The NFL season is around the corner and pundits are weighing in on who they think will be the studs and duds of the 2017 season. Most analysts are predicting the team will win no more than four to six games, with Pro Football Focus predicting the 49ers go 4-12. Niners Live is here to stir things up a bit with this article.
Kyle Shanahan wants to win NOW! In his inaugural season with the 49ers he’s expected by some optimistic fans to maximize the talent on his roster and be victorious in eight to nine games. Hold that thought….
Sadly, we have to recap
The 2016 San Francisco 49ers ended the season with the worst record in the NFC and the second to worst record in the league at 2-14. The season was a nightmare for the 49ers Faithful. A Franchise that was recently in three straight NFC Championships returned to their losing ways of the 2000’s era. The Fans are tired of the losing records. The 49ers are an illustrious franchise, the men in charge of restoring the Red and Gold back to the upper echelon of the league is offensive guru Kyle Shanahan and general manager John Lynch.
Adversity has fences
Shanahan has his toughest coaching challenge ahead of him; first-time head coach with a first time defensive coordinator in Robert Saleh, and a journeyman signal caller in Brian Hoyer. However, every year there are two to three surprise teams and Shanahan should place the 49ers in the thick of that race.
Note: Bleacher Report ranked his offensive scheme as the best in the league in 2016. Recent news alert: Reigning MVP and starting quarterback Matt Ryan of the Atlanta Falcons blamed Shanahan for taking too much time calling plays in the Super Bowl.
Reason for optimism
The offense has talented rushers (Carlos Hyde and Joe Williams) who Niners live recently discussed having combined scrimmage yards of more than 2k in 2017, and pass catchers that can attack a defense on the outside (Pierre Garcon , Marquise Goodwin), and in the slot, (Jeremy Kerley and Trent Taylor), out of the backfield (Kyle Juszczyk aka the ”Juice” Hyde, Williams, and Tim Hightower), and over the middle of the field and down the seam, (Vance McDonald and George Kittle.)
One of those many challenges for Shanahan will be the offensive line, which is an area of uncertainty that was recently discussed on Niners Live. However, with Daniel Kilgore’s and newly acquired Pro Bowler Jeremy Zuttah’s versatility to play both guard and center, and the versatility of Zane Beadles along with new potentially improved depth in Garry Gilliam and Brandon Fusco, maybe there is some reason for hope and optimism that this unit can play better than expected? To be continued….
Believe it, or not…In the Defense We Trust, at least on paper
The defense has first round picks on every level. The new defensive 4-3 under scheme courtesy of Saleh moves many of them to their natural positions, Jimmie Ward; free safety, Eric Reid; strong safety, Arik Armstead which Niners Live told you: Don’t Sleep on Arik Armstead Taking Over as the “LEO, Pass-Rusher.” Let’s also not forget Former All-Defensive Rookie First Teammer Deforest Buckner; 3 technique defensive tackle, Aaron Lynch and Eli Harold; Leo, and pass-rushers/Sam/Otto linebacker.
Also factor in the return of the defensive leader and Stallworth Navarro Bowman, top free agent acquisition Malcolm Smith, late veteran add on in pass-rusher Elvis Dumervil, rookie studs Solomon Thomas and Reuben Foster, and the rise of future lock down corner Rashard Robinson. Last but not least, Interior defensive line featuring starting/rotational players at a glance; Earl Mitchell ,Quinton Dial and D.J. Jones who Niners Live said would be a key cog on defense.
These factors, as aforementioned, make the 2017 49ers a tougher opponent and could very well lead to more victories.
The 2016 49ers held a lead in numerous games last year, only to let their opponents come back in the second half. Shanahan, as many expect, will be certain to make half time adjustments from an offensive strategic standpoint while holding defensive coordinator, Robert Saleh, to the same standard. The 2017 49ers will also be hungry to prove the doubters wrong and return the Red and Gold back to respectability.
With that being said, these are games that the 49ers might just get the upper hand on while being underestimated and slept on by the entire NFL and sporting world with potential wins against:
- Carolina Panthers (home)
- L.A. Rams (home)
- Indianapolis Colts (away)
- Washington Redskins (away)
- Dallas Cowboys (home)
- Philadelphia Eagles (home)
- Seattle Seahawks (home)
- Chicago Bears (away)
- Jacksonville Jaguars (home)
Big Shoes to Fill
The last coach to lead the 49ers to the playoffs was Jim Harbaugh. Since he left at the end of the 2014 season, the 49ers have won a total of seven games. In his first season, he led the franchise to a 13-3 season.
Bill Walsh leaves the biggest shoes to fill when talking about the 49er head coaches of the past and gold standards. He is the architect of the west coast offense and helped with the rise to dominance by the team in the 1980s and 1990’s. He had a 2-14 record for his first season with the team. However, the team was victorious in a Super Bowl three seasons later.
Shanahan’s football IQ has been raved about by his players so far this offseason, but it’s not to be mistaken on a Walsh level, of course. However, Joe Staley, the longest tenured player on the roster, was enthused and impressed this offseason by his new head coach’s knowledge of the game.
“He’s the smartest coach I’ve been around, (It’s) his overall knowledge of the game, the way he sees the game and schematically how he constructs his offense,” Staley said to reporters after a minicamp practice (via 49ers.com).
Only time will tell how successful his tenure will be with the 49ers, but many experts expect that in the near future, the 49ers will be an offensive juggernaut based on Shanahan’s offensive mind and strong attention to detail.
I’ll close with this: The 2017 49ers are not going to back down from any of their opponents. I think it’s safe to go out on a limb with that statement. The players and coaching staff are hungry for wins. With the combination of Shanahan’s offense and their improved personnel and quality depth rotation of the defense, this historic franchise can be one of the surprise teams of the year, or at the very least, exceed the naysayer’s expectations and potentially win eight or nine games. I can see the billboards now, can’t you?
The 2017 San Francisco 49ers overachieve! Extra, extra read all about it…
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As always, keep your eyes wide open, 49er fans. Niners Live will be watching with you. #eyeswideopen and often imitated but never duplicated… Go Niners!
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All records, statistics, and accolades are courtesy of Pro-Football-Reference.com, Pro Football Focus, 49ers.com, ESPN.com, NFL.com unless otherwise indicated. Author, Content Creator, Editor, Sequoia Sims and Co-Author Jimi Payne Staff Writer at Niners live.