What would have to go wrong for 49ers to miss playoffs


The 49ers are reigning NFC champions, and they don't want to join the ignominious company of nearly a quarter century's worth of predecessors in 2020.

As NFL Media's Adam Schein noted last week: Since 1996, at least one conference finalist has missed the playoffs the following season. The 49ers don't have to look very far for the most recent example.

The Los Angeles Rams went 13-3 in 2018, won the NFC West and lost Super Bowl LIII to the New England Patriots. They went 9-7 and failed to qualify for the postseason in 2019, and the Rams now stare down an uncertain future just over a year after seeming primed to reign over the NFC.

Such a scenario isn't likely for the 49ers. There's an extra playoff spot up for grabs this year, and their foundation appears to be more sustainable than the Rams'.

Still, the NFL's playoff turnover is high every year, let alone for conference finalists. So what would have to go wrong to miss the playoffs in 2020?

Not much, according to Schein: The division's tough, a "solid" quarterback might not be good enough and the injury bug already is hitting the 49ers.

"I can see three NFC West teams making the playoffs," Schein wrote. "And the other being the Rams, who obviously have a great coach, a high-powered offense and the best defensive player on the planet."

Schein conceded he's a fan of Garoppolo, but he doesn't think the 49ers will have an advantage at QB in many games this season. The Niners are scheduled to play the Seattle Seahawks (quarterbacked by Russell Wilson) and Arizona Cardinals (Kyler Murray) twice, as well as the Philadelphia Eagles (Carson Wentz), New England Patriots (Cam Newton), New Orleans Saints (Drew Brees), Green Bay Packers (Aaron Rodgers) and Dallas Cowboys (Dak Prescott) in 2020.


If Dee Ford and Nick Bosa's training-camp injuries linger, or young receivers Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk can't stay healthy? One of the NFL's surest things in 2019 will be dealing with a whole lot of uncertainty in 2020.

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Missing the playoffs undoubtedly is a possibility in a league rife with parity, but Schein doesn't think it's a likely one.

"Long story short: While there are worries that could theoretically spawn a Super Bowl hangover, it's tough to see a playoff party that the Niners aren't invited to," he wrote.

Schein argued the 49ers and Kansas City Chiefs are the least likely reigning conference finalists to miss the playoffs. Both teams met in Super Bowl LIV, and the 49ers want to get back to that stage a year after losing on it.

If they don't, Schein's scenario very well could be why.