3 nightmare scenarios for the 49ers in 2024

San Francisco 49ers Mandatory Minicamp
San Francisco 49ers Mandatory Minicamp / Thearon W. Henderson/GettyImages

Generally speaking, it's been a good past decade for the 49ers. They've consistently competed for division and conference titles under Kyle Shanahan, and making two Super Bowls in four years speaks to the talent that the team's put together in that time. You know things are going well when you can quietly trade away the quarterback you drafted third overall and not hear a whole lot about it.

And once again, the Niners head into next season in the middle of a Super Bowl window. Still, things change quickly in the NFL, and it's easy to see how – in theory, at least – how their season could go south. These are the 3 biggest nightmare scenarios for the 49ers heading into the 2024 season.

3 nightmare scenarios for the 49ers in 2024

1. They lose both star wide receivers

For as good as the Niners' offense looks on paper, there are plenty of reasons to be nervous about it. The biggest ones are at wide receiver, where the team feels somewhat close to losing both Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk. Rumors about how the team's been preparing to move on from both have floated around all offseason, and Samuel confirmed to reporters this week that the team did have trade talks about him recently.

It's probably not hyperbolic to say that losing both is currently both the most realistic and impactful nightmare heading into this season. Both of them had more receiving yards than the rest of the receivers on the roster combined and ranked among Pro Football Focus' Top 12 receivers league-wide. It would be about as big of a test for the Shanahan system as there's ever been, which is saying something.

2. Age catches up with the rest of the offense

The Christian McCaffrey extension was a good deal for both sides, and probably won't age nearly as poorly as some of the other massive contracts out there. But running backs don't stick around like they used to, and McCaffrey's had over 500 rushes in 33 games over the past two years. There's no reason to believe his production's going to fall off a cliff next season, but he's probably closer to the end of his career than the start.

Meanwhile, Trent Williams is 35, Kyle Juszczyk is 33, and George Kittle will turn 32 this season. Of the five highest-graded offensive players (PFF) on the Niners last year, only one of them – Brock Purdy – is under 25. If one or two of them start losing a step, there's not a lot of proven talent behind them on the depth chart.

3. Brock Purdy plays just okay and the discourse never ends

It feels like last season helped convince more people that Purdy is a legitimately good NFL QB, but there are still plenty of vocal holdouts. And while this wouldn't really be an issue on Sunday (right?), Monday to Saturday would be 100x more miserable if Purdy kinda underwhelms for large stretches of the season. Having to spend another 17 weeks having the game manager conversation may be worse than losing another Super Bowl to the Chiefs.