San Francisco 49ers star tight end George Kittle had a great point after Super Bowl LIV. Kittle discussed how every team thinks they’ll be back to the Super Bowl the next year. Most teams go all in for one or two seasons by mortgaging their future. Whether that’s making a trade or signing big-name free agents. The 49ers did both during 2019. Trading for Dee Ford and Emmanuel Sanders leaves the 49ers without their 2020 second, third, and fourth-round picks. San Francisco does have an additional fifth-round selection from the Sanders trade and a seventh-round pick thanks to Eli Harold being on the Detroit Lions roster past a certain point.
General manager John Lynch and the rest of the front office were correct in making a midseason trade to make a run at the Super Bowl. It’s not often you get those opportunities. Getting a veteran like Sanders for two mid-round picks is a deal you do every time without thinking twice. We’ll discuss the free-agent acquisitions more in-depth as the offseason goes on, but fans (and the NFL) tend to overvalue draft picks. They’re far from a sure thing. Think of what value the 49ers got out of their third and fourth-round draft picks of 2019 — not much.
How big is the Niners’ Super Bowl window?
When discussing “Super Bowl windows,” you have to have a foundation in place. Whether that’s a franchise quarterback that can single-handedly win you games and make plays when it matters, or you have a roster that is good enough to hide your decencies. The Texans are a fine example of the first and third points. Their coaching is abysmal, but they have Deshaun Watson. The Chicago Bears should be what the second point is, but their quarterback is so ineffective that even a great defense and No. 1 wide receiver can’t help that team.
Where do the 49ers fall among the 32 teams? NFL Network believes the Niners have the third biggest Super Bowl window. The two teams above them are the Kansas City Chiefs and Baltimore Ravens, which is self-explanatory. Both of those teams have MVP-level quarterbacks. After one full-season of starting, that’s not Jimmy Garoppolo. Can he get there? Sure. Jimmy G falls under the “good” category, but we saw the type of magic Patrick Mahomes could perform, and we saw Lamar Jackson make plays when it counted earlier in the season as well. Here is what the NFL Network had to say:
3) San Francisco 49ers
The pain of blowing a 10-point, fourth-quarter lead in the Super Bowl won’t go away any time soon (if ever), but this group’s no one-hit wonder. The 49ers lost three regular-season games, all in the final seconds. They had the Chiefs on the ropes and the Lombardi Trophy within grasp. There was nothing fluky about San Francisco’s 2019 renaissance. And the future looks exceedingly bright with Kyle Shanahan and John Lynch steering the ship.
Now, Shanahan deserves blame for the painfully conservative approach he took at the end of the first half on Sunday. Against a team as explosive as Kansas City, you simply cannot take your foot off the pedal. But don’t blame the coach for that fourth-quarter collapse. That was more on San Francisco’s players not getting it done, while Mahomes, Chris Jones and others rose to the moment for the Chiefs. And yes, one of those Niners players who came up short was Jimmy Garoppolo. His fourth quarter was horrible. He needed to hit Emmanuel Sanders on that would-be go-ahead touchdown with less than two minutes remaining. But don’t let that one play overshadow everything else he accomplished on the season. Including the playoffs, he won 15 games. He was the only quarterback to finish the regular season ranked in top five in completion percentage (69.1), yards per attempt (8.4) and touchdown passes (27). With Shanahan calling plays and San Francisco’s surrounding talent, the 49ers can absolutely win a Super Bowl with Jimmy G at QB.
The Niners aren’t going away anytime soon.
Looking over the season, the 49ers had plenty of breaks go their way. Every team that makes the Super Bowl does. They also overcame plenty of adversity, which helped build a level of confidence that led the team to the big game as well. The style of play the Niners displayed makes it easy to believe they’ll be a playoff contender for at worst the next couple of seasons. It’s not as easy to project San Francisco as a shoo-in to make the Super Bowl because of all of the moving parts that happen from year-to-year.
The Chiefs made plays in the fourth quarter. The 49ers didn’t. Garoppolo thoroughly outplayed Mahomes for 3.5 quarters, and the tables turned dramatically at the worst possible time. It’s that simple. We can probably count on one hand how many times the 49ers defense gave up a 3rd & 15 this season. On the same drive, the Niners gave up a 3rd & 15 and a 3rd & 10, which ultimately led to a touchdown for the Chiefs. The defense gave up a touchdown on 3rd & goal from the five-yard line. More on that later. For now, the Niners are here to stay, and that should show with how aggressive Lynch will continue to be this offseason. Also, Vegas is a believer. Per Betonline, the 2020 win total for the Niners is currently set at 10.5. They’ll be back.