49ers

How 49ers' dominance has instilled fear in Seahawks, rest of NFC West

How 49ers' dominance has instilled fear in Seahawks, rest of NFC West

The Seattle Seahawks reportedly were having internal discussions about signing talented, but controversial free-agent wide receivers Antonio Brown and Josh Gordon as recently as this week.

Regardless of how you would view those potential signings, it's difficult to deny that they lend even more weight to Colin Cowherd's theory about the 49ers' dominance.

Essentially, Cowherd believes the recent major moves the other teams in the NFC West have made have been in direct response to San Francisco's ascendance. 

"I think the San Francisco 49ers are so formidable," Cowherd said Wednesday on "The Herd," "that it is forcing everybody in their division -- Seattle, the L.A. Rams and Arizona -- to take big swings. 

"When you wake up in the morning in that division and you look at San Francisco, you see what appears to be the best young coach in the NFL, the best tight end in the NFL, the best defensive line -- and most are really, really young and getting better. You have a better-than-average young franchise quarterback that could be there for 10 years, and a front office that appears to know what they're doing. It's scary."

Last season, the Seahawks signed Gordon off waivers in the week before their first matchup with the 49ers. San Francisco was undefeated (8-0) at the time. A few weeks prior, the Rams paid a king's ransom in trading for cornerback Jalen Ramsey. And earlier this offseason, the Cardinals traded for All-Pro receiver DeAndre Hopkins after the 49ers nearly won the Super Bowl.

While all of those players are extremely talented in their own right, Cowherd doesn't view the timing of those transactions as random. Rather, he sees them as attempts by those teams to do what they can to prevent the gap between them and San Francisco from growing any further. He equated it to the SEC's reaction to Alabama coach Nick Saban's dominance and the AFC East's response to the New England Patriots' superiority.

[RELATED: Bosa, 49ers entering 2020 season with 'win-now' mentality]

"San Francisco's not going away," Cowherd continued. "They just gave Kyle Shanahan another extension. [Jimmy] Garoppolo got to a Super Bowl in his first full year -- he's 21-5 -- as a starter. [Nick] Bosa is better than we thought he would be in the NFL. George Kittle is unguardable, and all those young receivers like Deebo [Samuel] appear to be getting better by the game.

"So I think at some point, there's a Niner fear in that division. You better take some big cuts and big swings and big chances, or you're gonna be buried by that Niner avalanche for a long time."

The 49ers deservedly have a target on their backs in the NFC West. That likely will only add to the challenge of getting back to the Super Bowl, but you can be sure any of their divisional opponents gladly would trade places.

[49ERS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

Kyle Shanahan glad John Lynch has to work out George Kittle's contract

Kyle Shanahan glad John Lynch has to work out George Kittle's contract

George Kittle's contract negotiation will continue to be the talk of 49ers training camp until the star tight end puts pen to paper.

The 49ers and Kittle reportedly still are far apart in negotiations as Kittle looks to secure a payday that sees him get paid as a top-pass catcher and not just a tight end.

As negotiations continue, coach Kyle Shanahan is happy to have Kittle at camp and is glad it's general manager John Lynch's job to work out the contract.

"That's why we're doing everything we can to make sure he's here for a long time," Shanahan said Thursday on KNBR's "Tolbert, Krueger & Brooks." "Lots of stuff to talk through with that. Stuff that I am very glad I don't get paid to do. I'm very glad I can sit here and talk mainly football, and enjoy that stuff with George. That's been great with him because he's been great in the walk-throughs, great in the meetings.

"I know right now, as we speak, every day, I know John's upstairs working his butt off talking to Kittle's agent, and those two are trying to work it out."

Kittle is entering the final year of a four-year contract he signed as a fifth-round draft pick in 2017. Kittle is set to make $2.133 million this season.

Since 2017, Kittle has emerged as the top tight end in football. He's not only a dominant force in the passing game but also is a key piece of the 49ers' rushing attack as one of the best blockers in the NFL. Kittle is the only tight end in 49ers history to record a 1,000-yard season and he set the NFL's single-season record for receiving yards by a tight end in 2018 with 1,377. He followed that up with 1,053 yards and five touchdowns in 14 games last season.

[RELATED: Shanahan already seeing Jimmy G take next step]

While negotiations haven't yielded anything yet, Shanahan has a good feeling everything will get done.

“We don’t have to say how important George is to us,” Shanahan said. “Not only being the best tight end, to me, in the league but also the type of person he is. We’re doing everything we can to get that done. I do feel good about it. It was great to see George today for the first time.

“It was great to see George again today. No one’s changed, and I feel really good about this going forward and I’m optimistic about it. Hopefully, something will happen sooner than later. I’m not too concerned about it, though."

The 49ers will pay Kittle, of that there is little doubt.

The only question remaining is: How much will the best tight in football settle for?

[49ERS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

Kyle Shanahan already seeing 49ers QB Jimmy Garoppolo take next step

Kyle Shanahan already seeing 49ers QB Jimmy Garoppolo take next step

After coming six minutes short of a Super Bowl title, the 49ers spent all offseason defending quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo.

Sure, they internally discussed bringing in Tom Brady, but Garoppolo was always going to be their guy. The 28-year-old is coming off a solid season that saw him complete 69.1 percent of his passes and finish in the top five in touchdowns (27), completion percentage (69.1) and yards per attempt (8.4) while leading the 49ers to a berth in Super Bowl LIV.

Both coach Kyle Shanahan and Garoppolo have been open and honest about the fact that the quarterback can make a big improvement during the 2020 season. Through the virtual offseason program and early on in training camp, Shanahan already is seeing Garoppolo take the next step and is confident his quarterback can make the necessary improvements in his second full season as a starter.

"Jimmy did some real good things, but he's just getting started," Shanahan said Thursday on KNBR's "Tolbert, Krueger & Brooks." "And that's why Jimmy's not a finished product. He's almost a second-year quarterback with a lot more mental experience because he's been around the league. But I'm excited for him to go into his second year, especially, last year when he came back, coming back from the ACL, just in training camp and stuff, he worked hard on all the mental stuff. But you can tell what a guy's concern is. When you're coming off an ACL, your concern is, 'Man, can I do this?' That takes a guy a while to get into stuff.

"Me seeing him now, talking to him on Zooms, but really just seeing him throwing with the wideouts on air, and getting into these walk-throughs, you can tell that he wasn't working on his ACL all offseason. He's been working on everything that he learned through his experiences of last season. And when you can do that, I don't see how you won't get better."

[49ERS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

Garoppolo was a little rusty during the first half of the 2019 season. Shanahan has admitted he relied more on the run game to try and ease his quarterback back into the flow after Garoppolo missed almost the entire 2018 season with a torn ACL.

But Garoppolo started to find a flow during the second half of the season, leading the 49ers to come-from-behind wins against the New Orleans Saints and Los Angeles Rams. The 49ers didn't ask a lot of Garoppolo in the NFC playoffs, as they used their running game to steamroll the Minnesota Vikings and Green Bay Packers.

Garoppolo had an up-and-down performance in Super Bowl LIV against the Kansas City Chiefs. He was efficient during the second and third quarters when the 49ers built their lead, but the later overthrow of Emmanuel Sanders is the play that will stick in everyone's mind.

[RELATED: Jimmy G makes positive first impression on Williams]

Garoppolo and the 49ers enter the 2020 NFL season with revenge on their mind.

Armed with a loaded roster that is ready to win now, the 49ers are primed to get back to the Super Bowl and finish the job this time around.

If Garoppolo can make the leap Shanahan expects out of him, that could be the final piece in a championship puzzle for the 49ers.