The goal, of course, is to build a contender that remains a contender on a yearly basis.
The 49ers emerged last season from the ruins of a 4-12 year that landed them the No. 2 overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft. The club came within a disastrous seven-minute stretch in the fourth quarter of winning Super Bowl LIV against the Kansas City Chiefs.
This is the season that Hall of Fame quarterback Steve Young believes will show whether the 49ers have what it takes to remain among the elite teams in the NFL in future years.
After all, Young said defensive coaching staffs around the league undoubtedly have spent countless hours during the COVID-19 months searching for ways to decode the 49ers’ offense.
“That will be tested this year and it’ll be fun to watch,” Young said during a virtual event to remember the late Dwight Clark. “Because if they can withstand that scrutiny and that intensity, that’s when you think, ‘Oh, we’re going to be great for a long time.’ Because that’s a big filter, a big hurdle to get through.
“One of the easier hurdles is coming from behind. People aren’t really ready for you. You get good really fast, and you kind of run through the season and run the table. It almost happened last year. That’s the best kind of way to do it. Now comes the hard work, and if they can do it this year, you got to think that they can do it every year for four or five years.”
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Coach Kyle Shanahan designed and called plays for an offense that ranked fourth in the NFL in yards gained and seconds in points at 29.9 per game during the regular season. The 49ers finished 13-3, won the NFC West and cruised through the NFC side of the bracket with 17-point victories over Minnesota and Green Bay.
“There’s an extra level of challenge this year because the rest of the league now knows that they are the kings,” Young said. “They’re everybody’s homecoming game. Every game that they play will be the biggest game that other teams play.
"The challenge will be put out there.”
Young still marvels at the offensive innovation he witnessed when the 49ers traveled to face the New Orleans Saints in December in a key game for NFC playoff seedings.
Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo threw for 349 yards and four touchdowns, and the 49ers rolled up 516 yards of total offense in 48-46 victory at the Superdome.
“It was a remarkable game to watch, the play-callers and the offensive coordination,” Young said. “I can’t remember ever feeling that way ever before where I just like, ‘My gosh, the innovation and what’s happening in this game is amazing.’ "
That game serves as a challenge to every defense on the 49ers' 2020 schedule, as well as a manual for offensive coaches, Young said.
“And, then, that game now, is now ... everyone in the world is going to run those plays, and learn how to defense those plays, right?" Young said.
“You got to know that most everything that Kyle and the 49ers did last year that was innovative, will now be ubiquitous throughout the league.”