The San Francisco 49ers are as close as a team might get to the proverbial “blank slate,” heading into the free agency and the draft. They have a roster of players, some good, some not good, but with a new coaching staff and front office that seemingly has full control of significant roster decision-making, things are going to change.
Considering how the past three years have gone for the 49ers organization, can we even begin to describe the stability of the franchise right now? Earlier this week, old friend Danny Kelly wrote up a ranking of the most to least stable franchises in the NFL. There is nothing too surprising in the rankings. The New England Patriots and Seattle Seahawks are at the top, and the San Francisco 49ers are at the bottom. He had this to say about the 49ers
The 49ers burned it all down and are starting from scratch. New to the team this year is a first-time GM with no scouting or managerial experience in John Lynch, who will pair with first-time head coach Kyle Shanahan to try to build a competitive roster. They’re part of an … interesting power structure in which each has veto power over the other. Considering this franchise’s recent history, that’s sure to go well. Shanahan’s a great play caller but he doesn’t have a clear-cut quarterback (Colin Kaepernick is a big question mark and Blaine Gabbert and Christian Ponder are both free agents) or any elite playmakers. Stable is the last word we’d use to describe the situation in San Francisco.
I think most of us have gotten fairly comfortable with the current arrangement to a certain extent. However, it is hard to say anything with certainty given how much change we witnessed, and the uncertainty surrounding a first time head coach and a GM who has never worked in personnel before. For someone looking on from outside, I can see why they would be skeptical of the situation.
In some ways, the 49ers football operations are much like an expansion team. They have some carry-over in terms of players, and an expansion team would not have some of the quality the 49ers have in guys like DeForest Buckner and Arik Armstead, Carlos Hyde, NaVorro Bowman, and so forth. But, the point still stands, this is a team starting from as close to scratch as an existing NFL franchise can start.
How long it takes to return to the top is entirely unknown, and whether or not this duo will work out is impossible to answer right now. I am cautiously optimistic based on what we have seen and heard thus far. It is mostly words, but the addition of Adam Peters is a solid early move from Lynch. Now, we wait for free agency and the draft to see just what this new-look team can do when it matters most.