The San Francisco 49ers’ decline has been one of the dominating stories to emerge from the NFC over the past three seasons.
Under Jim Harbaugh the club came inches away from their sixth Vince Lombardi trophy, only to be held on the goalline by the Baltimore Ravens in their defeat in Super Bowl XLVII.
The club almost returned to the title game the following season, but were defeated by their bitter rivals the Seattle Seahawks in the NFC Championship game at CenturyLink Field.
Since then the 49ers have been through three coaches in three seasons as Harbaugh’s differences with owner Jed York and general manager Trent Baalke prompted his exit.
Jim Tomsula took over a tough situation in 2015, which was made worse by the departures of several key players, including Justin Smith and Patrick Willis. The club limped to a 5-11 record, resulting in Tomsula’s firing and Chip Kelly replacing him at the helm.
San Francisco’s problems only deepened under the tenure of Kelly, recording a 2-14 campaign – the joint-worst in the history of the franchise. New head coach Kyle Shanahan and general manager John Lynch face a massive challenge to reverse the fortunes of the club.
The 49ers began the new campaign on home soil for the second year in a row. Like in 2015 they overpowered their opposition with ease, defeating the Los Angeles Rams 28-0 at Levi’s Stadium.
Carlos Hyde enjoyed a solid evening as he ran for 88 yards and two touchdowns, while quarterback Blaine Gabbert had a sound performance throwing for 190 yards and a strike.
The result would be the highlight of the 49ers’ season as Kelly’s men faced daunting trips on the road. The Carolina Panthers and the Seahawks proved to be too strong for San Francisco to handle, with both teams easing to victory.
The 49ers played a close game with the Dallas Cowboys, but ultimately had no answer for the rushing ability of Ezekiel Elliott, who notched 238 yards on the ground.
San Francisco played their worst game of the season against the Arizona Cardinals, who claimed a comfortable win despite missing starting quarterback Carson Palmer.
Drew Stanton threw two touchdowns, while the visitors also capitalised on two interceptions from Gabbert and a fumble from Chris Davis, forcing Kelly into a change at the signal-caller position.
Colin Kaepernick, who drew attention for his decision to take a knee during the national anthem in pre-season, regained his place as the club’s starter after losing the job in the 2015 campaign.
Despite the change at quarterback the fortunes of the club did not change on the field as the Buffalo Bills ran riot over the 49ers’ rush defense as LeSean McCoy ran for over 140 yards and three touchdowns. San Francisco allowed 45 points, while mustering just 16 of their own in their heaviest margin of defeat in the campaign.
Similar struggles occurred against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the New Orleans Saints in heavy losses on home soil, although a strong performance was just around the corner. Kaepernick produced his best game of the campaign, throwing for 210 yards and a touchdown, while leading the 49ers in rushing and adding another score on the road against the Cardinals.
However, their defensive issues led to a late collapse, allowing Chandler Catanzaro to kick a game-winning field goal for the Cardinals. The brilliance of Tom Brady proved to be too much to overcome against the New England Patriots, but proof of Kelly’s influence on Kaepernick began to take hold in a fine display against the Miami Dolphins.
The quarterback led his side back late in the game, but the Dolphins’ defense held them off in the redzone, officially eliminating the club from post-season contention.
After a huge letdown against the Chicago Bears, the 49ers appeared to be closing in on their second win of the term, only for the defense to let them down once again to allow the New York Jets to stage a comeback to win the game in overtime.
However, Kaepernick ensured that his side would secure at least a two-win season by mounting a fourth-quarterback comeback to defeat the Rams. However, it would not be enough to save Kelly or Baalke from the axe at the end of the campaign.
The 49ers much like the Cleveland Browns are in dire need of a quarterback. Kaepernick will likely leave the club, while Gabbert could stick around in a backup role. Shanahan reportedly liked Jimmy Garoppolo in the 2014 Draft, so the 49ers could join the Bears and the Browns in the hunt for the Patriots quarterback, although it might cost them the second-overall pick.
San Francisco could draft their man for the future with either Mitch Trubisky or DeShaun Watson available at the top of the selection process. A known commodity like Tony Romo could also be in play, but his injury history and age could put the club’s hierarchy off a potential move for the Cowboys man.
Overall the roster lacks quality from top to bottom, highlighting the task at hand for Shanahan and Lynch, who has no scouting experience to draw upon as he arrives straight from the commentary booth. Their one star linebacker NaVorro Bowman has endured a torrid time with injuries, which could limit his productivity in the future.
The club are going to need to hit on their draft picks in the early rounds, especially if they decide to go on offense as the new quarterback – whoever he may be – will need a lot of help. Hyde has struggled for consistency and fitness during his time in the Bay Area, while Torrey Smith is their only quality wideout outside of the tight end position where there is some talent.
Players like Kendall Wright and Alshon Jeffery could come into the mix, pending on how much the front office are willing to commit to the position. Either way it’s going to take some time for the 49ers to trend in the right direction.
Should the 49ers opt against trading for a veteran or signing one during free agency then they will most certainly use the second-overall pick on a quarterback.
Trubisky has received all the buzz thus far, despite Watson’s outstanding performance to defeat Alabama in the College Championship final.
As a result, backing Trubisky to be the first quarterback selected at +115 with BetOnline sportsbook would be the smart option to take.
Garoppolo should be the man that the 49ers target to provide a resurgence for their franchise, although they will face stiff competition. Backing him at +300 to be a part of Shahanan’s side at the start of the 2017 season could be worth a punt.
San Francisco face a huge challenge to even double their win count next season never mind reaching the playoffs. However, stranger things have happened in the NFL and sport, so backing them at +10000 to win the NFC Conference might be worth a small bet.
Mitch Trubisky To Be The First Quarterback Selected 2017 Draft
Jimmy Garoppolo To Be On San Francisco 49ers’ Roster In 2017 Season
San Francisco 49ers To Win NFC Conference
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