49ers

49ers' turnaround, win improvement has put team in exclusive company

49ers' turnaround, win improvement has put team in exclusive company

The 49ers already have completed an historic turnaround, and that's before they take on the Green Bay Packers on Sunday for the chance to advance to Super Bowl LIV.

Simply by making it to the NFC Championship Game, San Francisco has put itself in some exclusive company. According to The San Francisco Chronicle's Eric Branch, prior to the current 49ers, there had only been five other teams in NFL history to reach the conference title game after winning fewer than five games the previous season.

After going 4-12 last year before improving to 13-3 in 2019, the 49ers joined the 2017 Jacksonville Jaguars, 2006 New Orleans Saints, 1999 St. Louis Rams, 1996 Jaguars and 1988 Cincinnati Bengals as the sixth team to accomplish the feat.

Of the five previous teams to do it, only the Bengals and Rams reached the Super Bowl, and only the Rams won it all. San Francisco would love nothing more than to do the same.

[RELATED: 49ers say NFC title game will set Levi's attendance record]

And, if it does, the team will join the '99 Rams in the record books in more ways than one. If the 49ers advance to and win Super Bowl LIV, they'll match them for the largest win improvement (plus-nine) in league history by an NFL champion.

Had quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo not gone down with a torn ACL in Week 3 of the 2018 season, chances are the 49ers wouldn't be eligible for any of these accomplishments. If this season has taught us anything, it's that they weren't your run-of-the-mill four-win team a year ago.

Programming note: NBC Sports Bay Area feeds your hunger for 49ers playoff coverage with special editions of “49ers Central” all week (6 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday; 8 p.m. Wednesday and Friday)

Also tune in at 2:30 p.m. Sunday for “49ers Pregame Live,” with Laura Britt, Jeff Garcia, Donte Whitner, Ian Williams and Grant Liffmann previewing the NFC Championship Game against the Packers. That same crew will have all the postgame reaction on “49ers Postgame Live,” starting at approximately 5:30 p.m.

NFL Draft 2020: Laviska Shenault compares self to 49ers' Deebo Samuel

NFL Draft 2020: Laviska Shenault compares self to 49ers' Deebo Samuel

INDIANAPOLIS -- Laviska Shenault Jr. is near the top of what is widely viewed as a deep and talented pool of wide receivers in this year’s NFL draft.

The 49ers are certain to like what they see the versatile Colorado wide receiver, and Shenault definitely is intrigued by the possibilities he sees with being a member of the 49ers. But they are unlikely to ever get a chance to select Shenault.

There will be some changes at the 49ers' wide receiver group, but the 49ers own the No. 31 overall pick and have just one selection within the first four rounds.

When asked at the NFL Scouting Combine which pro offenses he most admires, Shenault immediately identified the 49ers.

“I think there's a couple of teams, but I'd say most definitely the 49ers because with Deebo Samuel, they moved him around everywhere and just created mismatches and tried to get him the ball in different positions,” Shenault said.

Shenault is similar to Samuel with his size, strength and versatility. Samuel is 5-foot-11, 214 pounds. Shenault measured at 6-foot-and-5/8, 227 pounds. Like Samuel, Shenault turns into a running back with the ball in his hands.

In his three-season, 27-game college career, Shenault caught 149 passes for 1,943 yards and 10 touchdowns, while rushing 42 times for 280 yards and seven touchdowns.

Shenault said he liked to watch how the 49ers lined up Samuel in a lot of different spots. And Samuel was his answer when asked to which NFL wide receiver he is most similar.

“Deebo Samuel definitely did a lot of moving around and just getting the ball in different places,” Shenault said.

[RELATED: 49ers should watch these receivers during the combine

The 49ers selected Samuel in the second round with the No. 36 overall selection a year ago. Samuel caught 57 passes for 802 yards and three touchdowns as a rookie. He also carried 14 times for 159 yards and three touchdowns. Samuel set a Super Bowl record for receivers with three carries for 53 yards.

That’s how Shenault believes he can make an immediate impact in the NFL.

“I think my versatility is a good thing,” Shenault said. “I don't want to be in one spot. Then, I wouldn't get that many balls or attempts. I want to be able to move everywhere. I want to be able to create mismatches everywhere on the field.”

Kyle Shanahan's Super Bowl loss with 49ers lingers more than Falcons'

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Kyle Shanahan's Super Bowl loss with 49ers lingers more than Falcons'

INDIANAPOLIS -- Kyle Shanahan answered countless questions about losing to the New England Patriots with the Atlanta Falcons in Super Bowl LI during the week leading up to Super Bowl LIV.

The 49ers coach lost again after all the questions, this time to the Kansas City Chiefs. He's grieving all over again and having a more difficult time reconciling this time around. 

“I think this one was harder than the last one,” Shanahan said Tuesday from the NFL Scouting Combine. “The last one was a bigger loss, I mean at the end and stuff. I just thought we were a better team. The hardest thing for me is I thought we were the best team in the NFL.

“And when you really believe that, and I thought it for a while, it wasn’t just like the last couple weeks of the year. In Atlanta, we kind of got hot at the end of the year, so I felt pretty fortunate.”

Shanahan's 2016 Falcons and his 2019 49ers entered the playoffs with a first-round bye.  The difference is that the 49ers started the 2019 season with an 8-0 run, and finished with a 13-3 regular-season record, clinching the No. 1 seed.

The 2016 Falcons, however, had a 5-3 record at the halfway point. Atlanta won its last four straight games to clinch the No. 2 seed, but played two playoff home games only because the top-seeded Dallas Cowboys lost in the divisional round to the Green Bay Packers. 

[RELATED: 49ers want to bring everyone back, but know it will be tough]

The 49ers have come a long way under Shanahan. They had a fourth-quarter lead in the Super Bowl after winning the 10 games the previous two seasons, but it's difficult to focus on the journey following a painful ending. 

“This year I thought we had it,” Shanahan said. “We were the second-worst team in the league last year, and now we got to live with being the second-best, which I’m proud of. But that is harder, because I truly believe it was there for us.”