For the first time since the 49ers brought in a new head coach and general manager, the team has come together to begin work toward the 2017 season.
And, players noticed there’s a difference at the team’s practice facility.
Running back Carlos Hyde told Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle that he could see and feel the difference on the first day of the team’s offseason program.
“We have a bunch of signs and stuff everywhere with team rules and stuff like that,” said Hyde, who’s being counted on to be the team’s No. 1 running back. “So far, seeing stuff like that is different. Changing the culture here is what I see.”
Certainly, something has to change.
The 49ers have churned through three head coaches in three seasons, parting ways with Jim Harbaugh, Jim Tomsula and Chip Kelly before signing Kyle Shanahan – the former offensive coordinator of the Falcons – as head coach to team with new general manager John Lynch, who replaces the departed Trent Baalke.
Lynch and Shanahan have said they believe changing the culture is what’s needed to break the team out of its death spiral. The 49ers were 2-14 in 2016 and have had three straight non-winning seasons.
Lynch and Shanahan have brought in more than 20 new players so far, with the draft still to come. They’re not only looking for impact talent, but impact personalities.
“We also have to get guys with football character who can help to reset a culture and embody kind of what Kyle and I feel like leads to success in this league,” said Lynch recently on the podcast of ESPN NFL analyst Adam Schefter.
As Branch noted, among the new signs posted around the team’s facility are these: “Don’t complain” and “no excuses.”
Second-year defensive lineman DeForest Buckner told Branch, “There’s going to be a different culture around here compared to last year.”
Equally important as culture, however, will be talent and coaching, to get the most out of the players on this roster. There’s a new starting quarterback in Brian Hoyer, a veteran receiver in Pierre Garcon and the offensive scheme of Shanahan, who helped the Falcons reach the Super Bowl this past season.
With a strong crop of talent in the draft, which begins April 27, the 49ers may be able to compete more effectively in the NFC West, which features two strong franchises in Seattle and Arizona.
Longtime left tackle Joe Staley says getting a strong start in 2017 would certainly help fuel a turnaround and a culture change.
Said Staley to Branch: “Winning more games solves a lot of things.”