We already know how tough it is for a Super Bowl runner-up to make it back to The Big Game the following season.
The only team to do so over the last 20 years is the 2018 New England Patriots, who bounced back from a Super Bowl loss to the Philadelphia Eagles in 2017, and defeated the Los Angeles Rams to win the championship the following year.
Now, the San Francisco 49ers are facing the same challenge. The Niners arguably have the deepest roster in the NFL, despite losing All-Pro defensive lineman DeForest Buckner, veteran wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders, and legendary offensive tackle Joe Staley this offseason. General manager John Lynch plugged those holes with two first-round picks, and an All-Pro tackle in Trent Williams.
Still, Football Outsiders creator Greg Schatz isn’t too bullish on the 49ers’ chances to return to the Super Bowl in 2020. He joined the NFL Network’s Good Morning Football show to give his predictions for the upcoming season, and chimed in with his thoughts on which squad is the “all-hype” team (h/t 49ers Web Zone):
“We’re actually a little worried about the return of the San Francisco 49ers. Here’s the thing: Last year, in our efficiency stat, the 49ers were the first team in 35 years to improve by 20 percent on both sides of the ball. And usually, when a team has that much improvement, they come back to the pack a little bit next year. It’s called the plexiglass principle, and the 49ers are looking at that on both sides of the ball. Obviously, there’s a lot of talent there, but we worry a little bit about the loss of Buckner, we worry about the loss of Emmanuel Sanders, and questions about the wide receiver corps. The 49ers could make the playoffs in the strongest division in football, but I don’t think they’re going to be the juggernaut going to the Super Bowl that we saw a year ago.”
San Francisco may not go 13-3 again in 2020, but the team just has too much talent not to win more than 10 games, health pending. The 49ers were on the cusp of becoming a playoff —not championship— contender going into 2018, but losing quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo in the third game of the season ended any hope of making the postseason.
The 49ers were able to add pass rushing demon Nick Bosa (who also loves da sack), in last year’s draft, and also acquired Dee Ford via trade. On the offensive side, Shanahan’s play calling has continued to evolve, and has he learns, the unit will become that much better.
Of course, the pandemic will play a major factor in how the 2020 NFL season transpires. Keeping players virus-free, playing in empty stadiums, and a shortened offseason will all play a role in determining a champion.
On to some links:
The Niners have had some bad luck this offseason, which hopefully won’t carry over to when meaningful games are played. The SF Chronicle’s Eric Branch says the last few months haven’t brought the franchise much in terms of good news.
San Francisco’s secondary could look a whole lot different in 2021. 49ers’ team reporter Keiana Martin analyzes the group of cornerbacks going into training camp.
Speaking of corners, the battle to start opposite Richard Sherman remains an intriguing competition. Fansided’s Peter Panacy says one-of-the-two players is due for a breakout season.
With players due to report to camp next week, the previews will be rolling in. NFL.com’s Adam Maya broke down the NFC West, and honestly had a weird take on what the 49ers’ weakest position is.
What was EA Sports thinking with its Madden ratings? 49ers Web Zone’s David Bonilla says it’s ridiculous that one Niner wasn’t among the best at his position.