The San Francisco 49ers came so close to winning the Super Bowl last season, and with the talent they have on their roster it was expected that they would be a contender again this season. Unfortunately, an unbelievable number of injuries has left them 6-9 and heading for a fascinating offseason. Richard Sherman is among the many free agents the 49ers have, Jimmy Garoppolo was both mediocre and injured for much of the year, and defensive coordinator Robert Saleh is poised to be a head coach in 2021.
To wrap up our 5 Qs and 5 As segment for the 2020 regular season, I spoke with Niners Nation’s Kyle Posey about both this Sunday’s regular season finale against the NFC West champion Seattle Seahawks, as well as what the future holds for San Francisco.
1.) There have been too many injuries to count on both sides of the ball, such that I actually credit Kyle Shanahan for getting six wins out of this group and Robert Saleh for still fielding a top-10 defense by DVOA and EPA/play. Which players do you think have shined the most?
Fred Warner has been one of the best linebackers in the NFL and deserves all of the accolades he’s gotten. Warner is in line to be paid like the highest LB in the NFL this upcoming offseason. Jason Verrett is another player who has stood out, and his performance against DeAndre Hopkins last week is a prime example as to why. On offense, you’d have no idea that Trent Williams missed an entire season. He’s played at an All-Pro level, and left guard Laken Tomlinson isn’t far behind him. Those four have played at a high level all season.
2.) Kyle Shanahan said that he believes Jimmy Garoppolo will be the 49ers’ starter in 2021, but coaches say a lot of things that prove untrue. Do you expect San Francisco to pursue other options at QB next year?
They pursued another quarterback less than a month after they lost the Super Bowl last season. Shanahan said that the team would upgrade if there’s an option available. I’d be shocked if we didn’t hear rumors that the 49ers were flirting with the idea of trading or drafting a quarterback over the next couple of months. Jimmy’s injury history isn’t easy to imagine the team rolling with Garoppolo as the starter in his fourth year with the Niners after he’s essentially missed two of those seasons due to injury. You can’t pay your starter starting QB money if he’s not on the field. As far as saying untrue things, the team did this with DeForest Buckner last season. It comes off as coach speak and protecting a player who might need to be traded this offseason. There’s no reason for anybody in the organization to speak poorly of Garoppolo.
3.) Richard Sherman only played five games this season, and he looked absolutely terrible against the Cowboys. Does it look like the end of the road for Sherm as a Niner?
Yeah, and Sherman has acknowledged as much. He said during his media session a couple of weeks ago that the writing was on the wall. The 49ers have 40 unrestricted free agents, will have to pay Warner, and possibly a quarterback. Paying a cornerback on the wrong side of 30 who has been injured in two of the past three seasons doesn’t make sense. We’ve seen Verrett and recently Ahkello Witherspoon play well in Sherm’s absence. I’m more curious as to whether Sherm hangs up the cleats after this season or if he follows defensive coordinator Robert Saleh to his new destination.
4.) Talking about this Sunday’s game, the 49ers found a ton of success running the ball last week against the Cardinals. Seattle has one of the league’s best run defenses, but Shanny seems to be excellent at scheming great rushing attacks with anyone. What sort of gameplan do you expect from the 49ers’ offense against a much-improved Seahawks defense?
It’ll be tough-sledding as Trent Williams is out. Then again, the 49ers had plenty of success running up the middle last week. Most of their chunk plays come with the defense getting out of their gaps when San Francisco motions, so we can expect to see plenty of. On the season, according to Sharp Football Stats, the 49ers are averaging 4.0, 4.8, and 4.0 yards per carry when they rush to the right side of the line of scrimmage and have the highest success rate when they rush right as well. Expect a lot of running plays in that direction, especially with Williams out. It’s tough to imagine any jet sweeps or end around without Brandon Aiyuk or Deebo Samuel, considering what’s left on the roster.
5.) What’s your prediction for this one? You can still play spoiler and deny the Seahawks improved seeding.
C.J. Beathard played as well as he could last week with a supporting cast that won’t be available to him. The Seahawks don’t have the same pass rush as Arizona, but they’re much better at linebacker, and their athleticism and smarts in the secondary could confuse him. Defensively, the Niners should fare better this time around, assuming Verrett plays better against DK Metcalf than Emmanuel Moseley did earlier this season. San Francisco has been quite good at limiting the big play this season. As the year has gone along, Saleh has gotten more creative as a play-caller and put the defense in a position to succeed each week. They’ve been great. I don’t think the Seahawks will score 37 again, but I also don’t see the 49ers’ offense scoring 27. Seattle 24, San Francisco 17
Thanks again to Niners Nation for answering these questions, and may we get one more 49ers Enemy Reaction before they head into the offseason!