Marc Sessler of NFL.com listed the 49ers in an upper-echelon category within the NFC, citing they needed to make the postseason after an active offseason.
After three losing seasons in four years, San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan can’t feel too comfortable about going through another reconstruction or rebuild in 2021.
True, 2017 was only the start of a complete team overhaul. And in 2018, after quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo‘s season-ending ACL tear, it’s understandable why the Niners finished far short of expectations. 2019 was great, yes, culminating in a Super Bowl appearance. Yet that was offset by the myriad of injuries, including another one to Garoppolo, in 2020.
Still, the NFL remains a bottom-line business. Even with the injuries, Shanahan remains under pressure to deliver another postseason appearance following a highly active offseason for San Francisco.
While the bulk of the 49ers’ offseason moves centered around “keeping the gang together” — challenging, considering the diminished salary cap amid the pandemic — the overwhelming focus has centered on the Niners’ blockbuster NFL Draft trade to move up from No. 12 overall to No. 3 overall.
This, with the full intent of grabbing a quarterback to act as a long-term replacement for Garoppolo.
Still, despite the inevitable selection of a rookie signal-caller, Garoppolo remains in tow. And, at least according to NFL.com’s Marc Sessler, the pressure is on for San Francisco to advance deep within the postseason this year.
Sessler broke down a tiered ranking of all NFC teams, putting the Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers at the very top. Yet the 49ers, Green Bay Packers and Los Angeles Rams find themselves in Sessler’s “postseason or bust” category, and understandably so:
"The Rams and Niners are under considerable pressure to light up the skies after earth-shaking moves to improve the quarterback position. Los Angeles is without a first-round pick until 2024 after pulling off a deal for Matthew Stafford that also saw Jared Goff shipped to Detroit. The Niners handed three first-rounders to Miami for the chance to grab their new signal-caller with the No. 3 overall pick.Kyle Shanahan and Sean McVay are correctly regarded as wizards. With Stafford roaming Hollywood and a quarterback to be named later in The Bay, two of the game’s top coaches will boast hand-picked franchise dudes. Excuses no longer exist. Nothing but a Lombardi will do."
Sessler has a point: 49ers can’t afford another playoff miss
There’s no doubt the Niners have a bigger focus right now on their long-term success, predicated by the blockbuster trade to land a franchise quarterback who can stay healthy.
Yet 2019 showed San Francisco can win with Garoppolo under center, provided he can stay on the field. And the fact the 49ers have seemingly remained committed to Jimmy G for the upcoming season is an indication they’re both focused on getting deep into the playoffs, hopefully winning a Super Bowl in the process, while also admitting they’re soon looking to replace him.
True, there are plenty of reasons why the Niners could move on from Garoppolo sooner than later, too, provided a rookie quarterback winds up being more than competent enough to take over duties in year one.
At the same time, though, banking on a rookie signal-caller to help carry a team into the postseason right out of the gate can be a tall order. Particularly when considering Shanahan’s offense is notoriously complex and can take multiple years to fully master.
Shanahan’s job, however, is still probably safe even if the 2021 campaign doesn’t go according to plan, especially if a new QB winds up being under center in Week 1. Yet after enduring three hard-to-swallow seasons in four years, it’s understandable why San Francisco is viewed as one of those teams under tremendous pressure to not only make the postseason but get deep into it as well.
While also setting itself up for continued long-term success with a fresh-faced quarterback selected in this year’s NFL Draft.