The offseason is relentless. Having a seven-month break from football to the die-hard fans brings confusion, hot takes, and hordes of impatient fans reaching at any headline they can. The offseason is rough for everyone. From Patriots’ fans dying to see their championship team get back on the field, to the ever-cursed Browns fans who might as well have “this is the year” tattooed on their forehead. To the un-trained eye, this offseason for the 49ers seems incredibly unique. For 49ers’ fans, this offseason rings a familiar tone to a certain season.
Mike Singletary standing in the middle of the locker room on Sunday, October 26, 2008 will forever be a metaphor for the 49ers team that had reached the tipping point. Losing to the Seahawks put the team at 2-6 and left no doubt that this was a team with the hope of success nowhere in sight. With the firing of Singletary, Jed York sought out to right a ship that was in desperate need of realignment.
The 2009 roster had many notable individuals. On the coaching staff, you had some names that I’m sure you’ll recognize. Vance Joseph, head coach of the Denver Broncos, was the DB Defensive Backs coach. Miami Dolphins’ offensive guru Adam Gase was an offensive assistant. Fan favorite Jim Tomsula, legendary 49ers defensive line coach, was the head coach after Singletary’s firing.
As for the actual players, this year was interesting in the sense it had some amazing players, some solidified already in Justin Smith, and some budding in Joe Staley and Patrick Willis. As this may have been a very forgettable year for 49ers fans, it was the beginning of a roster that would soon see resurgence under a certain head coach we all know and love.
Entering the 2011 season, the lockout came at the worst possible time for 49ers fans. Landing Jim Harbaugh as the new head coach came at a time when his stock was at an all-time high. Alex Smith, a free agent, had decided to stay with the team due to his budding relationship with Harbaugh. The team and fans were desperate to get the players on the field practicing. After years of pain and sadness. The team had something they hadn’t had in quite a while: hope.
During that offseason, very minimal changes were made to the roster from the year before. Additions of CB Carlos Rodgers, S Donte Whitner, and S Madieu Williams highlighted a light offseason. The flashy new piece that was going to make a difference? The head coach. With Harbaugh essentially bringing in an entirely new coaching staff, it was a culture change that made the most difference.
Now here we are, 500 words into this article and you’re probably wondering what the hell the point is. For me, I find a lot of similarities between this regime change, and the year Jim Harbaugh took over. Whether it was the exciting new head coach, or the “game-managing” quarterback, there are actually a lot of things that feel the same.
Tell me if this sounds familiar. A defense lead by one of the best linebackers in the NFL incorporates another young promising linebacker, while having strong safeties, respectable cornerbacks, and known vampire Ahmad Brooks -- who no matter what season or year finds a way to start for the 49ers. The big difference from that season to this year is the defensive line. With three first-round picks for used on defensive lineman three years in a row, this year’s team finds more talent than experience.
For offense, this is where things are vastly different. Kyle Shanahan comes in to his head coaching role as what can only be described as “the master architect”. Shanahan has taken every offense he’s coordinated to much greater heights than anyone had expected. This master architect was in the lead role for QB Matt Ryan’s best and their trip to the Super Bowl.
Shanahan looks to rebuild this team from the ground up. Signing more than 20 free agents this offseason, the issue isn’t with the talent added, the draft picks used, or the competition. The issue is taking one of the worst rosters in recent memory and rebuilding it quite literally from the ground up. With roughly $100 million in cap space, Shanahan has altered just about every single part of the team. This is something fans should be all too familiar with.
The 49ers had something special with Harbaugh. Taking a doomed team with a perennial No. 1 draft pick bust, and resurrecting it from a place so dark that it took fans a long while to accept that this great thing was happening, and their team was winning. We all know the story line from there. Three years, three head coaches. The firing of one of the greatest coaches the team has ever had. Even the downfall of a once unbeatable, unstoppable Colin Kaepernick. Fans have watched as everything they knew and loved about their revitalized team be destroyed.
As fans looked for answers, confused and irate, they found a target for all their anger. Trent Baalke and Jed York had taken their team from them. The fans responded accordingly. By the end of the three-year hell, Levi’s Stadium could be found nearly empty on game day. The fancy new stadium didn’t seem so great without the likes of Frank Gore, Jim Harbaugh, Patrick Willis, and others.
With the end of a 2-14 season coming to an end, Jed York did the only logical thing a man in his position could do: hit the reset button. The departure came for essentially every target for blame the team had. From Greg Roman and his awful play calling, all the way to Chip Kelly, the guy who seemed to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. The only thing left was a handful of players worth keeping and a boat load of cap space.
So once again we find ourselves cheering for a new head coach, an average at best quarterback who can do more good than bad but not enough good, and a stupid amount of hope. This team has just about no continuity considering the overhaul so don’t expect them to win thirteen games by any means. Expect lots of hope though, as it’s what fans have gotten used to. Or do we call it being faithful?