The 49ers' disappointing 2020 season has one week left before we can turn the page from a year where half of the team suffered a high-ankle sprain and I’m not sure if that’s an exaggeration.
Before the season started, anything fewer than double-digit wins would have been a disappointment. Well, the 49ers can finish with seven if they beat Seattle. If someone had told you in August that San Francisco would finish outside of the top-15 to 20 in the majority of the NFL’s power rankings, you would have lost it and gone full online commentator on them. That’s why we let the NFL season play out. The parity and unpredictability is why the NFL is king.
Let’s look at where the 49ers stand in a few power rankings.
Week 16 ranking: 20
New Year’s resolution: Get and stay (relatively) healthy
Forget happiness and success, those will come for the 49ers if they can get the first part of the trifecta squared away. The Niners’ injury bad luck this season was among the worst the NFL has ever seen. And while they did their best not to use it as an excuse, they never had much of a chance to defend their NFC crown, as most of their best players spent the season on injured reserve. Even with a lot of difficult decisions awaiting this offseason — including at quarterback — this team has enough talent to vault right back into contention if it has vastly improved health in 2021. — Nick Wagoner
25 49ERS - They aren’t going to the playoffs, but Kyle Shanahan should be proud of the coaching job he has done this year. It’s been outstanding.
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Up 5 spots
San Francisco 49ers
Previous rank: No. 26
The 49ers and Cardinals played for nearly 3.5 hours on Saturday. We estimate roughly two hours of the telecast featured shots of Robert Saleh celebrating excelsior play by his defense in a 20-12 win over Arizona. “Best DC in the league,” San Francisco linebacker Fred Warner said afterward. “I love that guy. I know he’s going to be a great head coach one day soon.” Saleh earned high praise when the Niners reached the Super Bowl last season, but his résumé is even more sterling for what he’s done with a defense in 2020 that’s been absolutely ravaged by injuries on every level. Saleh has proven his bona fides, and he’s telegenic, to boot. This man will get one of the big chairs in January ... book it.
19. San Francisco 49ers (6-9, LW: 24)
Again, why did Kyle Shanahan stick with Nick Mullens at quarterback for so long? Not that C.J. Beathard was amazing in Week 16, but he was solid and better than Mullens, who Shanahan refused to bench long after it was clear he was not the answer.
Last Week: 26
Week 16 Result: Won 20-12 at Arizona
The 2020 San Francisco 49ers have been defined by two words—if only.
If only the defense hadn’t lost top edge-rusher Nick Bosa right off the get-go. If only starting quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo hadn’t suffered a season-ending injury. If only the skill positions hadn’t been eviscerated by injuries as well—including star tight end George Kittle, who has missed half the season. If only the entire team hadn’t been forced to relocate because of COVID-19 restrictions in Santa Clara County.
But all those things happened. And while dealing the rival Cardinals’ playoff hopes a major blow with a win in Glendale has to provide a little satisfaction, it’s bittersweet. Regardless of what happens next week against the Seahawks, the 2020 season will be over for the defending NFC champions.
A season that was supposed to include redemption for the loss in Super Bowl LIV will instead end with a losing record and missing the postseason.
All because the “if onlys” just kept adding up.