For the past two seasons, the 49ers have gone an abysmal 7-25 and are about to have their fourth head coach in four seasons. While these numbers would not give many fans, the 49ers are moving in the right direction, and here are seven reasons why they can get back to their winning ways and potentially make a playoff push in the near future.
1. Kyle Shanahan
Kyle Shanahan, son of former 49ers offensive coordinator Mike Shanahan, was hired this off-season to be the new head coach for San Francisco. Fresh off of orchestrating one of the most prolific offenses in history, Shanahan is looking for a fresh start after being a part of one of the biggest Super Bowl meltdowns in history. It might be a slow start, since the 49ers will be his first head coaching gig, but San Francisco has lacked a threatening offense for years, and Kyle Shanahan should be able to generate it. He was one of the most sought after head coaching candidates this off-season, and 49ers fans should be excited about what he can bring to the table.
2. John Lynch
The former all-pro safety out of Stanford has spent the past few years in the world of sports broadcasting, but after the firing of former 49ers general manager Trent Baalke, Lynch got the call to fill that role. As a former player, Lynch understands what it takes for these athletes to develop into stars on the gridiron, especially on the defensive side of the ball where the 49ers had historic struggles last season. The new head coaching tandem of Kyle Shanahan and John Lynch should excite 49ers fans as well because of the chemistry the two share, which has lacked in San Francisco’s front office the past few seasons.
3. A healthy NaVorro Bowman
When healthy, NaVorro Bowman is one of the most feared defenders in the entire National Football League. After tearing his achilles tendon last season, Bowman was forced to watch the second half of the season from the sideline. As one of the top linebackers in the league, Bowman is a player who makes everybody around him better. Not only his play on the field, but his leadership and football IQ are other reasons why he is one of the best defenders in the league today. If he can stay healthy for the entire season, 49ers fans can already expect the defense to improve drastically from last season.
4. 2nd overall pick
The 49ers suffered the second most losses in the NFL last season, which gave them the second overall pick in the upcoming draft this April. Getting a pick this high almost guarantees the ability to draft a future cornerstone of the franchise, but there are more options for teams with a top ten pick. The 49ers could look to trade it either for an established veteran player, or for more picks in this draft and in the future. Having a top five selection in a draft gives teams the power to hear offers from many different teams that are interested in trading up in the draft, and the 49ers are in a unique position to weigh a multitude of options, all of which can help the team moving forward.
5. Clean slate at the quarterback position
For the past few seasons, the 49ers have had a quarterback carousel going with Blaine Gabbert and Colin Kaepernick constantly taking each others starting positions. This created little to no stability at the most important position on the field, and thus gave the team not much time to get comfortable with one man under center. Now, with the 49ers heading into the off-season with no quarterbacks under contract, the new tandem of Shanahan and Lynch can place the guys they want in that position either through free agency or the draft and bring stability and leadership back to the quarterback spot. This could be how they use the 2nd overall pick, either by selecting a quarterback there or trading it away for a later pick where they could draft their guy.
6. Everyone is healthy now
The 49ers had 17 different players placed on injured reserve near the end of last season, which essentially left a bunch of guys that hardly anybody had ever heard of suiting up for the team on Sundays. The injuries halted the development of a lot of bright young talent that the 49ers possessed, but now that they will have had a full off-season to recover, Kyle Shanahan can start grooming some of the young returning talent however he wants. Since the 49ers have had high draft picks the past couple of seasons, they have been able to get some key acquisitions through the draft and these players have a chance to really come into their own through the new coach and general manager.
7. There has been a real culture change
Now that the 49ers not only have a new head coach with a lot of promise, but a new general manager with a different vision for the team than what the old GM had, they are ready for a culture change. The culture that was present with the staff on the team prior to this off-season did not have the formula needed to be successful, primarily because it was widely reported that old general manager Trent Baalke was constantly butting heads with his head coaches. The lack of chemistry made the franchise plummet, but that now has a chance to be revived with Shanahan and Lynch leading the team. The chemistry these two possess and their ability to build the team that they want will allow them to implement a winning culture into the San Francisco 49ers as soon as next season.