I suppose I should start the Lightly-Read 2021 Jock Blog with a smoldering hot take about how the 49ers’ 6-10 season was a sign of decline, how a reboot is in order, and how Kyle Shanahan and John Lynch should be on the hot seat.
So why am I taking the ice-cold take that I don’t believe any of that?
Gotta be true to yourself. I think Shakespeare said that. By the way, can he play backup QB?
If you want to make the argument against Shanahan and Lynch, it’s there.
Consider: Shanahan was part of what we’ll call the Class of 2017, five coaches who started their tenure in the 2017 season and just finished his fourth full season with the club. Here is the list, in order of win percentage:
- Sean McVay, Rams (43-21, .672 win percentage, 3 playoff appearances, 1 NFC Championship)
- Sean McDermott, Bills (38-26, .594, 3 playoff appearances)
- Anthony Lynn, Chargers (33-31, .516, 1 playoff appearance)
- Kyle Shanahan, 49ers (29-35, .453, 1 playoff appearance, 1 NFC Championship)
- Doug Marrone, Jaguars (22-42, .343, 1 playoff appearance)
(Technically, Marrone was hired after Week 14 of the 2016 season, but I started his clock with the 2017 season.)
You know the deal with Marrone and Lynn. Both got fired this week. And Lynn got fired with a better record than Shanahan. He committed the sin of not taking the Chargers to the Super Bowl, like Shanahan did.
In the NFL game that is “Coach Survivor”, Jeff Probst has snuffed out the flame of two, leaving Shanahan alone at tribal council with McVay and McDermott, both of whom have their teams on arguably better trajectories than Shanahan’s 49ers.
As for Lynch, if you want to make the argument against him and his staff, it’s there in the form of:
— Blowing first-round picks in Solomon Thomas (3rd overall) and Reuben Foster.
— Blowing second- and third-round picks in Dante Pettis, Jalen Hurd, C.J. Beathard and Ahkello Witherspoon.
— Trading DeForest Buckner over Arik Armstead.
— Trading for injury prone Dee Ford.
So there. We’ve satisfied the complaints. We understand that each man is fallible, and has shown that more than once through our four years together.
That said . . .
I’m for continuity.
I’m for understanding all of the above shortcomings, but having been around the team as a reporter/talker for 25 years, knowing that the Kyle-John partnership has more upside than downside.
Because you can make the argument for the two. And I’m here, doing it:
George Kittle in the 2017 fifth round. Snagging Brandon Aiyuk in a nifty little 2020 trade. Fred Warner in the 2018 third round. Deebo Samuel in the second round, And, of course, not overthinking it and snagging Nick Bosa with the No. 2 pick in 2019.
And on balance, bringing in free agents like Kyle Juszczyk, Richard Sherman and Jason Verrett, and trading for the likes of Trent Williams and Kerry Hyder and finding undrafted free agents like Raheem Mostert, Jeff Wilson and Kendrick Bourne have made the 49ers competitive every week.
And, of course, Jimmy.
(I’m ducking. Is the coast clear? Can I come up now?)
Yes, trading for Jimmy Garoppolo has brought with it all sorts of energy — the positive rush of the run to Super Bowl 54 . . . and the crushing negativity of film clips showing Jimmy’s limited field vision, and the brutal statistic that he’s been out for injury 23 of a possible 48 starts the last three years.
Whether or not Kyle and John move on from Garoppolo this spring remains to be seen. Certainly, there are intriguing alternatives. Matt Ryan and Matt Stafford are upgrades. So is DeShaun Watson, but let’s not live in fantasy land just yet.
And there’s the draft. Can the 49ers find a guy at No. 12? Or package picks and go find their guy in the top 5?
Or, like I am advocating with Shanahan and Lynch, come back with Jimmy G in the name of consistency, regularity, familiarity and improvement.
If I have one main criticism, it’s been the back-up quarterback depth chart. Shanahan has whiffed there. It should be one of his main focuses this off-season. The Dolphins had Ryan Fitzpatrick. The Raiders had Marcus Mariota. Last year, the Titans had Ryan Tannehill. This should be the standard, not — bless their hearts — Beathard and Nick Mullens.
Bottom line: under Shanahan, the 49ers have been cohesive. They’ve exhibited a positive culture. They’re free of turmoil. And Kyle’s game plans, for the most part, have been pretty darn good. Or didn’t you just see Juszczyk wide open on that wheel route?
And that 2019 run to the Super Bowl, in my estimation, is what the 49ers are more truly like than not.
I am bullish on the 49ers future. I think they have the right guys. I think sometimes you have to ride out choppy waters, but an organization that stays together, grows together — as I was just saying to my good friends Jim Tomsula and Chip Kelly. Right?