Image Credit: 49ers
“I’m going to be a firefighter!”
“I’m going to be an astronaut!”
At a very young age, we are encouraged, to the point of being pushed to have our minds made up on how we want to spend our lives between ages 20-70. Sometimes this comes from aptitude tests or seeing a child have a particular interest in a given subject, but most times this concept comes from parents either wanting their children to have a better life than they did or to help their children create a future nest egg for their own children. Or it could be as shallow as needing to keep up with the Jones’.
For a lot of children though, this concept doesn’t work. The world is full of possibilities and when everything around you inspires you and sparks your curiosity, the idea of limiting yourself to a single vocation for years can fill you with anxiety.
Some children don’t want to be defined by what they choose to do for a paycheck, but rather choose to define themselves by the energy they put into the world. That energy can be fluid and can change often, and thankfully for those children, they thrive on the concept of that change.
The San Francisco 49ers seem to be a team that thrives on a similar level of change.
In 2019, with the hype of newly drafted edge defender Nick Bosa in the house with quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, fresh off of the rehabilitation process for his torn ACL, one word thrust itself into the 49ers’ lexicon and refused to let go, becoming the slogan for the season and every achievement the team would amass.
“I don’t like to use the word G-O-O-D. 'Good,' ” linebacker Kwon Alexander said when asked how the rehab process was going after his ACL tear in 2018. “I’m trying to be better than that. So I use that (‘legendary’) to get my mindset where it needs to be.
“The thing was to stay focused and keep your mind straight because a lot of people get down in those situations. I’m just telling myself to stay focused, keep praying, and I’m going to get back to myself even better. That was the main goal.”
That word suddenly took on a whole new meaning. That word suddenly developed into something more than a word. That word developed into a mindset.
Shortly after this interview, the word and phrase took hold of everything within the 49ers’ universe. From merchandise to augmented reality instagram stickers, the phrase became a rallying cry that supplanted the much maligned “Quest for Six” catchphrase that had been manufactured fir the team for years and became its own Phenomenon of Cool.
The phrase and mindset became something that propelled the team to heights greater than they knew they were capable of. It kept them in a place where they not only were surviving with 15 players on injured reserve, but somehow thriving. They became a team that managed to contend with some of the best teams in the NFL without both of their starting offensive tackles. They became a team that made some of the strongest defenses in the NFL look like above average Pop Warner defenses.
They became a team that learned to punch above their weight class.
They came into the 2020 Super Bowl without a care in the world, and unfortunately, that came back to bite them as they weren’t prepared for the team they faced.
I’ve previously written about how the 49ers will not be able to ascend to the heights they reached last summer without first coming to terms with how and why they lost. It’s a touchy subject, as people who go through something as traumatic as a loss on the grandest stage need to heal at their own pace.
Sunday’s loss to the Miami Dolphins shows that the team hasn’t healed yet and has not found their new identity.
“I think we just, every offense, every team really, you have to find your identity.” Garoppolo said in his press conference following the game. “It's a process. Every team goes through it every year and it's not one of those things that happens very quickly. It takes time and we need to do it with a little bit of sense of urgency. It really comes down to find out who we are, what we do best and going out there and doing it on the field. There's a million little things that all come together and we’ve just got to keep working at it.”
Garoppolo only completed seven of his 17 passing attempts on Sunday for 77 yards and two interceptions. They weren’t able to lean on their run game like they have in the past due to lack of chemistry, talent and injuries along the offensive line. On the defensive side of the ball the 49ers started a player at cornerback who had spent less than a month on the team’s practice squad and who the coaching staff refused to make adjustments for as the Dolphins kept going his way for multiple touchdowns.
From top to bottom, the 49ers seem to be in a state of flux. On the one hand, they started their franchise quarterback who was clearly not 100% yet kept a quality cornerback on the bench to start the game.
It feels pretty clear that everyone within the organization is still affected by the Super Bowl loss, but allowing it to cloud their minds and keep them from making sound decisions for a game is getting in the way of their playoff hopes this year as well as endangering the health of their players. If the coaches and the players do not come together and address the energy in the room, this season is already over.
Maybe some on the 49ers wanted to be firefighters. Maybe some wanted to be astronauts. If the team doesn’t find this year’s call to action like they found “Legendary” last year, there will not be a Quest for Six.
There will be a Quest for Six Wins.
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