No one is denying the 49ers had an ugly season in 2020. The campaign likely will be remembered as a lost cause, due to early high-profile injuries and a month-plus relocation to the desert to wrap up the season.
Now the real hard work starts for general manager John Lynch and coach Kyle Shanahan. The NFL’s salary cap is expected to shrink to around $175 million next season instead of expanding to $210 million as it did in pre-coronavirus projections, and the 49ers’ quarterback situation could be in flux.
Former Dallas Cowboy and current NFL Media analyst Michael Irvin spent most of the prime of his playing career trying to top the 49ers to reach the Super Bowl. But Irvin had nothing but good things to say about San Francisco -- especially the Shanahan-Lynch duo -- on 95.7 The Game's "Damon, Ratto & Kolsky" earlier this week.
"I think they're the best two working together and getting things done and knowing what they want to get done,” Irvin said. “[Shanahan] sees [the sport] better than all of us see it. He knows the things he wants to get done with his offense.”
The 49ers are hoping that 2020 was just an outlier for the Lynch-Shanahan era, which will enter Year 5 when the NFL’s new league calendar starts March 17. The goal is obviously to return to the Super Bowl.
When it comes to power coach-GM tandems around the league, other successful duos include Kansas City Chiefs general manager Brett Veach and coach Andy Reid, and Buffalo Bills general manager Brandon Beane and coach Sean McDermott. The Chiefs and Bills recently met in the AFC Championship, proof that strong leadership pays dividends in the NFL.
The biggest question for Lynch and Shanahan this offseason is what to do under center. Many are expecting the team to part ways with Jimmy Garoppolo and pursue an upgrade at quarterback before the 2021 season starts.
“What is his demand?” Irvin said. “Who else out there wants him and how badly do they want him? See what I mean? There are some teams that I’m sure will go after Stafford. Stafford’s known as an experienced quarterback in this league. So there are some teams that will go after Stafford. You would have to measure up against those teams, but I do think it would be somewhat of an upgrade.”