The San Francisco 49ers appear to be heading in the right direction after a wildly successful 2017 offseason. But fans need to remember these are just the opening phases, and we all can “cool our jets” just a bit.
There are a lot of good reasons to be excited about the San Francisco 49ers this season.
While the days of infighting, leaks and front-office discontent aren’t exactly that long ago, the perception of following a team associated with those problems sure feels like a distant memory.
Just think of all that’s transpired this offseason. The Niners brought in a general manager, John Lynch, who is saying all the right things and backing it up with actions. Just look at how he executed his first ever NFL Draft.
San Francisco 49ers
Kyle Shanahan was probably the best candidate on the head coaching market, and the 49ers grabbed him too.
These two names actually enticed players to want to come play in Santa Clara. And the Niners were a two-win team just a season ago.
It’s a feeling many San Francisco fans haven’t had in a while. And that’s good. Yet we also have to caution ourselves and temper the expectation level quite a bit. Remember, this is only the start of a very long rebuild.
A Mountain of Promise, But…
There are going to be plenty of fresh faces in training camp this season. Topping the list are defensive end Solomon Thomas and linebacker Reuben Foster — Lynch’s first two draft picks, both taken in Round.
Coaching names, like Shanahan and defensive coordinator Robert Saleh, figure into the grand scheme of things, naturally.
And the remaining draft haul plus free-agent pickups provide a brand new look for a franchise that was in the dumps last January. It’s quite the turnaround.
Yet keep in mind, many of these new faces still have to prove themselves at the NFL level. Thomas, promising. Foster, promising. Cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon, promising.
Not proven. Not yet, at least.
Both Shanahan and Saleh are installing new schemes as well. Saleh’s defense is much simpler than what former coordinator Jim O’Neil ran in 2016, so that’s good. But Saleh still has to blend a 4-3 scheme with players mostly drafted for the 3-4 base defense of Niners old.
How well will it work? We can’t say.
Meanwhile, Shanahan’s offense is one of the most complex in the NFL, which is why Lynch brought in a number of offensive free agents familiar with the system. They’ll act as mentors, but like everything else, it will take time.
NBC Bay Area’s Doug Williams made the following argument:
"That’s a lot to live up to for a rookie head coach taking over one of the NFL’s worst teams.But, with a six-year deal in place, Shanahan at least will have some time. He won’t have to take the 49ers to the Super Bowl in 2017. If he can stabilize the franchise in his first season, then build on that momentum in Year 2 (with possibly a new quarterback), Shanahan will certainly get a chance to prove his proponents know what they’re talking about."
While the excitement is there, let’s give it time.
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Set Reasonable Expectations
A short while ago, I broke down how many wins in 2017 would be needed to consider the year “successful.”
I had a lot of fun interacting with fans on Twitter; some even suggesting double-digit wins were possible.
But it’s important to note Vegas odds (h/t David Fucillo of Niners Nation) set San Francisco’s over/under at 4.5 wins, and these sports books don’t like to be too wrong and lose money. Paired with a relatively difficult schedule this year, especially in the early half, it wouldn’t be a shock to see the Niners finish around five or six wins, at best.
Wins and losses do paint a pretty solid picture how good a team truly is. And while the 49ers’ win totals may not necessarily reflect real improvement, it should be there.
Don’t expect San Francisco to get blown out on a regular basis or give up 150-plus rushing yards with relative ease. Heck, the Niners might actually be in some games late in the fourth quarter, making for an exciting brand of football not seen in some time.
Trust the process but don’t get disappointed if the wins aren’t there. They’ll come in time.