The 49ers are coming off a 6-10 season, but there are plenty of reasons to be excited about the 2021 season. We’ll go over the reasons to be concerned next, but let’s start with a handful of reasons for optimism. There are a few new faces that will certainly help, and if the team’s health holds up, many believe San Francisco will find themselves playing in the postseason.
No more backup QB play
When Jimmy Garoppolo has missed time during his tenure with the 49ers, the offense has become stagnant. Since 2018, C.J. Beathard and Nick Mullens have started 23 games. No backup quarterback should have to play that much football in that short of a time.
If there’s another injury this time around, the 49ers can hand the keys over to their No. 3 overall draft pick — assuming he’s not the starter. These past couple of seasons have been tough to watch. I know it. You know it. The fact the Niners were competitive for the most part in these games is a reason for optimism.
Whether it’s Jimmy or Trey this season or both, the 49ers will be in a much better situation than they’ve been at any point during the Kyle Shanahan tenure.
Fans returning to Levi’s Stadium
The 49ers went 1-7 at home last year. They did not win a home game in California. The atmosphere at games in 2020 was bizarre. Even towards the end of the season, when a couple of thousands of fans were allowed into the stadium in Arizona, the buzz was lacking.
During the Niners playoff run in 2019, the defense fed off the energy of the crowd. When you have a dominant pass rush and over 68,000 fans screaming at the top of their lungs, the opponent is bound to false start or make some type of mistake that benefits the defense.
The return of home-field advantage will make a difference for San Francisco this year. Football wasn’t the same without fans. Thankfully, we should be headed back to normalcy this year.
The defense doesn’t only get their best player back; they get one of the best players in the NFL back. It can’t be understated how much of a difference Bosa makes. His domino effect is unlike any other player on the team.
Arik Armstead and Javon Kinlaw just improved. Fred Warner and Dre Greenlaw receive less attention. The secondary can play more aggressively, knowing they don’t have to cover as long.
Bosa has played one year in the NFL. We’ve likely seen the worst version of him. If that doesn’t get you excited, I’m not sure what will.
Best cast of weapons for Shanahan
Heading into the 2017 season, you couldn’t use the term “weapon” for the 49ers offense. Heading into 2018, the hope was second-rounder Dante Pettis, yes, Dante Pettis, could give the offense a much-needed playmaker.
Pettis didn’t disappoint, and George Kittle broke out. That’d be the last time we saw Pettis perform that way, though.
It took a midseason trade that saw the team acquire Emmanuel Sanders unlock the offense, and bring the best out of Deebo Samuel for the 2019 offense to reach their peak. But, as you know, injuries prevented the 2020 offense from ever hitting their stride.
This year, Brandon Aiyuk enters his second season. In addition, Raheem Mostert is arguably the most explosive player in the NFL. Pair that with Kittle, Deebo, both Trey’s, and an offensive line that figures to be one of the best in the NFL, and there’s no reason Shanahan shouldn’t have this offense humming.
I’d like to see the offense get back to their 2019 ways when Jimmy G was running more bootlegs and rollouts. The Niners need to take advantage of their team speed with misdirection and deception. The WR3 talk is overblown, as any production you get from your fourth target is an added benefit.
One thing is certain: this offense will be fun to watch, no matter who is throwing the ball.