Of all people, I didn’t expect our Murph & Mac platinum member “Friend of the Program” (Gentleman) Jim Nantz to knock me for a loop about the 2020 49ers.
Generally, Gentleman Jim gives us smooth flow, pleasant chat, a few behind-the-scenes tales from the PGA Tour and the CBS NFL broadcast booth. Generally, Gentleman Jim leaves us all feeling better about our day.
But last week, he said something about the 49ers. He said, after the devastating injury to Nick Bosa, “I wonder if the 49ers can have the season they wanted to have.”
It was entirely fair. It was delivered with an absence of malice. It was not a “hot take” cooked in the kitchen of a Skip Bayless.
It was Nantz thinking that, with DeForest Buckner now a Colt, and with Bosa now out for the year, two of the primary reasons the 49ers were in the Super Bowl last year are not wearing red-and-gold on the field in 2020.
So, I wondered: Is Gentleman Jim correct? Is he, in the same serene and welcoming cadence with which he tosses it to Dottie Pepper out at 16 fairway, delivering the haymaker of truth?
That’s our mission the next few weeks, sports fans. To find out if the 49ers have the mettle to overcome a slew of debilitating injuries and have . . . the season they want to have.
Now, the season they want to have is a Super Bowl championship, of course. That’s tall cotton, y’all. Getting back to the Bowl is usually aided greatly by tremendous health, home-field advantage, a playoff bye and lots of good breaks. Winning home-field will require conquering the NFC West, which requires somehow slowing the runaway train that is Russell Wilson (Nick? DeFo? You there?), gaining revenge on Kyler (Buckner Called Me A Squirrel) Murray, and handling the reborn Rams, who, last I checked, still had Aaron (Me, Not Miley, Came In Like A Wrecking Ball) Donald on their roster.
But it’s doable.
Here’s the positive spin. Sunday night’s game against the limping, also-injured, and heavily-underperforming Philadelphia Eagles *should* provide a good chance for another win. Yes, yes, any given Sunday, yada yada, Wentz-sylvania comeback, yada yada. Understood. But the 49ers should get this one, based on Nick (Best Backup QB Since Steve Young) Mullens, George Kittle’s return and Robert Saleh making chicken salad out of that injury report on defense. That gets them to 3-1.
Then in come the Miami Dolphins to Levi’s. Jimmy Garoppolo should be back. Maybe even Raheem Mostert, too. Deebo Samuel should be knocking off the rust. Even with FitzMagic, the 49ers should get the Dolphins and move to 4-1.
And then, 49ers fans, you put on your Big Boy pants. The answer to Nantz’s Riddle of the NFL Sphinx — Can the 49ers have the season they want to have? — will come in a series of weekly blows:
— Week 6, Sunday night Rams at Levi’s.
— Week 7, travel to Cam and The Hoodie in Foxboro. Gulp.
— Week 8, travel to Russ Wilson in the “action green/wolf gray” of Seattle. Double gulp.
— Week 9, Thursday night, post-Seattle, vs Slingin’ Aaron Rodgers, hellbent on NFC Championship revenge.
— Week 10, at New Orleans, which may be in a weakened state.
— Week 12, at the Rams in their super fancy new digs.
— Week 13, the Big, Bad Buffalo Bills on a Monday night at Levi’s.
— Week 14, the Washington Football Team in the 408.
To quote the Good Book (not Kyle’s playbook): And on Week 14, they rested.
So the answers will come in heavy-duty, 2XL-style. But if there’s one thing the 49ers showed us after the MetLife Massacre of injuries, it’s that the Kevin Givenses, the Jeff Wilsons, the Ross Dwelleys and, yes, the Nick Mullenses of the 49ers world are dynamite finds by a skilled front office, and provide the 2020 49ers with a different sort of blueprint. Depth, guys with chips on their shoulders — maybe those are the guys of 2020.
This year is not last year. It’s not unleashed Bosa and prime Buckner. This year is different. It’s Brandon Aiyuk and Jason Verrett and Trent Williams and maybe even late-season Jordan Reed. It’s adversity early, and a test of their program.
Can the 49ers have the season they want to have?
Inquiring minds, and Gentleman Jim, want to know.