Everything you need to know to hop on the 49ers’ bandwagon

A bandwagon guide seems more like something you would see Seattle Seahawks fans write, but there’s probably a few people (unlike me) who like the San Francisco 49ers, but have lives outside of football and want to know what the heck has been going on the last four years since the 49ers lost the Super Bowl were in a championship game.

I guess we can first admit that the 49ers have the best roster in football, and definitely a better roster than the Kansas City Chiefs. But they aren’t perfect. The 49ers are not the 1972 Miami Dolphins. There were better teams out there with better defenses, some of which were happy to point this fact out to the 49ers. Their offense, however, is the best anyone has seen it — a light switch, something flipped that made everything on that side of the ball erupt.

One could say that the addition of Christian McCaffrey did the trick, or the development/chemistry of YAC bros Brandon Aiyuk and Deebo Samuel, but a realist knows they need a distributor. The 49ers had Jimmy Garoppolo, a competent quarterback, sure. When you look at what the addition of Brock Purdy has been, Garoppolo doesn’t compare. Stats lie, tape doesn’t, and nothing could be more true than when discussing those two quarterbacks. It’s also a wonder the quarterback situation isn’t an absolute shambling wasteland given all the drama that’s transpired.

If you take the quarterback out of this, all Kyle Shanahan introduced in the last two years (outside of the quarterback shuffle) was McCaffrey. He had Aiyuk since COVID, Samuel since 2019 (their last Super Bowl trip) and Kittle since he started coaching. Nothing in the offense is really new. The offense still gashes with 21 personnel, the defense is a swing for the fences arms race in linemen (which is not panning out).

As I was saying, there’s a lot about this team that resonates with everyone. They aren’t the hated villains who win against the groans of the crowd in the Chiefs, they aren’t the inclusive, but massive and obnoxious fanbases a team in the NFC East would have. They are a group of people who simply like football and developed a fraternity and winning culture. Drama inside their locker room isn’t reported on like it has been with so many other teams

The events leading up to the 2023 regular season:

2020: Hellooo COVID. Coming back off a Super Bowl LIV loss to the Chiefs, the 49ers begin to regroup. The COVID-19 pandemic begins and the season just gets weird. The draft is held virtually, stadiums are empty with crowd noise is pumped in. The 49ers wind up missing the playoffs due to a multitude of injuries including one to Jimmy Garoppolo. An injury which makes 2019 the only season he started every game. While not his fault, Garoppolo’s reliability comes into question, leading us to:

Early 2021: Garoppolo put on notice. Picking 12th, the 49ers trade their 2021 first rounder along with their first rounders in 2022 and 2023 to the Miami Dolphins for the No. 3 pick and make it clear it’s a quarterback. While speculation is so they can draft Alabama quarterback Mac Jones, as Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence and BYU’s Zach Wilson will go at Nos 1 and 2 respectively, the 49ers are also interested in Ohio State’s Justin Fields and North Dakota State’s Trey Lance. As time goes on, you realize no one knows what the hell they are talking about with any of this.

Mid 2021: Hellooo Trey Lance. Facing backlash, coming to their senses, or just realizing he was the guy and Mac Jones wasn’t months prior, the 49ers draft Trey Lance with the No. 3 pick. Lance’s physical traits were seen as the best clay that Shanahan could sculpt into his perfect quarterback that isn’t Jimmy Garoppolo. On film, Trey Lance showed he could also be far more mobile than the statue-esque Jimmy G. He was more mobile … but as it turned out once they got him in the building, Jimmy G was probably the only quarterback less mobile than him.

2021 Season: This is weird. Garoppolo is named the starter and Trey Lance backs him up. The expectation is Lance will sit and learn for a season while Garoppolo plays his final season. Lance gets his first start against the Arizona Cardinals, but gets the ever-loving snot beat out of him in a loss. Later on towards the end of the season (and during another Garoppolo injury), Lance starts against the Houston Texans and puts on a much better showing. The future is bright? Maybe?

2021 Postseason: 49ers blow it again. After limping into the playoffs via a comeback against the Los Angeles Rams (yes comeback, the fact Kyle Shanahan can come back seems to be lost on everyone), the 49ers defeat the No. 3 seeded Dallas Cowboys, and the No. 1 Seeded Green Bay Packers, they return to 49ers South SoFi Stadium to face the Rams. Despite playing injured, Garoppolo holds up and gets a lead. Unfortunately, the 49ers blew said lead and the Rams punched their ticket to the Super Bowl

2022 Offseason: Hellooo Brock Purdy Despite all the ammo used to get Lance, the 49ers use their last pick, and the last pick of the entire draft to get Brock Purdy. Whatever.

2022 Training Camp: Goodbye Jimmy G? Everyone, and we mean EVERYONE, is wondering where Jimmy Garoppolo will be traded. The 49ers end up not trading him immediately but putting him on an adjacent field without a playbook to rehab a shoulder injury while Trey Lance gets starter reps. At the 11th hour, Garoppolo signs a restructured deal with the 49ers to back up Trey Lance. The Purdy kid Shanahan took is moved to third string.

2022 Season Week 2: Trey Lance plays his final regular season game. Not known at the time, but after Trey Lance went down with a season-ending foot injury, his time with San Francisco was over. Garoppolo steps in and things return to, well, whatever normal is when he’s under center.

2022 Season Week 7: Hellooo CMC! Christian McCaffrey is traded to the 49ers. This is after the 49ers lose a clunker to the Atlanta Falcons. A clunker that CMC wouldn’t have helped. At first the trade seems stupid for the 49ers. Later on, it was apparent the 49ers got him for the price of used chewing gum.

2022 Season Week 15: Purdy steps in. Garoppolo gets injured again in his final game with the 49ers. The Purdy era begins to a high note, notably on a play where he gets drilled on a blitz but just before delivering a strike to George Kittle.

2022 Postseason: So close. Brock Purdy does quite well for a rookie starting in his first playoff game and notches two wins in the playoffs. When the NFC Championship arrives, Purdy tears his elbow up in the first quarter, knocking him out of the game. Shortly thereafter, backup quarterback Josh Johnson gets a concussion. The rest of the game is an absolute shit show.

2023 offseason: Get well soon, Purdy. Brock Purdy begins rehab while everyone wonders if Trey Lance even has a shot at this thing. The 49ers sign Sam Darnold to back up Lance, but Lance can’t even win the backup job. Meanwhile everyone is speculating about what Brock Purdy isn’t. If you took everyone’s opinions good and bad about Purdy you’d get something resembling a cross between Tom Brady and Ryan Leaf.

2023 Regular Season: Goodbyyye Trey Lance. With Garoppolo gone in free agency, Trey Lance traded to the Cowboys, and Darnold being, uh, Sam Darnold, Brock Purdy is named the starter.

The initial impression of the 2023 49ers was like something we hadn’t seen before. Prior to 2023, this was a team that started slow, piled injures to level the playing field, then limped into the playoffs to go on a tour that ended in heartbreak.

2023 was a different beast. The 49ers began the season going into the home of the Pittsburgh Steelers, a team that was said to have an elite defense and Purdy picked them apart for four quarters. The general reception of the 49ers offense, an offense that looked like pulling teeth was easier than throwing the ball when Jimmy Garoppolo under center, had 49ers fans with their jaws dropped. I can almost guarantee you that anyone who is remotely a 49ers fan — even people who bash Brock Purdy now seeing as how hating on him is the popular thing — pissed themselves at least once during Purdy’s shooting gallery of a game against the Steelers. Even if you turned it off to watch something else, I don’t think many fans can honestly say their first glimpse of Brock Purdy in 2023, especially when considering his elbow issues, didn’t leave them impressed.

Here’s a perspective check. For years we’ve watched Kyle Shanahan draw up pass plays that result in bone-headed interceptions and bad communication. Most of the time, the 49ers recover from this. Regardless, you held your breath every time the ball left the quarterback’s hand, be it Garoppolo, Lance, or even C.J. Beathard.

With Purdy at the helm some trust came in real fast. Say what you want about Brock Purdy, but that small fact alone sounds damn good to me.

The Team

George Kittle

NFC Championship - Detroit Lions v San Francisco 49ers

Position: Tight End
College: Iowa
NFL Draft: Fifth Round, 2017

Coming in when Shanahan began with the 49ers, Kittle has been through the lows of the 2017 and 2018 season (the latter being where he broke the yards by a tight end record just hours after Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce set it) and the highs of things like the 2019 season. While the Super Bowl ended bad for the 49ers, Kittle’s iconic “I’ll be back with a vengeance” has been absolutely haunting since that day and seems prophetic now more than ever.

Draft Thoughts: Damn this guy is pancaking everyone. He can catch the ball too. Good pick

Post-Draft Thoughts: Damn this guy is pancaking everyone. He can catch the ball too. Good pick

Brock Purdy

Seattle Seahawks v San Francisco 49ers

Position: Quarterback
College: Iowa State
NFL Draft: Seventh round (Mr. Irrelevant), 2022

Where do I start with this one? Better, what can I say about Brock Purdy this year that hasn’t been said before, both positive and negative? We can run through a list of how the scouts got him wrong, how he’s an inspiration for all as a player, how he’ll turn into a pumpkin, but it’s all been said. The thing about Brock Purdy is, while he’s thrown some bad games, he’s never let it rattle him. First, the 49ers lost to the Browns, which led to a three-game rut where social media dangled the idea of starting Sam Darnold. The 49ers recovered from this unfortunate set of events with Purdy blowing up against Jacksonville Jaguars.

Then, they later lost to the Baltimore Ravens, which Purdy bounced back in the very next game.

Then you get to the postseason where in both the NFC Divisional and the NFC Championship he has a bad first half, then bounces back. So he’s rapidly learning to shake off bad games and not let them dominate him. We went from a three game slump, to a single game slump, to a couple bad halves. If that’s not excellent mental conditioning, I don’t know what is.

There’s two things that really stand out about Purdy

1: I’ve never seen more excuses made for quarterbacks like Patrick Mahomes or Aaron Rodgers who have played terrible, atrocious first halves, or three quarters of football, only to be regarded as football gods when they string together some clutch drives in the fourth quarter to win, especially against bad defenses they should never have been in that position against in the first place. Yet when Purdy does the same thing, they want to weigh the full 60-minute game against him and how he “struggled all game.”

2: Those few bad games that apparently only Purdy ever has (because no good quarterback in the history of the sport has had a bad game) have been the beckoning for trolls since they very quickly wanted to say, “seeeee! I said he’d do this.” Only for him to bounce back and they return to their dens and start predicting his demise again. I say this to remind everyone: Any idiot can say the same thing over and over and over again and be right once.

Draft Thoughts: Heh, good luck making the team.

Post Draft Thoughts: Trey Lance? Who was he again? Three picks? That happened?

Fred Warner

NFC Championship - Detroit Lions v San Francisco 49ers

Position: Linebacker
College: BYU
NFL Draft: Third Round, 2018

If there was a draft for players that fit the 49ers defense specifically, Warner could have gone No. 1 overall. His speed, strength, character, and play style are all the most natural fit for the 49ers on so many levels. He took things one step further, stepping in as the leader of the defense when Reuben Foster clearly was not going to be that dude. Along with Dre Greenlaw, Warner helped build a 49ers linebacking corps feared to the level of Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman. Now THAT’s saying something

Draft Thoughts: Who is this guy? He looks like he plays better than a 3rd rounder

Post Draft Thoughts: That offensive tackle we took before him went to Denver and Warner’s on a money deal. That tells you how much of a steal he was.

Dre Greenlaw

NFC Divisional Playoffs - Green Bay Packers v San Francisco 49ers

Position: Linebacker
College: LSU
NFL Draft/Year: Fifth Round, 2019

Anyone who can even fathom a better story than Brock Purdy needs to look no further than Dre Greenlaw. He grew up in shelters for years as a child and eventually found his way into football. The most heartwarming of stories is one of him in his freshman year.

You can read the details here, but the cliffs notes version is: a girl who was just an acquaintance found him at a party, but Greenlaw knew there was something wrong. Turns out she had been drugged. Risking his spot on the football team (he was a freshman and alcohol was an obvious no-no), Greenlaw ensured the girl got home safe and kept her from going home with anyone. The girl’s father later revealed this on X.

As a player, the 49ers simply don’t have a security blanket without Greenlaw. When a running back gets through the first layer of the defense with little issue, Greenlaw is usually there like a freight train to make them pay for having an efficient run. On those games where he was out, the 49ers suffered on the short routes. The best memory I have is when he stopped a 3rd and 3 against the Packers in the NFC Championship (his rookie season) right after that he bounced up ready for more.

In 2023, Greenlaw was responsible for what might be some rule adjustments in the offseason as he popped Philadelphia Eagles Chief Security officer Dom DiSandro after DiSandro put his hands on him. They couldn’t flag the Eagles after the fact when watching the tape, but hopefully they adjust the rule.

Draft Thoughts: Whoa! This is a good dude,

Post Draft Thoughts: Greenlaw does get a bit too much into things leading to bonehead penalties where he suplexes someone juuuuust past the whistle. This also can be seen when he won the NFC Divisional for the 49ers with a massive dive across the field to intercept a terrible Jordan Love pass. Rather than go down (there was a minute to go in the game), Greenlaw ran around the field trying to get a pick six like Warner discussed with him earlier. Had the Packers stripped the ball I don’t want to think what his perception would be right now.

Christian McCaffrey

NFC Championship - Detroit Lions v San Francisco 49ers

Position: Running Back
College: Stanford
NFL Draft/Year: First round 2017
49ers gave up: 2023 second, third, and fourth round picks, 2024 fifth round pick

Son of Ed McCaffrey (three time Super Bowl winner) and babysat by Kyle Shanahan. Once Christian McCaffrey got rolling in the 49ers offense … which was just days after he was traded, a new page was turned. The piece Kyle Shanahan wanted that could make defenses dizzy lining up at wide receiver, running back, offensive tackle, you name it, CMC could probably do it.

The 49ers didn’t draft McCaffrey, but instead traded for him right before the deadline of the 2022 season. McCaffrey played that following Sunday and then made his presence known the next week against the Rams, being the first 49ers running back to notch a passing, rushing, AND receiving touchdown in the same game. This wouldn’t be the last time he’d play quarterback; after Jimmy Garoppolo went down in the 2022 NFC Championship Game, McCaffrey went under center. You could see how much of a disaster things were with him sitting next to coaches trying to figure out how to read a wristband.

With a year under his belt, McCaffrey has been in MVP talks most of the season. Many wondered if he could survive an NFL season (and fans were infuriated when Kyle Shanahan gave him the lion’s share of snaps game after game), but the only game McCaffrey missed entirely was the final game of the regular season. Something many starters partook in.

The Chiefs are not the best run defense which makes the Super Bowl McCaffrey’s oyster. Uh-oh.

Day of Trade Thoughts: CMC doesn’t help Brandon Aiyuk catch the deep ball from Jimmy G, CMC doesn’t help the offensive line follow their assignments, CMC doesn’t keep Jeff Wilson Jr. from fumbling the ball. He’s nice, but we already are in a draft pick drought due to Trey Lance, and you guys trade all of that for him?

Post Trade Thoughts: Wow. I’m a goddamn idiot.

Trent Williams

Super Bowl LVIII - Team Arrivals

Position: Offensive Tackle
College: Oklahoma
NFL Draft/Year: First Round, 2010
49ers gave up: 2020 fifth and 2021 third-round picks

When long-time offensive left tackle Joe Staley called it a career, the 49ers were quick to get picks out to the Washington Commanders to snag Trent Williams. The result was a transition so seamless and perfect, everything else on the offensive line continued to be subpar in pass protection.

And really, when it comes down to it, Trent Williams was the perfect person to replace Joe Staley, one of the better tackles in the league. In fact, even though Williams may be a bit more laid back, I bet if he combed his hair up, started a show harassing the locker room while carrying a microphone, and lost about two inches, they’d be the same person. As per the Kyle Shanahan playbook, Williams’ primary function is to be the side of the line the running back runs towards with confidence because he’s going to clear everything out of the way. His secondary function is to be the enforcer on offense who you don’t want entering the party.

Williams is a massive beast of a man and stronger than a grizzly bear. The dude has his own hype video which might be unheard of for a lineman.

Given when Williams entered the league (2010), after the 49ers lost to the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFC Championship, there were murmurs he may call it a career. Luckily this time before the 2023 NFC Championship, he said he’d be back for 2024.

Day of Trade Thoughts: Trent Williams? I guess Joe Staley really isn’t coming back.

Post Trade Thoughts: I continue to ask the simple question of how many men with families has this guy publicly humiliated? Then again, I don’t think I’m prepared for the answer.

Nick Bosa

NFC Championship - Detroit Lions v San Francisco 49ers

Position: Defensive End
College: Ohio State
NFL Draft/Year: First Round 2019

Once upon a time, Nick Bosa was not going to be a 49er. Even when Jimmy Garoppolo tore his ACL in 2018 and the 49ers were almost assured a high draft pick, Bosa was seen as the true No. 1 pick and a pipedream even for the 49ers. When the season ended, the Arizona Cardinals held onto the No. 1 pick and the 49ers were going second. That almost guaranteed they wouldn’t get Bosa. As time went on, it became clear the Cardinals may not need Bosa as much as they needed someone else.

Bosa came into 2023 holding out for a contract and got one before the regular season began. Once that was taken care of, he rejoined the line under Kris Kocurek. While Bosa has been productive, he might be the only one on that line with consistency. The 49ers traded for Chase Young and he was invisible for stretches of the postseason. Javon Hargrave has been decent, but his specialty is pass rush, not the run.

At this point, the player opposite Nick Bosa on the edge has become somewhat a running gag for the 49ers. They tried Dee Ford—and that worked for the 40 or so snaps he was healthy. They are trying Chase Young, and that kind of works? Like for one game? Maybe?

One day, the 49ers will have this solidified. One day.

Draft Thoughts: Wow, Arizona really, really, really, really didn’t like quarterback Josh Rosen. They had so many offensive line issues and other things that hurt his development. But who cares, they are going to take Kyler Murray.

Post Draft Thoughts: LOL CARDINALS!#!!@!

Brandon Aiyuk

NFC Divisional Playoffs - Green Bay Packers v San Francisco 49ers

Position: Wide Receiver
College: Arizona State
NFL Draft/Year: First round, 2020

Long before the 49ers had Kyle Shanahan, their wide receiver corps was less than stellar. After Jim Harbaugh left there was a time where Jeremy Kerley was the No. 1. My, how things have changed. The 49ers were in dire need of a true No. 1 receiver once it was clear Pierre Garçon was on his way out. They went and got Deebo Samuel, but since Samuel was so devastating, he wound up creating his very own position. Now they didn’t need a true No. 1, but a traditional No. 1 wide receiver. That’s where Aiyuk comes in. In all of the craziness to come out of the COVID season, Aiyuk was a bright spot. Mostly from this.

For 2023, Aiyuk was a walking highlight reel. One who had a seasons worth of catches from a single game. None more impressive than what fans call “The Ladybug Catch” from the NFC Championship game. This catch had a ball that landed on the facemask of a Lions defender and Aiyuk somehow dashes in the air to secure the ball before it hit the ground. This catch is what many think changed the course of the NFC Championship game and the eventual 49ers victory.

Draft Thoughts: Wow, Aiyuk and Samuel? What’s Jimmy G going to do with all these toys?

Post Draft Thoughts: Friendly reminder that Aiyuk has been on the roster since 2020 with Deebo Samuel and there have been four total quarterbacks throwing to him before Brock Purdy came along. None were as productive as Purdy either.

Deebo Samuel

NFC Championship - Detroit Lions v San Francisco 49ers

Position: Wide Back
College: South Carolina
NFL Draft/Year: Second Round, 2019

I don’t know about you guys, but when I watched the Senior Bowl years ago, Deebo Samuel stood out. Kyle Shanahan was one of the coaches in that game thanks to having the second worst record and something there hit me that Samuel might be a 49er. He looked so good, I didn’t think he’d last to the second round. Boy, was I happy to be wrong.

A speedy wide receiver who bruises like a running back. Samuel brings “positionless football” definition. Kyle Shanahan loves lining him up everywhere which makes opposing defenses dizzy.

Deebo’s presence on the field changes games, so much that Shanahan doesn’t have a backup plan when he gets injured (much to the fury of fans). Need him to block? He’s got you. Want him to run the fly sweep? Done. Need him to take a pass in the center of the field for a house call? Check the box.

The fans got into a tizzy when there was some drama in the 2022 offseason. Samuel held out wanting a new contract. Given how his tread as a running back AND wide receiver means he may have less time in the league, it totally made sense he wanted the bag, and he got it.

For 2023, Samuel said his 2022 season was awful in no uncertain terms. He made good on this assessment being downright irreplaceable. When he goes down, you know there’s going to be issues. Then again, this also can be on coaching since they don’t make the aforementioned backup plan. Regardless, if you remove Deebo from an offense, you have effectively crippled it.

Draft Thoughts: Hey! A college player I’ve actually heard of. He was cool

Post Draft Thoughts: Deebo is one of my most favorite players. Not because he speaks with a confidence that never has bordered on cocky, but also because the moments you see with his son is heartwarming. Deebo talks about playing for his son often and his big dreams and if you don’t get the feels, check your neck for a pulse.

Arik Armstead

NFC Divisional Playoffs - Green Bay Packers v San Francisco 49ers

Position: Defensive Line
College: Oregon
NFL Draft/Year: First round, 2015

The last remaining Trent Baalke pick for the 49ers and one of the few who actually worked out. For those of you who don’t know, Baalke was the GM who clashed with Jim Harbaugh. Owner Jed York sided with Baalke and they sent Harbaugh packing mutually parted ways with the 49ers head coach. The very next season was the first—and last—of Jim Tomsula and Armstead was their first-round pick. Baalke wouldn’t be out until January in 2017.

Given that his career started with Tomsula and is now on his second Super Bowl berth means Armstead has quite literally seen both sides of the spectrum. He knows what losing on bad teams is and what it takes to win. He knows what development means and how to gauge progress While the Tomsula and Chip Kelly squads had teams quitting in the middle of games, Armstead had none of that and went full beast on every snap regardless.

Nicknamed “The Blueprint”, Armstead has been an absolute must for stuffing runs. When he was absent this season due to a foot injury, the 49ers run defense went off a cliff. For some reason, fans expected him to be guns blazing upon return, but he still was knocking off the rust from said injury. He has a great sack dance also.

Draft Thoughts: Great, I wonder how this one will get injured

Post Draft Thoughts: Arik Armstead is one of the good dudes on a team of good dudes. If Dre Greenlaw didn’t win you over, Armstead does. He’s been collecting the 49ers nominees for Walter Payton Man of the Year for several years. This is due to his steadfast promotion for education and equality in Sacramento, California. He’s also made reading to children a priority as well. This is already around 8,000 words and I can easily write a second post the same length on everything Armstead has done in his career to help charities and his community.

Kyle Juszczyk

San Francisco 49ers v Los Angeles Rams Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

Position: Fullback
College: Harvard
NFL Draft/Year: Fourth Round, 2013

Say it with me, “JUUUUUUUUUIIIIICCCCEEEEE”. Whenever you see this guy catch the ball at Levi’s Stadium, that loud chant is hollered by the fans. Since 49ers fans manage to takeover so many other stadiums, hearing that elsewhere is not uncommon either.

Juice is the remaining player of Kyle Shanahan’s 2017 free agent class and one of two that actually worked out. Much like Kittle, Juszczyk can block, catch, and carry the ball, something Shanahan likes to abuse to his liking.

While fans have thrown fits over the money Juszczyk makes (he’s one of the top paid fullbacks in the league) every year he makes the criticisms look silly with a touchdown-saving block, or that stupid pass from Brock Purdy where he was tiptoeing the line inbounds during the NFC Championship.

Chiefs fans, you can like this guy too. His wife Kristin is a fashion designer and had a hand in that Taylor Swift coat with Travis Kelce’s number on it. She also has worn her own Kyle Juszczyk coat. The good news is she recently signed a deal to have NFL Licensing so she’ll be making a lot more of those coats—and they are sweet.

For Juszczyk he can retire whenever he wants now and have his wife make coats into oblivion. This guy is much better at life than you.

Free Agency Acquisition Thoughts: That might be too much money for a fullback, but he did that to the Patriots

Post Signing Thoughts: People can argue to the moon about his salary cap number and maybe the 49ers shouldn’t pay him that cheddar. I counter saying the moment Juszczyk calls it a career the team will be much worse for it. There is no replacing him, no succession plan strong enough, or worse-case scenario. Juszczyk is one-of-a kind. When he’s been injured in previous seasons, the 49ers run game suffered mightily for it.

Kyle Shanahan (Head Coach)

NFL: Los Angeles Rams at San Francisco 49ers

The 49ers had to give up a lot to get Shanahan, but it was certainly worth it. They went from moving on from Jim Harbaugh to two one-and-dones. If you compare Harbaugh to Shanahan, Shanahan may have been an upgrade.

Shanahan didn’t sugarcoat how bad the roster was to owner Jed York when he arrived. He said it would take time. Due to the 49ers history of not giving coaches a chance, and Shanahan’s need for some time, he was given a six year contract with no offset language. That meant if York fired him the next day, he could go coach another team and collect his pay in full from the 49ers.

Shanahan doesn’t have an offensive coordinator, serving the role himself. This was—and still is—criticized. Simply point to the win/loss record or how many NFC Championship appearances he’s had to silence them. He clearly knows what he’s doing.

Steve Wilks (Defensive Coordinator)

Los Angeles Rams v San Francisco 49ers

The 49ers have had arguments over defensive coordinators. If Jim O’Neil is unanimously agreed as the worst in team history and George Seifert the best, then I don’t know where the hell Wilks will rank here.

Kyle Shanahan wanted to establish consistency with his coordinators. He started with Robert Saleh, who had a rough beginning but became one of the league’s best. Once Saleh left for the New York Jets, DeMeco Ryans was promoted in-house to the role and was arguably better than Saleh was. Of course, that meant a team had to poach him. Many speculated Vic Fangio would be next in line since he was seen at 49ers practices. The problem was Fangio ran a 3-4 and the 49ers converted to a 4-3 when Shanahan arrived. That eventually led to Fangio going to the Miami Dolphins and Shanahan hiring Steve Wilks.

The hire was puzzling. Many thought it was perfect, some were left scratching their heads as to why Shanahan didn’t just move to an internal promotion.

Wilks hasn’t had a good season. His defenses started with a predictable brain fart each game (usually during a two minute drill) where someone either committed pass interference or his zones were far too soft resulting in massive gains and a single touchdown.

Against PJ Walker, the backup to the Cleveland Browns, Wilks’ defenses did some good things but it just seemed lousy despite the turnovers. Fans’ boiling point reached against the Minnesota Vikings where Wilks called cover 0 with just seconds left in the first half, resulting in a touchdown. To be fair, the interception was nearly sealed, but the receiver caught it anyways and made a housecall.

Wilks, who called his defenses from the booth upstairs, went downstairs to the sideline. Because according to many, that would fix everything. His defenses improved for a few weeks before chunk plays, opposing run games, and injuries to Arik Armstead and Talanoa Hufanga took their toll.

Heading into the Super Bowl, Wilks is the equivalent of a person playing Contra. If you can beat Contra with the 30-man code, you probably know what you’re doing, but you needed help. If you can beat it without putting in the code, even if using a continue or two, you are ridiculous at the game. If you can’t beat Contra using your continues and the 30-life code, you probably arn’t good at run and guns. There’s nothing wrong with the 30-man code, the game is that hard.

No doubt Wilks’ defense is the equivalent of Contra while having the 30-life code entered in. Whether he can finish the game without running out of continues is yet to be decided.

Kris Kocurek (Defensive Line Coach)

NFC Championship - Detroit Lions v San Francisco 49ers

Oh, yes. A national treasure to some and master of the Wide 9. If you’ve been a fan for any length of time during training camps, you’ve known to watch a video of whatever verbal nonsense Kocurek is screaming at his linemen.

John Lynch (General Manager)

NFL: San Francisco 49ers at Arizona Cardinals

Because the team needed to replace Trent Baalke and wanted the coach and GM to work together. Shanahan hand-picked Lynch as his partner in crime. The result was a friendship and partnership that has worked flawlessly.

Whereas Baalke generally did his own thing and was stuck in the weeds with a scouter’s mentality, Lynch surrounded himself with people smarter—and more experienced—than him to learn the role and make sure the best decisions were made. The result is a front office that isn’t “dumb”.

Lynch provides a “been there” mentality to players. Having played in the league, he can identify with players’ needs. His terrific personality also lends to being a great face of the franchise. They also don’t tolerate funny business, quickly investigating and responding to any off-field issues with players. Lynch has flirted with going back into broadcasting (his role before coming to the 49ers), but nothing has come from it.

Jed York (Owner and CEO)

NFL: Minnesota Vikings at San Francisco 49ers

Maligned by fans for years, York’s time as owner is very similar to Eddie DeBartolo. The Yorks took over following a division of assets and other fun shenanigans with the DeBartolo family and from there, things went to the toilet. They fired Steve Mariucci, purged the roster, and hired Dennis Erickson as head coach. When they landed Jim Harbaugh, most said it was a matter of time, and it was.

It didn’t go well after Harbaugh as York promoted Tomsula, a defensive line coach with no coordinator experience, into head coach role. This was a move on the level of the 49ers trading all those draft picks for O.J. Simpson. As you might expect turned out to be a disaster and the beginning of an even worse period. The funny thing is, Adam Gase got the job, only to not get it at the last minute. Yes, there was no avoiding it: after Jim Harbaugh the 49ers were going to suck. All I can say is this was a rough time to be a fan.

Jed York became a punching bag for years with fans paying for planes to fly overhead demanding his removal and circles lamenting that as long as he was alive, the 49ers would never sniff a Super Bowl. Basically, he was quickly becoming a young Al Davis.

Once removing Trent Baalke, York set out to get Shanahan and Lynch and from there largely stayed out of the way. Like a good owner, he requests insight, knowledge, and has a pulse on his team, but rarely intervenes, letting Shanahan and Lynch make the big decisions.

Ex. Shanahan needed York to sign off on the three picks to draft Trey Lance, York did after speaking with Shanahan and Lynch. Later on, Shanahan told York Brock Purdy, third string QB at the time, was the best on the roster. Something again, York didn’t intervene with despite Trey Lance being on the roster.

York has come an awful long ways since taking over the team. It’s clear he wants to win. Check out his story of what happened when the 49ers were down in the NFC Championship. It’s definitely a touching game of catch with his kid.

The five most important games of 2023

5. Vs. Dallas Cowboys

The 49ers have been the Cowboys’ season executioner for two straight years and after each loss, Dallas seems to talk more. It’s the Cowboys, 49ers fans love it when the Cowboys lose.

Everyone was talking up the Cowboys in 2023 as Super Bowl contenders. This was even after Week 3 where they lost to the Arizona Cardinals. Two weeks later it was the revenge game; they were going to destroy the 49ers and make a statement. This was the team with Dak Prescott, a quarterback Nick Wright said he’d trust more than Brock Purdy.

The Cowboys made a statement all right, to the tune of 42 points laid on them to their measly 10. The Cowboys were embarrassed by the 49ers. Shortly after this mollywhopping, everyone started saying Brock Purdy was MVP … but behind Dak Prescott. Whatever.

4. At Cleveland Browns

OK, here me out here. This game was nothing but disappointment. The 49ers should have manhandled a team that didn’t even have their starting quarterback. But what we know now makes this game very important. This started all those dumb narratives on Brock Purdy:

  • He can’t play in the rain
  • He can’t win without his supporting cast (namely Deebo Samuel)
  • He can’t come win a game from behind

Cleveland had all three of these things. Brock Purdy DID actually come back and win it, but Jake Moody missed the kick that would have won the game. What resulted was a three game skid where the Vikings and Cincinnati Bengals both collected wins. Many thought this was the end of Brock Purdy and he’d downward spiral.

Then the Jacksonville game happened and Purdy put on a clinic beating the Jaguars, in Jacksonville, 34-3. Purdy bounced back and at the time, the Jaguars were having all the momentum. Purdy took a few games of adversity but it didn’t ruin the season.

Plus these criticisms remained. Purdy would shake the demons off in the postseason shattering all three of those criticisms against the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Divisional, and regaining an even larger lead against the Detroit Lions. The Browns started this narrative and Purdy finished the storyline in the postseason. We needed this game to give that thing Purdy had to overcome to be great.

3. At Seattle Seahawks

Seattle is one of the toughest places to play in the league and Purdy hasn’t lost there yet (2-0). That’s already amazing, but this game against Seattle was once in decades. The last time these two met on Thanksgiving, it was a San Francisco and it was when the beginning of the end started after Jed York’s tweets following the loss.

To twist the knife, the Seahawks had a feast on the 49ers seal on midfield which did not sit well with fans. Seeing Richard Sherman and Russell Wilson chomping on turkey legs had everyone up in arms.

So when the game, at Seattle, in 2023 rolled around, everyone wanted the 49ers to win and do the same thing. Despite a pick-6 making things interesting, the 49ers were in control of this game from start to finish. It also had a ridiculously stupid throw from Purdy to Aiyuk

The 49ers did in fact get to eat turkey, but the producers of Sunday Night Football (they were there, despite the game being on a Thursday) kept things off the center of the field. Oh well.

2. Vs. Baltimore Ravens

I debated putting the Pittsburgh Steelers game on this list, but since Week 1 is NEVER a good time to overreact, despite all the promising stuff we saw from the 49ers then, I put the Ravens game in instead.

Yes, this game sucked, but it was important. Purdy went into a three game skid after his then-worst game against the Cleveland Browns. The Ravens gave the 49ers all they could handle.

To be fair, the ball also bounced the Ravens way 100 percent of the time and I doubt that game would play out the same way ever again. I’m not saying the Ravens don’t win, I’m saying they don’t win like that. When tipped balls result in more than one interception, luck is on your side. Furthermore, the 49ers were getting yards on the Ravens, just nothing else.

Here’s why it’s important: They came back and dominated the Washington Commanders, an east coast team, the very next week. For the mental game of a quarterback, Purdy didn’t let a bad game rattle him. He came right back.

Look at this like golf. Even Tiger Woods can hit it into the water or out of bounds. The difference is, Woods will take the bogey or double bogey and then birdie the next hole. Something like that can derail the game and ruin a round for a golfer. Hitting it in the water on one hole will make them play scared on the next so they don’t do something else to jump their scores.

Watch the throws from Purdy. He learned from the Baltimore game and was able to come right back. Even quicker than he did in the Cleveland game.

This paid dividends in the postseason when Purdy came back from being down in both playoff games to win the game.

1. At Philadelphia Eagles

The 49ers 2022 season ended in the first quarter of that season’s NFC Championship game when Brock Purdy tore his elbow up and went to the sideline. Deebo Samuel later stated they would have basically won and the Eagles weren’t anything special.

The Eagles went on to get drug down in the Super Bowl on a correct, though ticky-tack pass interference penalty that went for the Chiefs. Through the offseason and regular season the 49ers had this game circled. They showed up in black like they were going to a funeral and once the Eagles were done emptying the bag and walking away with just six points, the second quarter happened.

The 49ers proceeded to beat the ever-loving crap out of the Eagles. They didn’t make them submit to the armbar, they let them tap, then proceeded to break the arm. That’s how bad this was.

Purdy could have come back to the scene of the crime and the place that made him a one-armed man for six months with severe PTSD. Psychologically returning to the place where it all happened could change things. Not Purdy, he just started throwing darts once the second quarter started and didn’t look back.

After getting embarrassed, the Eagles managed to slip away that No. 1 seed and drop all the way to a wild card spot while the 49ers snatched that precious first round bye. This loss to the 49ers proved that the Eagles were who the 49ers thought they were, broke the team (that losing streak after was horrendous), and that the championship game where San Francisco didn’t have a quarterback may have swung the other way should they have had another person to play the position.

Conclusion

Here we are at the end, and I’ve hardly discussed all the dumb narratives of Brock Purdy as a quarterback. What can I say? This team is fun, even if sometimes a bit too dominant while at the same time underachieving. The thing is, thanks to Kyle Shanahan drafting so well, and them navigating the salary cap, we know this isn’t a one-and-done season like the Rams who “buy” their Super Bowls. I think the experience of being on a team that was absolute garbage and watching it be transformed into a juggernaut makes this experience of seeing the Super Bowl that much more fulfilling than one season where a team simply got hot.

Kyle Shanahan has done a successful balancing act between being a head coach, offensive coordinator, director of player personnel, and face of the franchise, even if the emphasis has been on his offensive playcalling.

If the departure of Jim Harbaugh was so the 49ers could win with class, then the John Lynch/Kyle Shanahan 49ers were the destination. They have a good team, a good culture and a fraternity of players. Even players who departed in free agency came to the postseason games to see their former teammates. That is a strong bond right there.

Ignore their hype. The 49ers aren’t perfect. How they are favored in the Super Bowl makes little sense. Don’t expect perfection, because this isn’t the ‘90s. Things are different now. John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan set out to get a team of players who love the game and are active in their communities. Not only did they do that, but they found all-around good people. It’s a forward stride for the organization. The next step will occur when the team can win another one. Maybe this year? Maybe next year? Maybe in another 10. Regardless, the 49ers made it to the big game with little controversy. They’ve been in the postseason consecutive years and have proven they aren’t the Marvin Harris Cincinnati Bengals, getting bounced in the first round.

Let’s see how Brock Purdy does in the biggest football game of the year.