The NFL hasn’t been kind to teams that lose Super Bowls.
So often, those teams that fought to reach the pinnacle game – but came up short – have disappointing follow-up seasons.
Certainly, it will be hard for the 49ers to sneak up on anyone in 2020. The team that improved from 4-12 in 2018 to 13-3 in 2019 will have a rough road to replicate that success.
As Chris Biderman of the Sacramento Bee noted recently, the 49ers will have a harder, first-place schedule; will be missing productive, now-absent veterans such as Emmanuel Sanders and DeForest Buckner; and had starting quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo for all 16 games, a first for his career.
Wrote Biderman: “Getting back to that stage and winning a sixth Lombardi Trophy has higher levels of difficulty in 2020.”
Yet others see the Niners as a franchise on the rise, one that is loaded with gifted young talent, a solid front office and an innovative head coach who lived up to big expectations in 2019.
One such analyst is Michael Silver of NFL.com. Silver believes San Francisco’s offseason has been a success. Though the team lost Buckner, Sanders, Matt Breida and Joe Staley (among others), it’s added Trent Williams, Javon Kinlaw and Brandon Aiyuk.
Also, says Silver, the 49ers “could get an infusion of juice” from several players who have been with the team and know Kyle Shanahan’s system but were unable to play in 2019. Among them: running back Jerick McKinnon and wideouts Trent Taylor and Jalen Hurd.
Taylor, a fifth-round pick of the 49ers in 2017 out of Louisiana Tech, had 43 catches as a rookie and 26 more in 2018 and appeared poised for a breakout season in his third year. Taylor looked especially good as a slot receiver in Shanahan’s system, but then suffered foot injuries that sidelined him in training camp.
The 49ers lost Sanders, but with Taylor and Hurd back, and the addition of Aiyuk and seventh-round pick Jauan Jennings of Tennessee, the offense might have a much better receiving corps than it had in 2019.
Wrote Silver: “Taylor, in particular, could give the 49ers a different dimension: Several S.F. coaches believed he was headed for a Pro Bowl campaign at this time a year ago, and having former Patriots and Broncos star Wes Welker as his position coach and role model doesn’t hurt.”
Jas Kang, who writes about the 49ers for SB Nation, concurs with Silver, writing that Taylor “could be (Garoppolo’s) safety net underneath in 2020.” Kang believes that with Aiyuk and Deebo Samuel as the primary outside receivers, “Taylor can benefit from the extra attention that could be paid the duo.”