Hopes were high heading into the 2018 season for 49er fans, with their savior in waiting Jimmy Garoppolo finally ready to go after an entire offseason of waiting, Jerick McKinnon a seemingly perfect fit in Kyle Shanahan’s offense, and Richard Sherman recently signed. Before the season, a sign of things to come occurred when McKinnon tore his ACL and needed surgery, forcing him to miss the entire season. Those same hopes were obliterated quickly, as the 49ers lost 2 of their first 3 games and lost Garoppolo for the year. Week after week, it seemed like nothing could go right for San Francisco, as the injuries piled up at an astronomical rate. We started 8 different safeties (8!!!) this season, Richard Sherman was forced to miss extended time, mental mistakes plagued the team all year, and it was truly a shit show. Things did look better once Nick Mullens took over for C.J. Beathard about halfway through the season, but for a team that was at the bottom of the league, there was no where to go but up. With all these issues, playoff hopes were very quickly destroyed. However, one must question where the team’s season would have gone if not for their bad fortune; could they have fought for a playoff spot? Would they be in the thick of a championship hunt right now? We will never know, but I want to dive into the this thought: If the 49ers go into next season with this same roster, and assuming they address their pass rush need in the draft, would they be playoff contenders?
The 49ers had more issues this season than simply being injury prone. Early in the season, the defense couldn’t tackle anyone, and it was embarrassing to watch. That was resolved a couple games into the year, which was later explained by Kyle Shanahan, who expressed that the coaching staff had put such a huge focus on trying to create turnovers that it hurt the overall tackling of the team. The defense also was only able to force 7 turnovers all year, a historically low amount. However, this is assuming the team is able to address their number one need in the draft, which is a pass rusher. If they get that solved, turnovers will create themselves, with opposing quarterbacks feeling pressure and making poor decisions. On the offensive side of the ball, health is key. With Garoppolo, breakout star George Kittle, the speedy Marquis Goodwin and Matt Breida and Jerick McKinnon splitting duties in the backfield, this team is in good shape. Add to all that we have a top tier offensive line, and I truly believe this team, even without making vast improvements, is good enough to be a contender. It’s a tough road, being that they are in the NFC West, which may be the best division in the league, but Kyle Shanahan has proven time and again that he has the chops to be a great head coach, and if they can stay healthy next year, this team can go far. Now add in the fact that they absolutely will improve on both sides of the ball, whether it be through the draft, free agency, or even trades, and the future is looking extremely bright for 49er fans. Be patient, good things are coming!