49ers

49ers clinch first playoff berth since 2013 with Rams' loss to Cowboys

49ers clinch first playoff berth since 2013 with Rams' loss to Cowboys

Six years and three coaches later, the 49ers are headed back to the playoffs. 

San Francisco punched its ticket to the postseason Sunday, thanks to the Los Angeles Rams' 44-21 loss to the Dallas Cowboys. The 49ers could have clinched with a win over the Atlanta Falcons at Levi's Stadium, but they dropped out of the NFC's top seed thanks to Sunday's 29-22 loss

The 49ers have not made the playoffs since Richard Sherman tipped Colin Kaepernick's pass intended for Michael Crabtree into the arms of then-Seattle Seahawks linebacker Malcolm Smith to close out the 2013 NFC Championship Game. San Francisco lost 23-17 to Seattle and then went 8-8 the following season, which was Jim Harbaugh's last with the franchise. 

Jim Tomsula and Chip Kelly led the 49ers to a combined 7-25 record in 2015 and 2016, as San Francisco's roster grew into a far cry from those that appeared in three consecutive NFC Championship Games from 2011 through '13. Kyle Shanahan and John Lynch, respectively, replaced Kelly and general manager Trent Baalke ahead of the 2017 season, but the 49ers won 10 of their first 32 games with the duo in change. 

[RELATED: Watch George Kittle pancake defender with huge block on 49ers TD]

After bolstering their defense in free agency and the draft this offseason, the 49ers now look like a contender. San Francisco needs one more win to clinch its first 12-win season since 2013, and the 49ers still can earn the NFC's top seed and home-field advantage on their path to Super Bowl LIV.

The 49ers' last trip to the postseason fell short of such a trip. Now, their goal is to avoid a similar fate.

Why Cam Newton is unlikely to join 49ers as Jimmy Garoppolo's backup

Why Cam Newton is unlikely to join 49ers as Jimmy Garoppolo's backup

It doesn't seem to make a difference who the free-agent quarterback is. There simply is no end to the rumors or suggestions that Jimmy Garoppolo could be replaced.

For years, pundits have argued that 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan would prefer Kirk Cousins over the incumbent, but that is all moot now that Cousins has signed a two-year contract extension with the Minnesota Vikings. Recently, there was no shortage of rumors that San Francisco was considering swapping Garoppolo out for Tom Brady, who has since signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Teddy Bridgewater was never suggested as a potential Garoppolo replacement, but he is now the starter for the Carolina Panthers after signing with them in free agency. The man -- and former MVP -- he is replacing, however, is currently without a team.

And thus begin the Cam Newton-to-49ers rumors.

Though numerous current and former 49ers have come out in support of Garoppolo, NFL Media's Bucky Brooks feels as though Newton would be a fit in San Francisco -- not necessarily as a Jimmy G replacement, or at least not right away.

"If I'm Cam Newton, and I can't go to the L.A. Chargers because they love Tyrod [Taylor], I go to San Francisco," Brooks said on KNBR's "The Mark Willard Show" on Thursday. "And the reason why Cam Newton in San Francisco would work is because I just believe that there may not be this great sense that Jimmy Garoppolo is the guy there.

"And let's just say that he may not be the guy, so you put Cam back there behind him, and Cam gets to learn from one of the best quarterback gurus that we've seen in the league. And maybe, just maybe, Kyle Shanahan is intrigued on having an explosive athlete running the stretch bootleg concept, putting the ball in the perimeter, throwing it out there."

Alright, where to begin?

First and foremost, none of the QBs rumored to be potential replacements for Garoppolo are verifiably superior. In fact, between Garoppolo, Cousins, Brady and Newton, Jimmy G threw for the most touchdowns, averaged the most yards per attempt and posted the best adjusted quarterback rating last season. He's also the youngest by at least a year-and-a-half, with Newton -- who turns 31 in May -- the next closest in age. Garoppolo turns 29 in November.

Then there's the financial aspect. Brooks seems to think the 49ers would be able to fit Newton into their salary-cap space.

"I'm just saying, from the Niners' standpoint, you would be able to get Cam at his cheapest," Brooks continued. "So if you think about a value proposition, just to bring him in, in case Jimmy Garoppolo gets hurt or falters, it would just be an interesting thing to think about if I'm the San Francisco 49ers, and I'm looking to add value and pop to my offense."

What Brooks is forgetting, however, is that a large portion of San Francisco's cap space has already been set aside in order to sign standout tight end George Kittle to a record-breaking contract extension, not to mention approximately $7 million that will be needed to sign the 49ers' 2020 draft class. 

[RELATED: Lynch promises 49ers will be ready for April's NFL draft]

Yes, Newton isn't exactly in a great negotiating position, but it's extremely hard to envision him signing somewhere on the cheap. He is unquestionably superior to Taylor, for instance, and the Chargers would seem like the likeliest destination for him. But even if Newton goes somewhere else, it's highly unlikely it will be for a salary that San Francisco could absorb without throwing a huge wrench into the construction of the rest of the roster.

From a talent standpoint, there's no doubt that Shanahan would love to have Newton on the 49ers, and while the team has confidence in Nick Mullens as Garoppolo's backup, he has never won a league MVP award. That said, Mullens comes significantly cheaper than Newton, and also won't create a circus through his presence at training camp. Newton surely would if he was there -- and rightfully so -- but unless he feels like taking the bare minimum, don't count on him coming to San Francisco.

GM John Lynch promises 49ers will be ready for April's 2020 NFL Draft

GM John Lynch promises 49ers will be ready for April's 2020 NFL Draft

The NFL draft will proceed as scheduled in a month, and 49ers general manager John Lynch promised on Friday the club will be ready.

Lynch posted a video on social media from his home office, as the team’s draft preparation continues with members of the organization working separately due to NFL guidelines to slow the spread of COVID-19.

The scouting department and coaches have been taking part in regular video conference meetings, Lynch said.

“This draft is absolutely huge for us, so there’s no excuses, no explanations,” Lynch said on the video. “We got to get our work done, albeit from home.”

Lynch said he is thankful for the hard work of the personnel department, scouts, coaching staff, and IT and video staffs. Lynch singled out vice presidents of player personnel Adam Peters and Martin Mayhew, and director of college scouting Ethan Waugh.

“We will be ready for that draft,” Lynch said.

The 49ers own the Nos. 13 and 31 picks in the first round of the draft on Thursday, April 23.

Lynch said he always looks for the blessings in any situation. Lynch and his wife, Linda, have four children, including two in college. The whole family is spending time a lot of quality time together as a result of the shelter-in-place guidelines.

[RELATED: Goodell tells NFL teams to prepare for 2020 draft off-site]

Then, Lynch offered some words of encouragement to the 49ers’ fan base.

“Make the best of the situation,” he said. “We appreciate your support always, faithful. Go Niners. Stay at home. Stay safe, and I’ve got your back.”

The 49ers also started a resource page at 49ers.com/IGYB and are asking people to take photos of their home offices and show their Niners spirit and tag their posts #IGYB (I Got Your Back).