The San Francisco 49ers beat the Chicago Bears on Sunday to notch their second win. While it’s not going to shoot them to the playoffs, it was quite fascinating to see the evolution of the team over the last few weeks. With Jimmy Garoppolo behind center, it’s almost a different ball club. Given the roster that was inherited by Kyle Shanahan and John Lynch, the team is definitely going in the right direction, even if it weren’t to win another game this season.
It’s not so much that the 49ers have lost games, but it’s how they’ve lost those games. When you watched Chip Kelly or Jim Tomsula coaching, the team failed to show any identity. There was no way to see what they were trying to do on the field. Oftentimes when the game got out of hand, it was over. The team grew lethargic as the deficits increased. Most games seemed like they just ran plays for the hell of it and by the end of the season, it showed little progress from 16 games.
The 49ers you see here under Shanahan are a much different team. If we’re talking Super Bowls, they have nothing to play for, yet they are still giving it everything they’ve got. Marquise Goodwin came back to play after a nasty, nasty tragedy that you don’t wish on your own worst enemy and balled out. I’m not saying a situation under the previous coaches wouldn’t have the same response, but I’d like to think (good ‘ol logic) part of the reason Goodwin came back in uniform against the New York Giants was because of the culture in that building.
The NFL network airs a series called “America’s Game,” which is an episodic documentary on a specific year’s Super Bowl champion. Obviously, there were a few episodes on the 49ers. One that I watched recently was the 1981 team and their first championship. The show started off talking about the 49ers squad from 1979 (head coach Bill Walsh’s first season) and how after they won their second game at the end of the season, the fans stormed the field tearing down the goalpost. Offensive lineman Randy Cross quipped, “There’s enough cheering that you really can’t hear the rest of the country laughing at you.” The interviews were on why a 2-14 team would be that ecstatic of a win, but Dwight Clark, who would go on to be the recipient of The Catch, put it into excellent perspective:
In my opinion, it was celebrating what was beginning to happen, what was around the corner. We had a lot of success that year, we just didn’t win a lot of games. We all knew it was a matter of time before Bill got us where we wanted to go.
The 49ers would go 6-10 the following season and then 13-3 in 1981, ending with their first Super Bowl victory.
It’s over 30 years ago, but what Clark says about the 1979 team seems very similar to what’s happening with the 2017 team. The 49ers aren’t winning many games right now, but they’ve shown consistent progress. The team is unified in many ways I’ve not seen in quite some time — look no further than the win over the Giants where boomboxes were blaring out, or this tweet from our own Jennifer Chan:
We can hear the #49ers locker room from the press conference room. (Through the gray door) It’s raucous and happy! pic.twitter.com/J0HWJJYhSC— Jennifer Lee Chan (@jenniferleechan) December 3, 2017
Two wins and the team is still going nuts. I think they all know their place right now in the league, but this can only carry over and get motivation.
The 49ers may not have much success next season. There’s a lot of things still needed before they can be a legit contender. The arrow however, is definitely up.