The Washington media tried hard to get Trent Williams to speak down on the franchise, but Williams didn’t budge. He wants to be a 49er for the remainder of his career. More on that later.
In a way, it’s fitting that Washington plays San Francisco this weekend. The 49ers are filled with relics of the last calamitous decade — a death spiral of dysfunction and double-digit losing seasons that sent the Washington franchise slumping into irrelevance.
There’s 49ers Coach Kyle Shanahan, the son of Mike Shanahan, to whom Snyder bestowed all football power in 2010. The former Washington offensive coordinator’s Super Bowl run last year was a constant reminder of the young, bright offensive assistants — including the Rams’ Sean McVay and Packers’ Matt LaFleur — who left the team only to win big as head coaches elsewhere.
There’s Trent Williams, the star left tackle and one of the faces of Washington’s franchise in the 2010s whose refusal to play after a botched cancer diagnosis enveloped the team in a fog of gloom for all of last year.
There’s Jordan Reed, the gifted tight end whose brilliance was squelched by constant injuries — symbolic of a team that ended the previous three seasons with more than 20 players on injured reserve.
All of them are unwitting but glowing tokens of what Washington football had become in the second decade of Snyder’s ownership. But their arrival now is a milepost that shows just how far the team has moved away from the disaster of the past.
Yes, Smith ought to be the runaway winner, but that doesn’t mean we should ignore the other contenders who have fought their way back onto the field. And the 49ers have several candidates:
• CB Jason Verrett: He’s returned from not one, but four season-ending injuries (knee, knee, Achilles, knee) and has started the last 10 games for the 49ers. In a season in which injuries have plagued the 49ers, including their cornerbacks, Verrett has been the team’s best and most dependable player at his position. If there was an award for Longest Road to Return, Verrett would be an easy choice.
• T Trent Williams: It’s easy to forget that Williams missed the 2019 season after dealing with a cancerous growth on his head. Williams — and everyone else — was reminded of his 2019 ordeal last month when he contracted COVID-19. Given his cancer history and the fact that he’s asthmatic, Williams acknowledged he became deeply worried about developing serious complications from the virus. Williams called it “the toughest thing I ever had to do in my career.”
San Francisco 49ers
Sporting News’ Vinnie Iyer has already examined whether Jimmy Garoppolo’s time in San Francisco is up. With C.J. Beathard and Nick Mullens also on expiring contracts, the 49ers may wind up totally redoing their quarterback room for 2021.
It’s likely Newton wouldn’t wind up in San Francisco as the sure-thing starter, but depending on the status of Garoppolo, Newton could have a chance in the Bay Area. San Francisco won’t draft high enough to get a plug-and-play quarterback in the draft, so it seems a probable landing spot for one of the veteran free agents.
While Saleh would be missed, the addition of draft picks would help ease some of the pain of losing the valuable assistant coach. San Francisco, after all, doesn’t own a third-round pick in the upcoming draft. That selection was sent to Washington in exchange for offensive tackle Trent Williams.
Barrows notes that VP of player personnel Martin Mayhew is a general manager candidate. Any team that loses two minority staffers to head coach and general manager positions would receive three third-round picks. So, that could potentially mean an additional third-round pick each year into 2023.
“He processes information so well, so fast, knows where to go with the football. He’s not the most talented, the biggest, doesn’t have the strongest arm, but mentally he may be the best quarterback on this San Francisco team.”
That is how Brian Griese from ESPN described Nick Mullens following the first completion of the game on Monday night from the 49ers signal-caller.
Griese’s comments may have resulted in some raised eyebrows or head-shaking among the 49ers faithful, but this wasn’t the first time a national reporter has made a comment like this regarding Mullens.
While the focus of many in the San Francisco fan base have been the quarterbacks in the upcoming draft, the issues with the 49ers run deeper than quarterback. A strong argument could be made that the 49ers should focus on improving their secondary or offensive line in the first round, possibly two.