Borland’s decision is respected, he will most definitely be missed.

The biggest change may have been the firing of Harbaugh. Harbaugh was praised for turning the 49ers into a worthy contender in the NFL after becoming head coach in 2011. Following the end of the 2015 season last December, it was agreed that Harbaugh was to depart from the 49ers franchise.

According to ESPN, Jed York, owner of the 49ers, claimed the split was mutual, but Harbaugh seemed to disagree. “I was told I wouldn’t be the coach anymore,” he said. “And then … you can call it ‘mutual,’ I mean, I wasn’t going to put the 49ers in the position to have a coach that they didn’t want anymore.”

Harbaugh will now be the head coach for Michigan State, the very college he played for. As for the new head coach, that would be Jim Tomsula, the previous defensive line coach for the 49ers since 2007.

Although the reign of Harbaugh has come to an end, it is time to see if an even bigger and better team can develop in these coming years.