16 Jan Dear Diary: My 5 49ers Resolutions
My article title’s may be unoriginal, but the opinionated content must flow!
In this piece, I will be breaking down my 5 New Year’s resolutions the 49ers should be aiming at, not just to return to glory, but for fundamental team building as well.
It’s going to be a busy offseason for this front office; From addressing the coaching staff, to drafting and overall roster rebuilding, General Manager John Lynch and Co. will be looking to retool in a critical season that could heavily determine the path the 49ers go on for the next 2-3 years.
Without further ado, let’s dive into the 49ers’ resolutions of the 2021 year!
- Find Continuity at The QB Position
Alright, let’s address the slight elephant in the room: Jimmy Garoppolo is not that good. Ok, too mean. I will say this: The 49ers can do a lot better at the QB position. With rumors swirling that the team could be trading for star QBs such as Matthew Stafford and Deshaun Watson, it seems that the team is looking for an upgrade. After last season’s debacle in which the team attempted to sign now-Buccaneers QB Tom Brady, the writing was slowly developing on the wall for Jimmy: We like you enough, but we think we can possibly do better. The 49ers are also in a position to trade up to draft a blue chip QB, such as Justin Fields, Trey Lance, and Zach Wilson. Overall, the team is in a position to go in many different directions at the QB spot, but if anything, the team’s resolution should be to IMPROVE. A rookie may not be as good as Garoppolo, but it is a big step towards ensuring that the future of the position is solid for 10+ years. Or, trading for a Watson/Stafford type to put the team in win-now mode is also key. There’s lots to do, but it starts with an upgrade at QB.
- Keep the Team Healthy
This may be tough given that injuries are such a natural event that can’t be prevented, but, If the 49ers medical staff can do it, they MUST find ways to keep their guys as healthy as possible. Again, injuries happen, they’re apart of the game. Sometimes, there’s nothing you can do about a broken leg or a torn ACL. However, the multitude of high-ankle sprains and lower body injuries the team suffered throughout the year at least feel somewhat preventable. I do not want this to come off in a bad way, as in no way I am a medical expert, but, doesn’t it feel like the team could address this somehow? Not sure, just ranting here guys, just get these damn injuries under control and keep our guys as healthy as possible!
- Make Brandon Aiyuk the Primary Punt Returner (or just improve special teams)
Yes, this is a resolution. Why? Cause the 49ers were terrible at returning kicks this past season. According to the NFL’s stats website, the 49ers had the 4th fewest average kick return yardage per game (19.3). Also, the team averaged 9 yards per punt return, good for 16th in the league. Overall, these numbers are not good. After drafting prolific punt returner Dante Pettis, his time as a returner was short lived, as he never got the opportunity to use his return skills for special teams (when he did, he was not good). The team has cycled between Trent Taylor, Richie James, and the now-defunct DJ Reed to do the returning, although none of them panned out. The only bright side to this was when star rookie WR Brandon Aiyuk returned punts. Out of his 2 attempts, he returned for a total of 26 yards (one-10 yard carry, another 16). Should AIyuk return kicks? Possibly. It’s a high-risk injury job, but sometimes, you have to take chances. If the team decides to utilize Aiyuk in the return game, the offensive portion of special teams could improve dramatically.
- Force Some Turnovers on Defense
Injuries derailed a promising season for the 49ers. After the team lost Nick Bosa, the defense (although performed as a top-10 unit) could not figure out the pass rushing woes. From last season’s performance, the team proved that having a viable pass rush dramatically effects turnover rate. Losing Bosa, as well as DeForest Buckner, the DL took a significant step backwards in terms of overall sack totals. Defensive line coach Kris Kocurek was able to turn DE Kerry Hyder into a hidden gem (8.5 sacks) but the rest of the DL could not step up. According to team rankings, the 49ers averaged 1.9 sacks per game, which was 22nd in the league. Compared to the end of the regular season last year, the team averaged an astonishing 3.2 sacks per game. HUGE difference! For more numbers, the 2019 defense finished with 1.8 forced turnovers per game, 4th in the league. This past season? 1.2 per game, which was 21st in the NFL. Again, injuries contributed to this dramatic turn around. If the team can go into next season reloaded at key spots like DB and DL, expect these numbers to improve. Even after losing DC Robert Saleh, the defense is still in good standing based on the health of cornerstone players like Bosa and Fred Warner. Health and growth are key, but, the team’s resolution is simple: force some TO’s, and win some games.
- Don’t Get Too Cute, Kyle Shanahan
Alright, nitpicky resolution, but hear me out: NO MORE WILDCAT PLAYS! Yes, we all remember the Jerick McKinnon wildcat play that epically failed. We did not see that type of play again for the remainder of the season. Throughout the season, we also saw some questionable play calls that put the offense in precarious positions, like running out of shotgun formation in goal line situations, as well as not utilizing screen plays enough. I understand a lot of this has to do with Shanahan being dealt with awful QB play, but to an extent, Shanahan needs to put his guys in better situations. That’s not to say he doesn’t! If you have the chance, watch some All-22 of the 49ers. You will find at least 4-5 plays (maybe more) in which Shanahan schemed open the perfect play that did not execute because of bad QB play. From my eyes, I feel we hardly saw him use the screen game to his advantage. Whether the team addresses the QB position or not, one thing is clear: Put your guys in EVEN better situations. Yes, Shanahan does this as much as possible, but if he has to do it even more than normal, so be it. The team is only as good as the head coach, and if Shanahan can get the right guys to execute his offense, we can finally see him integrate some of those *gulp* more exotic plays he has.
That about wraps it up for resolutions. Did I miss one? Any? If so, let us know in the comment and tell us what YOU guys think the 49ers need to improve on going into next season.