It didn’t take long for general manager John Lynch and head coach Kyle Shanahan to turn the San Francisco 49ers around after the pair was hired following the 2016 season.
The Niners were coming off a 2-14 season under Trent Baalke and Chip Kelly's leadership duo. The franchise was broken once Jim Harbaugh departed after four seasons that never saw San Francisco finish below .500.
Jim Tomsula was one-and-done following a 5-11 campaign in 2015. The team took a step backward in Kelly’s lone season.
When Shanahan and Lynch came aboard, the roster was awful. The 49ers lacked talent at almost every position, with only Joe Staley, DeForest Buckner, Jimmie Ward, and Arik Armstead remaining with the team when it got to the Super Bowl in 2019.
Quarterbacks Colin Kaepernick and Blaine Gabbert were let go once Shanahan and Lynch were hired. They signed veteran Brian Hoyer and drafted C.J. Beathard to fill the void in 2017, in what was looked at as a reset season.
The Niners signed veterans like Kyle Juszczyk, Pierre Garcon, Marquis Goodwin, and Malcolm Smith to help give the roster at least some NFL talent. Although the 49ers whiffed on their two first-round selections (Solomon Thomas and Reuben Foster), they could get George Kittle and D.J. Jones in the later rounds.
Things got off to an ugly start for the new regime, with the Niners losing their first nine games. However, there was some reason for optimism. San Francisco’s five losses between Weeks 2 and 6 came by an average of just 2.6 points.
Everything changed when the 49ers acquired quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo from the New England Patriots for a second-round pick two days after the Week 8 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles.
Lynch and Shanahan took their time with Garoppolo, allowing him to learn the system for three weeks. Jimmy G started the final five matchups of the season and didn’t lose one of them.
San Francisco had a busy offseason. The team re-signed Garoppolo to a five-year deal and impacted free agents Richard Sherman, Weston Richburg, and Jerick McKinnon. Lynch added All-Pro linebacker Fred Warner and starting right tackle Mike McGlinchey in the 2018 NFL Draft.
The Niners were expected to challenge for a playoff spot in 2018, but any hopes of a postseason spot went out the window when Garoppolo tore his ACL in a Week 3 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs. With Beathard at the helm, San Francisco lost its next five games before Shanahan turned to Nick Mullens for the second half of the season.
The 49ers went 3-5 down the stretch but remained competitive in most of their games. The Niners finished the season 4-12 and wound up with the second pick of the NFL Draft.
Lynch and co. made a lot of the right moves during that offseason. They traded for veteran pass rusher Dee Ford and signed linebacker Kwon Alexander and running back Tevin Coleman in free agency. We didn’t know it then, but the addition of cornerback Jason Verrett was an under-the-radar move that wouldn’t pay off until 2020.
San Francisco added three significant pieces in the 2019 NFL Draft. The 49ers selected a game-changer in defensive lineman Nick Bosa second overall and nabbed receiver Deebo Samuel at No. 36. Dre Greenlaw was picked in the fifth-round, putting the cherry on top of an excellent draft for the Niners.
All of Lynch and Shanahan's moves had made over the previous two years paid off in a big way during the 2019 season. The Niners were a dominant squad, going 13-3 and clinching the top-seed in the NFC.
The team bulldozed its way to the Super Bowl, where it came up just short in a disappointing 31-20 loss to the Chiefs.
Last year was another one of change for the franchise. Longtime stalwart left tackle Joe Staley decided to hang them up, leaving a gaping hole on the 49ers’ offensive line. But Lynch acted quickly, landing All-Pro Trent Williams from the Washington Football Team as his replacement.
San Francisco also had a tough decision on what to do with its defensive lineman. Buckner was up for an extension and wanted to get paid what he was worth, while Armstead also needed a new contract.
After some talks, Lynch, and co. determined that Buckner’s asking price was too high, and he was shipped to the Indianapolis Colts for a first-round pick, which the team used on his replacement, Javon Kinlaw. Armstead signed a new five-year deal worth up to $85 million.
The 49ers also moved up in the first round to get receiver Brandon Aiyuk at No. 25, who looks to be on his way to an outstanding NFL career.
It’s tough to blame Lynch and Shanahan for what happened to the team in 2020. San Francisco suffered an unprecedented amount of injuries to star players as it sputtered to a 6-10 finish.
Lynch and Shanahan have steered the ship for four seasons, and the Niners have a 29-35 record over that time. They face a tough offseason with up to 40 players up for free agency and limited resources due to the pandemic’s economic fallout.
The 49ers are in a much better place than they were before Lynch and Shanahan took over. Baalke assembled a terrible roster and left the cupboards pretty bare when it came to young talent.
The new regime has brought in cornerstone pieces like Bosa, Kittle, Warner, Samuel, and Aiyuk and has the franchise in a position to be a contender for years to come. They have had some misses as well.
As mentioned above, the first two draft picks leave something to be desired. There was a ton of talent at the top of the 2017 draft and the 49ers missed out on the likes of Patrick Mahomes, Deshaun Watson, Jamal Adams, Christian McCaffrey, and Marshon Lattimore. McKinnon, Ford, and Coleman struggled with injuries, giving inconsistent returns on their deals.
On the bright side, the Niners aren’t in a perpetual state of rebuilding, as we have seen with teams like the New York Jets and Detroit Lions. Both of those franchises have tried different options at general manager and head coach and failed miserably.
Shanahan signed an extension through the 2025 season, while Lynch got a new deal that will keep him with the organization through 2024, an obvious sign of owner Jed York’s confidence in the duo.
Where do you stand on Shanahan and Lynch after four years?
How confident are you that Shanahan and Lynch are the right people to help the 49ers win a Super Bowl?
This poll is closed
Not very confident
Let us know how you voted in the comments below. What are some of the best/worse moves do you think the 49ers have made since Lynch and Shanahan took over?