The 49ers easily took the award for the biggest turnaround in the division.
In 2018, they finished the year 4-12, however, there was optimism surrounding the club with quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo winning all of his starts prior to tearing his ACL. Had San Francisco simply won two to three more games, it would have maybe infused optimism in a fan base while sending encouragement that the team was headed in the right direction. The 49ers surpassed that by a large margin in 2019 by representing the NFC in the Super Bowl.
Offensively, they established a standard by running the football. Between Raheem Mostert, Matt Breida and Tevin Coleman, San Francisco enjoyed the second-best rushing attack in the NFL. This took a significant amount of pressure off Garoppolo, who relied heavily on the run game for the first part of the season; that paired with an innovative offensive mind in coach Kyle Shanahan allowed the offense to flourish.
Wide receiver Deebo Samuel was a pleasant surprise and added yet another offensive weapon on the outside along with the veteran presence of Emmanuel Sanders. However, the MVP on offense was George Kittle. Not only was he a weapon in the passing game, but his ability to run-block helped propel the 49ers prolific ground game and control the clock throughout the year
Defensively, San Francisco assembled a monstrous front four who put a tremendous amount of pressure on offensive lines. The 49ers signed Dee Ford in free agency while DeForest Buckner and Arik Armstead grew into their identities; they also drafted Nick Bosa No. 2 in 2019. With an offensive line like that, it's no accident they enjoyed the No. 1 pass defense in the NFL. While Ahkello Witherspoon was inconsistent, the safety tandem of Jaquiski Tartt and Jimmie Ward brought leadership and stability to the back end. Richard Sherman bet on himself in free agency and finished the year with another Pro Bowl nod.
Overall, the 49ers seemed to gel at the right time, combining great defense and a prolific rushing attack with innovative play calling. They finished the regular season 13-3 and capped the season with a trip to the Super Bowl.
San Francisco’s cap space has always been in a healthy place with the best in the business, executive vice president of football operations Paraag Marathe, managing it. The 49ers also added some good young assets in the 2020 draft who should be solid contributors for years to come. They traded Buckner for a first-round pick, which they used on one of the best defensive linemen in the class: Javon Kinlaw. San Francisco also added one of the best run-after-catch receivers in Brandon Aiyuk to give Shanahan another offensive threat to creatively use in his scheme.
If Garoppolo stays healthy, look for the 49ers to once again challenge for the division crown in the competitive NFC West.
- Aug 10, 2022
- Aug 08, 2022