Don’t ask why, but the question popped up in my useless cranium:
Gosh, this 49ers run is so much fun, so great, bringing so many people together — How long can it last before contracts and free agency ruin the magic?
I know. What a stupid thing to wonder. Life is so short. Why not just live in the moment? Why not just bottle the noise and energy of Sunday night at Levi’s Stadium in the 37-8 thrashing of Aaron Rodgers, the Green Bay Packers and all those West Coast Cheeseheads and use it to spread love and goodness in the world?
Because we have six days to wait until the next game and sports media is all about killing time, amigos.
That’s what we do.
We kill time and hope to burn a brain cell or two along the way.
So, about breaking up the 49ers 2019 magic . . .
First off, the most important thing is, the 49ers have a quarterback, a head coach and a general manager everyone likes and approves of. All are under contract. That’s a pretty good start. Kyle Shanahan has shown the ability to scheme the bejesus out of game plans. John Lynch and his personnel staff are on one, drafting the likes of George Kittle, Nick Bosa and Fred Warner; signing the likes of Kwon Alexander, Kyle Juszczyk and Richard Sherman; and trading for the likes of Dee Ford and Emmanuel Sanders.
As for QB Jimmy Garoppolo, at least *I think* everyone approves of him. I mean, he’s 10-1. And 16-3 as a 49er. And fresh off a Sunday Night Football showcase his highest QB rating ever. But apparently there are some who don’t fully buy in, which is why Richard Sherman delivered his Sermon from the Press Conference Mount on Sunday night, the “Dark Alley Defense” of James G. And I confess, a Jock Blog or two has pondered Garoppolo’s preponderance for an interception or two. But by all means, the Jock Blog supports Garoppolo as 49ers QB for the next decade.
Outside of Shanahan/Lynch/Garoppolo, however, there are thorny issues.
Arik Armstead is a free agent after this season. So are Jimmie Ward and Ronald Blair.
George Kittle and DeForest Buckner are free agents after the 2020 season. Gulp.
Joining Kittle and Buckner after the 2020 season are Solomon Thomas, Jacquiski Tartt and D.J. Jones.
The good news is, the 49ers are currently $13 million under the salary cap. Paraag Marathe has seemingly done a nice job managing an ability to stay away from gargantuan contracts that devour the future, as I was just saying to my good friends, Bobby Evans and Larry Baer.
And already, the ace web site Spotrac has identified players around the NFL who can be cut for salary cap savings in the upcoming off-season, citing players like Jerick McKinnon, Marquise Goodwin and Robbie Gould to save over $9 million on the cap.
So there are ways to keep good players. Ideally, you’d like to keep Kittle, Buckner and Armstead, at the minimum. Finding ways to keep players like Jones, Ward and Blair would be amazing.
But the ultimate lesson of this meditation is that success in the NFL comes at a price. Marathe and his crew become hugely important figures. As fast as the success comes in a 10-1 season, change comes calling every off-season.
In related news, the New England Patriots just won 10 games for the 17th consecutive season. They’ve seemingly managed the salary cap era with aplomb.
They broke a tie with the other team to win 16 seasons worth of 10 games or more: Your vintage 49ers of the 1980s-1990s. Those teams were not handicapped with a cap for the first decade. The cap, and Steve Young’s retirement, ultimately broke that team.
So what I’m saying is: Hey Jimmy G, feel like a Tom Brady-esque run is in your handsome future? The parts around him will change, surely. The key parts must stay the same, and can. Strategy and a smart front office will take this wondrous year and turn it into a multi-year run. As we take the long view, 49ers front office stability becomes the key. It’s up to Jed York to keep these pieces together.
It won’t be easy, or a given to be in the 10-win club every year. Currently, the Kansas City Chiefs have the second-longest string of 10-win seasons, and they’re only at four. After that, the Rams and Saints have a two-year streak. Success in the NFL can approach you, then run by you like a George Kittle YAC.
In the meantime, enjoy the moment. Savor the feeling of a Thanksgiving dinner where talk of the 49ers will unite the family table, not totally bum everyone out. And pass the gravy.