No. 1: It’s Been Quite the Turnaround for San Francisco
Early in 2019, the most optimistic of opinions for the San Francisco 49ers probably went no further than a 10-6 finish, perhaps a Wild Card berth. Now, the 49ers are appearing in their seventh Super Bowl.
So, while the NFC Championship had plenty of its own noteworthy takeaways, it’s worthwhile to take a brief look back to see just how far this team has come since Kyle Shanahan and Co. took over in 2017.
That year, a complete rebuild, saw the team finish 6-10, albeit aided by grabbing Jimmy Garoppolo and finishing the year with five straight wins.
But a 4-12 finish in 2018, highlighted by Garoppolo’s ACL tear, created yet another shadow for the franchise, likely influencing the thought that 2019 would be yet another season focused on the rebuild.
Instead, the 49ers are Super Bowl bound.
The rebuild is over. The Niners’ time is now.
“I just can’t tell you how close of a group of guys we have,” Shanahan told the media after the win over Green Bay. “I know a lot of people say that, but I’ve been coaching a while and I do feel like it’s different. And I’ve been on a lot of close teams. Our guys have a lot of love for each other, I think, in the way they play. You can see them play with a lot of love for each other.”
CEO Jed York, who took his fair share of grief during the down years, certainly recognized the significance, electing to pass on accepting the NFC Championship trophy and allowing Shanahan to accept the award from his father, Mike Shanahan:
It’s hard to envision such a moment happening only a few short years ago. But it did. And in that moment, the 49ers turned a page on what had been a dark period in franchise history.
So, while there’s still one more game to play, the Niners have done more than just reemerge from the dark depths of laughingstock status.
They’ve become one of the league’s elite teams in a very short time.