Editor’s note: The 49ers break for the bye week with a 2-8 record. This is part of a series that recaps the first 10 games with an eye to the future. In this installment, we look at what the 49ers need to show in the final six games.
After the five-game win streak, the 49ers posted at the end of the 2017 season. Having only two wins after Week 10 in 2018 is not what anyone expected. Barring a miracle, the 49ers won’t make it to the postseason, but there is still a lot to play for.
Before his players left the facility for their week off, Coach Kyle Shanahan gave them a few things to think about. His most important message was that the season is far from over.
“I want them to really reflect on the season so far,” Shanahan said, “and what they want coming back in these six games. We’ve got six games coming back. Lot of football to play, and a lot of important football to play.”
“I want them to sit there and really think of what their goals are for the rest of the half. Do they want to solidify themselves as a starter, a backup? Do they want to be a part of it here? Do they want to be one of the answers or a solution to what we're going through?”
“And really when they think about all that and they understand it all and what they want, which I'm sure they all have high aspirations, I want their actions to come back and show that.”
Shanahan himself reflected on the way the team finished in 2017. He noted how several rookies stepped up when called upon. He is looking for the same type of effort and performance at the end of the current season to determine who is deserving of a place at the table.
[RELATED: Mullens earns respect from Shanahan]
There is a lot to prove for several bubble players who need to show they are worthy of a roster spot. Many have had substantial playing time as a result of injuries. Players like safety Antone Exum Jr., and linebacker Elijah Lee find themselves playing for a future spot with the 49ers or even another team.
Shanahan and his staff will be looking at everything heading into the second half of the season. That includes the mettle of their players from the top tier to the bottom. Even though players like tight end George Kittle, defensive lineman DeForest Buckner and corner back Richard Sherman have played very well through their ten games, he says they can always do better
“I think there are guys that are doing some good things,” Shanahan said. “But, even the guys who are doing the best, I still think there's even more.”
Shanahan put the onus on himself and his staff to get more from their players as well.
“My goal is to get our guys to play the best they possibly can,” Shanahan said. “Whoever is in our building, to get them to play the best they can. I believe that we can get more out of our guys. I believe that's up to myself, I believe that’s up to coaches and I believe it's up to the players.”
At the conclusion of 2018, both Shanahan and general manager John Lynch will have four years remaining on their six-year contracts. Yet, they both know that there is no time for regression and player injuries are no excuse. They need to show progress, and they need to do it consistently and immediately.
“You're always playing for something,” Shanahan said. “This league does not have patience. I don't have patience. No one in this league has patience.”