The Niners lost the likes of Nick Bosa, George Kittle, Richard Sherman, Deebo Samuel and Jimmy Garoppolo for long stretches last season. The result was a last-place finish in the NFC West at 6-10.
Even with 32 players up for new deals, San Francisco has a ton of talent in place for 2021. Bosa, Kittle, Samuel and Fred Warner make up the core of the roster, and the team has some good young pieces in Brandon Aiyuk and Javon Kinlaw.
Still, Bleacher Report’s Chris Roling lists the 49ers among his five NFL teams that are most likely to disappoint during the 2021 season.
Until the San Francisco 49ers manage to escape quarterback purgatory, the franchise will likely be a fixture on lists like this.
The 49ers aren’t getting much from Jimmy Garoppolo, who, on the five-year, $137.5 million deal he signed before the 2018 season, has appeared in more than six games just once. San Francisco seemed like an obvious trade destination for Matthew Stafford because the front office can shed this contract with only $2.8 million in dead cap, but it will instead have to face him twice per year against the Los Angeles Rams.
For Roling to say the Niners are in quarterback purgatory is a stretch. Sure, Garoppolo has failed to stay healthy often enough during his 3.5 seasons with San Francisco. He has missed 23 starts, and the team has gone 6-17 without him in the lineup.
But when Jimmy G is healthy, the results have been undeniable. The Niners are 22-8 in the regular season with Garoppolo under center. He helped team get within minutes of winning the Super Bowl. Something Stafford, Kirk Cousins or Sam Darnold haven’t come close to doing.
It was absurd what the 49ers went through with injuries last season.
NFL 2020 regular season injury plot. Games missed to injuries versus team wins. Bubble size represents cumulative quality of players lost (Lost-av metric) https://t.co/eXiKLhzvNh pic.twitter.com/ENfk81Tj3I— Man Games Lost NFL (@ManGamesLostNFL) January 7, 2021
We saw the results without Jimmy G in the lineup season.. Nick Mullens got a bulk of the starts with Garoppolo sidelined and finished the campaign with a 2-6 record. Mullens completed 64.7% of his passes for 2,437 yards, 12 touchdowns, and 12 interceptions. While his stats look respectable, Mullens was responsible for several back-breaking turnovers that led to San Francisco losses.
The 25 year old had a rough three-game stretch from Weeks 13 through 15, where he had seven turnovers that resulted in 34 points for the opposition. Pro Football Focus gave Mullens a 56.9 grade on the season, ranking 38th out of 40 eligible quarterbacks. His adjusted yards per attempt was 6.6, and he finished the year with a QBR of 44.4.
San Francisco finished two games out of a playoff spot with awful quarterback play. If the Niners got average output from the position, they would have been right there with the Chicago Bears.
General manager John Lynch has said the team will look to add a proven veteran QB this offseason to backup Garoppolo, which should prevent the season being torpedoed once again if Jimmy G gets hurt.
Bosa’s return will be a massive bonus for the defense, which should be one of the top 10 units in the league under new coordinator Dameco Ryans.
The 49ers disappointed for many reasons in 2020, but if they can stay relatively healthy next season, they should be back in the playoff picture.
What do you think of Roling listing the Niners among the teams that are most likely do disappoint next season?