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Fitz: First phase of 49ers’ rebuild ready to take flight

With the beginning of the NFL season it’s time to stop fantasizing about a dramatic 49er turnaround but rather deal in the reality of the first development phase of a long needed rebuild.

What is never mentioned in the “miracle” run of Jim Harbaugh is that the 49ers were terrible for many years before his arrival.  And in those years the 49ers accumulated numerous high draft picks.  Those picks bore the brunt of poor 49er seasons but had marinated enough to be ready for a very impressive three-year stretch featuring three NFC title games and a Super Bowl appearance.

Alex Smith, Frank Gore, Vernon Davis, Delanie Walker, Patrick Willis, Joe Staley, Ray McDonald, Anthony Davis, Mike Iupati and Navorro Bowman were all in place and formed the foundation of a very good team.  Once the life-cycle of this edition of the 49ers had run its course they finished 8-8 in Harbaugh’s final year and were clearly in need of a major roster overhaul.  The failure to acknowledge this impending decline resulted in a few wasted seasons that were not helped with very poor draft selections on a yearly basis.

The hiring of John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan signaled the beginning of a new 49er era and their first roster features 30 new 49ers from last year’s 2-14 squad.

What will be difficult for 49er fans to handle is that the 2017 squad should be more competitive, be better coached, will be much younger and have an emphasis placed on long term player development.

And likely start with a 2-8 record.  

A closer look at the opponents and sequence of games indicates that a 5-11 or 6-10 finish would be amazing.  The Vegas over/under for wins is 4 ½.

Every fan wants immediate and instantaneous results.  But the 49ers will be playing the second most difficult schedule in the NFL.  And they don’t have a single offensive skill player that would rank among the top 20 in the NFL.  Not at QB, WR, TE or RB.  Watching the Patriots-Falcons Super Bowl should give every 49er follower an idea of the importance of explosive offensive talent necessary to win in today’s NFL.  The acquisition of these type of players will have to wait until next year’s draft and free agent shopping.

Lynch and Shanahan have embraced 49er history and it doesn’t take long to find the one very “hopeful” turnaround story.

Bill Walsh was one of the top-five coach/executives in the history of the NFL.  He inherited a 2-14 team.  And in his first year he went………2-14.  It was only after acquiring Joe Montana that the 49ers moved to 6-10 and then eventually Super Bowl success and the beginning of a dynasty.  This also happened without a salary cap and Eddie DeBartolo’s finances played a key role in talent acquisition and retention.

The next transformational 49er QB is not on this roster and that will limit the ability to really appreciate Kyle Shanahan’s advanced playcalling and offensive acumen.  Rest assured the prolific Falcons offense of last year gives you an idea of what Shanahan is capable of when given high-level talent.

Patience is always in short supply in the world of sports and knee jerk, rarely-informed, short attention span assertions are the norm.  There will be plenty of these immediate nonsensical rants in the early part of this 49er season as the losses are likely to mount and all the fresh management feel-good thoughts evaporate.

There is a reason they are called the 49er Faithful.  Faith is a belief in something not yet seen.  2017 will not be the year of “seeing” a vastly improved 49er team.  But it will be the year that the franchise ended its run to the bottom and began its climb back towards its pursuit of the playoffs in future seasons.


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