To borrow a word made famous in sports culture by Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, 49ers fans need to relax.
You don’t have to look deep into the Twitterverse to see panicked hot takes with fans exhorting the 49ers to tank the season in a calculated collapse to draft Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence. Others are anxiously calling for a major trade to acquire a star receiver, pass rusher or cornerback. Lamentations that the season is already over are fairly common place.
With a mild online fan revolt well under way, I’d like to offer a few gentle reminders. The 49ers are 1-1. We’re two games into this season. Jimmy Garoppolo was awesome in the first half against the Jets on Sunday (14-16, 131 yards, 2 touchdowns and no interceptions).
The Schedule is Cake
San Francisco has a favorable upcoming schedule, and many of the guys currently lost to injury will be back in a matter of weeks. Extreme shifts to tank a season or trade a bevy of picks for a star should not be pursued as knee-jerk reactions to two weeks of football. The 49ers are not in dire straits, despite suffering enough injuries on Sunday to fill an infirmary.
Even with those injuries, the 49ers blew out the hapless Jets, running up a huge lead in the first half and mostly playing with their food in the second half. Next on the schedule San Francisco sees a wobbly Giants team that just lost Saquon Barkley for the season. They then return to Santa Clara for three straight games, against the lifeless Eagles, the rebuilding Dolphins and the seemingly revitalized Rams. Even with an injury-ravaged team, it’s possible the 49ers go 3-1 or 2-2 over that stretch. That would put them at 4-2 or 3-3, in the thick of the playoff race with ten games remaining in the regular season.
Reinforcements Will Come
It will be around this time in the schedule (earlier or later in some cases) that the 49ers should get back Garoppolo, receiver Deebo Samuel, tight end George Kittle, center Weston Richburg, defensive ends Ronald Blair and Dee Ford and number one cornerback Richard Sherman. Mild knee injuries to running backs Raheem Mostert and Tevin Coleman could be cleared up in this time frame as well.
There’s no doubt the loss of Nick Bosa and Solomon Thomas is devastating. Most of the other injuries on the roster appear to be short term.
A Higher Ceiling on Offense
Once healthy the 49ers have a chance to be better than they were a year ago on the offensive side of the ball; a season that saw them lead the NFC in scoring.
Trent Williams has performed like one of the best left tackles in football and despite the greatness of Joe Staley, Williams is an upgrade at that position from last year. Jerick McKinnon is finally healthy and has flashed explosive big-play ability as well as receiving versatility that should only find more ways to flourish in Kyle Shanahan’s offense. Rookie Brandon Aiyuk brings an athletic deep threat with a big catch radius and great run after catch ability. Jordan Reed looked like his old self against the Jets and if he plays like that, once Kittle is healthy, the Niners will be indefensible at tight end.
An offense with Garoppolo another year in this system, a healthy and deep offensive line led by a superstar left tackle, and skill players like Kittle, Reed, Samuel, Aiyuk, Mostert, McKinnon, Tevin Coleman and Kyle Juszczyk has a chance to be one of the very best in the league.
A Defense Still Stocked with Talent
A defensive line with a healthy Dee Ford, Arik Armstead, Javon Kinlaw and DJ Jones is still very imposing. Blair will be back, joining Kentavius Street, Kevin Givens, Kerry Hyder and newly-signed Ziggy Ansah to form what should be a quality bench group. Ford is the element that can make this defensive line special even without Bosa, but his health is a constant question.
Behind this deep unit, linebacker Fred Warner has blossomed into one of the best defensive players in the league and a true centerpiece of the 49ers defense. Dre Greenlaw is an emerging young linebacker who is already a well-trusted member of the defense. Kwon Alexander makes some splash plays and some splash mistakes, but overall the 49ers have one of the better linebacking units and defensive front sevens in all of football, even without Bosa.
Playing behind that front, and once healthy, a secondary headlined by Sherman, Emmanuel Moseley, K’Waun Williams, Jimmie Ward and Jaquiski Tartt has a chance to be very good.
The 49ers may have to find new ways to win and lean more heavily on their offense than they did a year ago. But there is still a long way to go in this season, lots of talent on this roster and plenty of reasons to believe the 49ers can play with anyone.
Give it time 49ers fans, and this team may just give us a magical ride like last year.