The San Francisco 49ers head into the start of 2017 free agency with three signings already under their belts, and plenty of cap space and draft picks to begin the rebuilding process. Kyle Shanahan and John Lynch are the two big names, with Adam Peters and Martin Mayhew expected to be prominently involved in the evaluation and execution of the offseason plan.
The team has inexperience in their GM, and a head coach with significant say for the first time in his career. I’m sure Kyle Shanahan had some say when he was working for his dad in Washington, but this is the first time he gets to make all the roster cuts.
Earlier this week, former NFL personnel executive Gil Brandt offered up a six-point plan for returning the 49ers to glory. It was mostly obvious stuff. It talked about having a united front with their coach and GM, “find a quarterback solution,” develop/add leadership, upgrade the pass rush, build around the offensive pieces in place, and be patient in free agency. Not exactly rocket science.
At the end, Brandt posed the question of when things will start to pan out. He offered this assessment:
This team will be better in 2017 than it was in 2016, if only because Shanahan will get that time-of-possession mark closer to 30 minutes per game. But I think the season to circle is 2018. If the 49ers get a quarterback in place and follow the rest of these steps, I believe it is reasonable to imagine them competing for a playoff spot in 2018, especially given the relative uncertainty dogging other teams in the once-foreboding NFC West.
It is way too early to demand things be turned around by a specific season. We’d like it sooner rather than later, but virtually everything is unpredictable. We don’t know what they are going to do in free agency in two weeks, let along free agency 2018 or 2019. The same holds true for the draft. And in his assessment, Brandt talks about getting a quarterback in place. That right there is the biggest question moving forward. Maybe it happens this year, maybe next year, who knows.
Back on February 8, I posted a poll asking when people thought the 49ers would return to the playoffs. A plurality voted 2019, which got 44.7 percent of the vote. 2018 was behind it at 29.3 percent, and 2020 was next at 12 percent. Has your opinion changed?