• Taylor Wirth

Examining Expectations: Comparing the Start of This Season vs. Last Season

Image Credit: Andrew Giesemann

Coming into the 2018 season, if we were to tell you that the Niners would continue to struggle like they did last year, losing many close games, you would have thought there was no way. The season where Jimmy Garoppolo and a much improved team were supposed to propel the 49ers into a potential playoff berth, a 1-5 start with a team that just looks flat-out bad was not what we had in mind.

There are some similarities and differences between this season’s bad start and last season’s 0-9 start. Looking at last season, the 49ers were a team that was just blown up and stripped to its bones after a new regime of coaching and management took over. It was a team that was just getting started, and was not expected to make any waves whatsoever. Starting 0-9 was not a surprise to anyone, but still was very disappointing no matter who you asked. A team with no offensive line, no competent quarterback, no defense, and no real offensive weapons was nowhere near a team that could compete. Throughout their 0-9 start, the 2017 49ers hung in for so many games. They lost a lot of those games by only three points or less and showed some flashes of fight and competitiveness.

This season was supposed to be different. Even if the Niners were unable to make the playoffs, they were supposed to at least win half of their games, or better yet have a winning record. Coming into 2018, this team had a franchise quarterback, a much-improved offensive line, young defensive players looking to take that first big step in their careers, and offensive weapons primed to have breakout years. Everything was on track for the 49ers and the rebuild was flying along. 2018 was supposed to be a massive year for this organization, well….until 2018 actually happened. We all know about the massive, unfair amount of injuries; we don't need to get into that. We’re all aware of what players are underperforming and who and what positions are to blame. All of this we know, so let's not beat a dead horse. Aside from all of the obvious issues, how can we compare this season to last season? This team is built better and has more talent, but how are the two seasons similar?

This season, the Niners are 1-5 after dropping a heartbreaking loss to the Packers at Lambeau in their first prime-time game. Just like last year, the 49ers are led by a quarterback who has already been established as a one-year guy, a guy who is not the long term solution. Both Brian Hoyer and C.J. Beathard were not expected to do much at all. In terms of the offensive weapons, they’re pretty much the same as last year. A receiving corps of Pierre Garcon, Marquise Goodwin, George Kittle, Kendrick Bourne, and Trent Taylor were all around early last season and were all a part of the offense just like they are today. Other than the obvious change at running back from Carlos Hyde to Matt Breida, the Niners’ offensive firepower has not changed much. Unlike last season, this 2018 49er team has been able to put up points. Behind a much-improved offensive line and a powerful running game, Beathard has actually been able to put up some okay results for the 49ers this season. But again just like last year, the Niners have dropped most of their games by no more than a touchdown, with some even coming within two or three points.

The major changes to this year’s 49er team have been players such as Jimmy Garoppolo, Jerick McKinnon, Richard Sherman and that bolstered offensive line. With Garoppolo and McKinnon being out all of this year, as well as a minor injury from Richard Sherman, this team on paper really looked pretty similar. So far through six weeks, the 49ers have been in every single game. They’ve had chances to win or come back in almost all of them. If you remember last season, that was the most common theme. On top of that, they are just as scrappy as they were last year. They’re annoying little pests to other teams, and they force other teams to beat them for four quarters. If they had not able to beat the Lions in Week 2, this team would be 0-6, just like last year. The magic that the Niners felt at the end of last season with Jimmy Garoppolo is nowhere to be found and it feels eerily similar to last season’s winless start. The defense is still horrible just like last year, and they still are unable to get after the opposing quarterback. There are major holes that still have not been filled, and that has not changed at all since last season’s horrible start.

On a positive note, this team is definitely not the same as last year’s. This team has more important pieces and is far better off than last year’s shell of a football team. They have a franchise quarterback, two stud running backs for next year, a fantastic linebacker duo, a very solid offensive line, a lockdown cornerback and some promising young offensive weapons. Even though this season could potentially produce the same record, or even worse, the 49ers have a lot to be optimistic about looking forward to next season.

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