Had Kyle Williams not had the two of the biggest special teams disasters of the 2011 NFL season in the NFC Conference Championship, there's a good chance it would be the San Francisco 49ers getting ready to play the New England Patriots in a few hours. Their 13-3 season was the first winning season for the 49ers since Steve Mariucci was head coach, Garrison Hearst was the leading rusher and Terrell Owens was the leading receivers in 2002.
Yet they did so with a former first overall selection at quarterback, Alex Smith, who was widely, if not unanimously, considered a bust entering the 2011 season. They won 13 games with the 26th ranked offense and a passing offense that didn't ask for their limited quarterback to do too much.
Jim Harbaugh set up a template for success that the Jaguars can and should follow for the 2012 season.
The 49ers were very successful in two keys aspects during the 2012 season. Their defense stayed very healthy through the year and finished in the top five in both points and yards allowed. The Jaguars defense, which was absolutely shredded by injuries, finished 6th in yards allowed and 11th in points allowed.
Had the Jaguars defense remained healthy it's very feasible that they could've played at a top five level which was certainly evidenced by their Monday Night Football performance against the Baltimore Ravens in week seven. If the defense can stay healthy in 2012, there's no reason to believe that the Jaguars defense wouldn't be able to play at the level of the 2011 49ers.
The other important thing that the 49ers did in 2011 was win the turnover margin. And they did so handily. The 49ers defense forced a league-leading 38 turnovers and the offense had a league-fewest 10 turnovers. That's right, they were the NFL's best team at both forcing turnovers and avoiding them.
So while their offense was averaged at best, their efficiency and emphasis on ball control allowed them capitalize on the biggest moments in games and ultimately have a very successful season.
While I still have plenty of hope that Blaine Gabbert will have success with the Jaguars, and I believe it is far too early to say he won't, an emphasis on efficiency could be exactly what the young quarterback needs to bounce back from a rough rookie season.
The formula was laid out by Harbaugh in his first season with the 49ers, now it's up for Mike Mularkey to take the reigns of the Jaguars in his first season and follow it.