The rebuilding starts now for a team that is coming off of a stunning five-year death spiral from the Super Bowl to a 2-14 record in a mere five seasons.
A bizarre power outage in the third quarter allowed the Niners to regroup and climb out of a 28–6 hole behind a dazzling second-year quarterback who would go on to become a figure of great national controversy years later when he chose to protest the national anthem.
The following year, Colin Kaepernick became a rising star despite his many flaws and led the team to a 12-4 record that was good enough to get them to the NFC Championship game against the Seattle Seahawks. It was a tight game and the 49ers had a chance to return to the Super Bowl until Kapernick threw a killer interception in the end zone with less than a minute to play.
Following the crushing loss that signaled the end of days for what looked to be a rising NFC West powerhouse, things crumbled and they crumbled quickly.
An acrimonious relationship between GM Trent Balke and head coach Jim Harbaugh resulted in the latter returning to the top job at his alma mater the University of Michigan where he once starred.
Kaepernick suffered through injuries, on field screw-ups and his desire to be something much bigger than a mere football player. Meanwhile, the 49ers organization became one of the worst in the NFL as the once plentiful stock of talent was depleted.
The team bottomed out last year as a media circus over Kaepernick and just bad talent combined for a only two wins.
It was time for a housecleaning.
2017 represents a clean break with the past.
Kaepernick, Chip Kelly and Baalke are OUT and neophyte General Manager and former television analyst John Lynch, ex-Atlanta Falcons offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan and quarterback Brian Hoyer are IN.
Shanahan will now try to implement his system and is counting on the journeyman Hoyer – who is familiar – with it to help hold down the fort until the 49ers can get their franchise quarterback through either a trade (Kirk Cousins?) or the draft where SF is a lock for a top five pick next year.
Hoyer’s numbers have never been much and he has bounced around the league throughout his career, don’t expect much from him in San Francisco this year either. Former USC star Matt Barkley will likely back him up. Rookie C.J. Beathard, a former Iowa Hawkeye was selected in the third round as well.
The running game rests in the hands of Carlos Hyde who has never lived up to the hype after being drafted out of Ohio State in 2015. He will get a chance at a breakout year running behind free agent signee Kyle Juszczyk, a bruising fullback who will open up holes for Hyde to run through. The Niners also signed journeymen RB Tim Hightower.
The receiving corps will be led by former Washington Redskin Pierre Garcon, another alumni of the Kyle Shanahan offensive scheme. Former Buffalo Bills speedster Marquise Goodwin will also contribute and has had a great preseason.
On the defensive side of the ball, the 49ers added young studs in lineman Solomon Thomas from Stanford and linebacker Ruben Foster from the dynastic Alabama Crimson Tide. They will join the besieged remnants of a defense that finished dead last in the NFL last season.
The last big free agent addition was former Bears kicker Robbie Gould which shows that the 49ers don’t plan on scoring many touchdowns this year.
So, what does it all mean?
This team starts over from rock bottom and is taking a hell of a chance with Lynch as an inexperienced GM out of the announcing booth. The last guy who tried that was the infamous Detroit Lions manager Matt Millen, ironically a former 49er who just couldn’t make the transition. Lynch is a smart guy and a future Hall of Famer so time will tell.
This team has a long way to go in order to contend and will duel the Los Angeles Rams for finishing last in the NFC West but as the old 1980’s song put it – the future’s so bright I gotta wear shades.