After an injury-riddled 2020 campaign, the San Francisco 49ers are expected to rejoin the NFL’s elite next season.
The Niners lost several key players early last season, including Nick Bosa, George Kittle, Jimmy Garoppolo, Deebo Samuel, and Richard Sherman. However, it wasn’t just their stars who suffered injuries in 2020. Football Outsiders compiled their list of teams who had the most adjusted games last season.
The data shows the 49ers were far-and-away the leaders when it comes to adjusted games lost in 2020. San Francisco’s players missed 161.6 games to injuries, plus five more related to COVID-19. Here are the five teams with the highest adjust games lost for the 2020 campaign:
Unsurprisingly, none of the five teams made it to the playoffs. The 49ers’ total adjusted games lost is the second-most over the past 20 NFL seasons.
With all of the injuries, the 49ers sputtered to a 6-10 season but managed to hang around the playoff race until late in the schedule.
Bosa, Kittle, Garoppolo and Samuel are all healthy just a few weeks out from training camp. If the 49ers can avoid another bout of devastating injuries, they should find themselves in championship contention in 20201.
Oddsmakers are high on a 49ers team that has a nucleus of Bosa, Kittle, Trent Williams and Fred Warner. The Niners are currently tied for the second-best odds to come out of the NFC.
But one NFL analyst isn’t as high on the 49ers going into the 2021 campaign. Tyler Sullivan of CBS Sports released his list of the four most overrated teams in the NFL going into next season and has the Niners among them.
The common thought is that Garoppolo will at least begin the year as the 49ers’ starter as Lance — who played at the FCS level for the Bison — will develop behind the scenes. While the ideal situation for San Francisco may be for Garoppolo to play and play well in 2021 and then hand off the starting job to Lance in 2022 after a year of seasoning, that may be too tall of an ask. When healthy, Garoppolo has shown that he can lead a team to the Super Bowl. The problem, however, is that he’s never healthy. He’s only played one full season in the league to this point (which just so happened to be the year San Francisco advanced to Super Bowl LIV). With that in mind, Garoppolo’s durability is hardly something you can take to the bank. If he does go down, the Niners may throw Lance into the deep end a bit earlier than they may want. It’s also worth noting that a rookie quarterback has never won a Super Bowl and hasn’t even been able to even reach the big game. Essentially, you’d be asking Lance to make NFL history right out of the gate if he’s thrust in as the starter at any point.
Head coach Kyle Shanahan and general manager John Lynch have maintained that they plan on keeping Garoppolo for at least next season, but Shanahan has said he will allow the QB competition between Jimmy G and rookie Trey Lance to play out at training camp.
Garoppolo has missed 23 starts over the past three seasons — but as Sullivan points — he went 13-3 in his lone-full season and helped the 49ers come within minutes of winning the Super Bowl.
Sullivan did add that the 49ers could win a championship if everything breaks their way, but that’s not likely given what we have seen throughout NFL history.
According to some media members, the 49ers aren’t in a great spot at the QB situation, but it depends on how you look at it. Sure, Garoppolo’s injury history doesn’t inspire a ton of confidence, but he had shown he can win when he’s under center and seems to have overwhelming support in the locker room from his teammates.
The 49ers would have been a playoff team in 2020 with average QB play, but Nick Mullens couldn’t get the job done while filling in for Garoppolo. With Lance on the roster, the Niners are better positioned to compete if Jimmy G does get hurt again.
Sullivan also adds that the changes to the defensive coaching staff could play a factor in the 49ers faltering in 2021.
Finally, it’s also worth pointing out that San Francisco lost defensive coordinator Robert Saleh this offseason and no longer has veteran corner Richard Sherman, who was playing at an All-Pro level during that Super Bowl run a few years ago.
Saleh did a great job leading an injury-riddled unit last season. Without Bosa, Dee Ford and injuries to key members of the secondary, the 49ers still finished sixth overall in defensive DVOA, per Football Outsiders.
New defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans has said he would like the defense to be more aggressive next season, but it’s likely we won’t see a major shift in the 49ers’ defensive philosophies.
Although Sherman was a stud in 2019, he appeared to have lost a step in his five games last season. Pro Football Focus gave Sherman a 67.7 grade for his limited action in 2020, the lowest of his career.
Without Sherman for 11 games, the 49ers still managed to fourth in passing yards allowed and fifth in total yards against. With Bosa and hopefully Ford back in the lineup, the defense should be in pretty shape again next season.
Which three NFL teams do you think are being overrated going into training camp?