SANTA CLARA -- After the final preseason game and with the regular season just a week away, optimism was at a high for the 49ers.
The 49ers were considered a trendy pick to challenge the Los Angeles Rams in the NFC West and contend for a playoff spot.
But five games into the season, the more realistic outcome is a record that will produce one of the top draft picks. The 49ers have lost three consecutive games and sit at 1-4 with a Monday date against the Green Bay Packers on the horizon.
“I totally understand the frustration and I understand the question with our record,” 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said. “You go into last year and a lot of people were expecting it more last year, so we didn’t get it quite as much. The way we finished, I totally expect people to be more frustrated because I think people did have higher expectations going into this year. So did we.”
Much of the optimism was based on the late-season play of quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, who took over after the 49ers opened 1-10, and the addition of running back Jerick McKinnon. Shanahan hand-picked McKinnon from the free-agent class for his ability to run and catch passes out of the backfield. Shanahan envisioned an offense predicated on creating matchup dilemmas in the middle of the field with McKinnon, fullback Kyle Juszczyk and tight end George Kittle.
But on the day teams were required to reduce their regular-season rosters to 53 players, McKinnon went down with a torn ACL, which required season-ending surgery.
Then, In the third game, Garoppolo sustained a torn ACL, bringing his season to an abrupt end.
“I think it was a tough blow early in the year, as everyone knows, losing McKinnon and then losing our starting quarterback,” Shanahan said. “So I do think that takes a toll and I think everyone understands that. But that doesn’t mean that we can’t win games.”
The 49ers been in every game this season – whether Garoppolo or C.J. Beathard was playing quarterback.
The 49ers struggled in the red zone in Week 1 in a 24-16 loss at Minnesota. After defeating Detroit in the home opener, the 49ers rallied to get within striking range in a 38-27 loss at Kansas City. They blew a two-touchdown lead in a 29-27 loss to the Los Angeles Chargers. And, then, the 49ers committed five turnovers and lost to previously winless Arizona, 28-18, in Week 5.
“We’ve played in two games now without Jimmy, and I think we have been more than capable of winning both of those games and we haven’t gotten it done,” Shanahan said. “So you try to look at that and you just try to say to the players, ‘Why did we lose those games? What did we do good and what did we do bad?’
“I think we have the players. I think we have strong enough people who can deal with it and man up and find a way to win. It’s never easy. It definitely gets harder when you do have injures and things like that. But we have people in here who can win games.”