49ers

How 49ers pioneer Katie Sowers views her historic Super Bowl debut

How 49ers pioneer Katie Sowers views her historic Super Bowl debut

MIAMI, Fla. -- When the 49ers take the field Sunday in Super Bowl LIV against the Kansas City Chiefs, history will be made. 

49ers offensive analyst Katie Sowers will become the first woman and first openly gay coach ever to coach in the Super Bowl. A historic moment that isn't lost on her, but she knows her barrier-breaking moment only matters if progress continues to be made. 

"Being the first, it is historic," Sowers told NFL Network on Monday at Super Bowl Opening Night. "I mean there always has to be a first to make change. But the most important thing that I continue to say is to make sure I'm not the last."

Sowers first linked up with coach Kyle Shanahan on an internship in 2016 while Shanahan was with the Falcons and he brought her onto his staff when he took the 49ers' job in 2017. Shanahan's belief in Sowers has led her to history's doorstep.

"I think I allowed him to see who I am, what my dreams were, what my goals were and he truly believed in diversity within the NFL and he was happy to help me, which I am so grateful for. He truly became a mentor, taught me the culture and really led me to where I am." 

Cornerback Richard Sherman is aware of the history Sowers is about to make. He believes the 49ers employing Sowers shows the organization has the right mindset when hiring staff. 

"I think it's something that I notice and I care about but I don't try to over acknowledge it because it should be that way," Sherman said Monday. "So if you treat it like a norm then you can't try to treat it any different because it should be how it is everywhere. It should be about who does the job the best. Not if you're a man, a woman; if you're black, white, orange, pink yellow. Whatever it is. It's about who can do the job the best and that's what I think I appreciate about the 49ers' organization is all they care about is who can do the job at the highest level, effectively and they don't care about the race or gender or any of the rest of it." 

[RELATED: Chiefs' Clark eyes 'holding trophy;' not matchup with Kittle]

Sowers works primarily with the wide receivers, and young pass-catchers like Deebo Samuel and Kendrick Bourne has shown great growth during the season. 

For Sowers, she helps them by using something legendary coach Bill Walsh believed was imperative to foster growth. 

"I believed in them," Sowers said of her work with the wide receivers. "Bill Walsh used to always say, 'the most important thing you can tell someone is I believe in you.' And that's what I continue to reiterate to my players. It's amazing the growth that happens when you just tell them, 'I believe in you.'"

Sowers has great belief in her players, as they do in her. Sunday they'll make history. Together. 

Programming note: NBC Sports Bay Area feeds your hunger for 49ers Super Bowl coverage with special editions of “49ers Central” all week (8 p.m. Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, 9 p.m. Tuesday and 3 p.m. Saturday).

Also tune in at 1 p.m. on Super Bowl Sunday for a two-hour special of "49ers Pregame Live" with Laura Britt, Donte Whitner, Jeff Garcia, Ian Williams, Kelli Johnson, Greg Papa and Grant Liffmann. That same crew will have all the postgame reaction on "49ers Postgame Live," starting immediately after the game.

How 49ers can compete with Patrick Mahomes, Chiefs after huge contract

How 49ers can compete with Patrick Mahomes, Chiefs after huge contract

Patrick Mahomes always will be "the one that got away." Not just for the 49ers, not just for the Chicago Bears, but for a handful of teams.

Mahomes somehow fell to the Kansas City Chiefs with the No. 10 pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, and now he isn't going anywhere for a long, long time. ESPN's Adam Schefter reported Monday that Mahomes and the Chiefs have agreed to a 10-year contract extension through 2031 worth $450 million.

The 49ers, who owned the No. 2 pick in the 2017 draft and selected Solomon Thomas after trading back one spot with the Chicago Bears, saw firsthand Mahomes' greatness on the brightest stage just five months ago. San Francisco forced Mahomes into two interceptions and sacked the 2018 NFL MVP four times. Still, that wasn't enough. 

Mahomes and the Chiefs trailed the 49ers by 10 points with just over six minutes remaining in Super Bowl LIV. They then scored 21 unanswered points, beating the 49ers 31-20. In the blink of an eye, Mahomes stole the Lombardi Trophy from Jimmy Garoppolo and the rest of the 49ers. 

While they don't play in the same conference, Mahomes staying in Kansas City for at least the next dozen years is a significant obstacle in the 49ers winning their first championship since the 1994 season. How can they compete with the Chiefs long-term for their own Super Bowl rings? Here are three keys to a tough task. 

Jimmy G's development 

This is where I put on my Captain Obvious hat. Yes, it all starts with Garoppolo, who was playing as good or better than Mahomes for much of the 49ers' Super Bowl loss. But Garoppolo fell short, there's no denying that. 

We also have to remember this was Garoppolo's first full season in Kyle Shanahan's system, one year after tearing his ACL. Yet he still led the 49ers to 13 regular-season wins while passing for nearly 4,000 yards, and completed 69.1 percent of his pass attempts. Garoppolo wasn't on Mahomes' level last season, but he was very good. 

The simple fact is Garoppolo ranked in the top five in the NFL in touchdowns (27), completion percentage and yards per attempt (8.4). He deserves more respect, and his coach feels the same way. 

“Jimmy was one of the better quarterbacks in the league (last) year, and there’s still a ton of room to grow, though,” Shanahan said during the 49ers’ State of the Franchise virtual event. “And he knows that. I know that. To have only one year in this league for him to do what he did is very exciting.

“I can’t wait to get started with him this year. And I expect him to get better and better each week.”

The 49ers have defended Garoppolo all offseason. He has his faults, sure. He also is one of the better QBs in the league. If the 49ers are to make multiple championship runs, Garoppolo has to continue developing his game. 

It all starts with Jimmy G. 

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

Re-sign George Kittle

The offense starts with Garoppolo, but Kittle might be the biggest key to the cog. There's a reason why he was Pro Football Focus' highest rated player in the game last season. 

Kittle is football's biggest unicorn. He's part bruising offensive lineman and part bulldozing receiver. The tight end truly is the best of both worlds. He also is due for a huge payday. 

San Francisco's All-Pro is set to be a free agent after this season. The goal is, however, to never let him get there. His agent believes Kittle will be a 49er long-term, but it will take a hefty new contract.

“George is a very special player. He needs a special contract,” Bechta said to NBC Sports Bay Area's Matt Maiocco on the 49ers Insider Podcast. “And those things take time for both sides. It’s a nice problem for everybody to have.

“At the end of the day, I trust the Niners will do the right thing and take good care of George, as they should. But I trust the process. I won’t comment where we’re at, or numbers or anything like that. But hopefully it gets done.”

It has to get done. The 49ers are a Porsche with Kittle on the field, and a beat up Honda Civic -- à la my own car that's used as drivers in The City's favorite target practice -- without him.

[RELATED: Lott believes Shanahan is 49ers' modern version of Walsh]

Keep Fred Warner long-term

For how important Kittle is to the 49ers' offense, Warner nearly has as big of an impact to the defense. He is the perfect hybrid linebacker in today's modern NFL, one who can actually slow down elite QBs like Mahomes and Lamar Jackson. 

In the Super Bowl alone, Warner put on a show. He had seven tackles, one pass defensed and intercepted Mahomes.

Warner has averaged 121 tackles through his first two seasons in the league. Even more importantly, he's dominant in the pass game. He already is among the best linebackers when it comes to breaking up passes, and had a 74.5 coverage grade across 1,166 total snaps last season. That was the fifth-best grade of any linebacker who played at least 1,000 snaps.

Through two seasons with the 49ers, Warner has three interceptions and 15 passes defensed. He also added three sacks and three forced fumbles last season. 

Warner, a 2018 third-round pick, is signed through the next two seasons. The 49ers have to keep him in the Bay Area for much longer.

Everything starts with Garoppolo and Kittle is the engine that makes the offense run. Warner, however, is at the forefront of a breed of linebackers who can change the game on defense, even giving stars like Mahomes headaches for years to come.

49ers sign cornerback Jamar Taylor, waive Teez Tabor to clear roster spot

49ers sign cornerback Jamar Taylor, waive Teez Tabor to clear roster spot

The 49ers made a move at cornerback Monday, as the team announced it has signed Jamar Taylor to a one-year deal. The 49ers waived cornerback Teez Tabor with a non-football injury in a corresponding move.

Taylor, a Boise State product, was drafted with the 54th overall pick in the 2013 NFL Draft by the Miami Dolphins. During his seven-year career, Taylor has played for the Dolphins, Cleveland Browns, Arizona Cardinals, Denver Broncos, Atlanta Falcons and Seattle Seahawks.

He has appeared in 90 games (41 starts), registered 236 tackles, 31 passes defensed, three interceptions, two forced fumbles and one fumble recovery. Last season with the Seahawks and Falcons, Taylor played in 12 games, notching 21 tackles and three passes defensed.

[RELATED: Lott believes Shanahan is modern version of Walsh]

Tabor signed with the 49ers in February after spending most of last season on the team's practice squad.

Taylor will join a talented secondary which has one of the NFL's elite cornerback trios and was the best passing defense in the league last season.

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