The longest regular season in NFL history is over. It is now just a memory.
New memories will be formed over the next month for some teams.
Through all the ups and downs, the 49ers are one of 14 teams still alive in what shapes up as a more-balanced NFL postseason than, perhaps, we’ve ever before seen.
Let’s kick off this postseason edition of 49ers Overreactions:
When the 49ers decided to keep Jimmy Garoppolo this season, the comparison they made was what the Kansas City Chiefs did in 2017 with Alex Smith and Patrick Mahomes.
Smith started that season and Kansas City went 10-6 and qualified for the playoffs. He was traded to Washington after the season for cornerback Kendall Fuller and a third-round draft pick.
Regardless of what happens from here, there are three major reasons it does not benefit the 49ers to hold onto Garoppolo past this season:
1. After the 2022 season, they would not be able to trade him because his contract would be expiring.
2.The 49ers can invest the money saved on his $25 million salary for 2022 on players they want to retain as part of the team’s long-term strategy.
3. Based on how Trey Lance developed during the season, he should be ready to take over in 2022, just as Mahomes did for Kansas City in 2018.
It seems everyone on the team knows this is it for Garoppolo, as Albert Breer reported in the MMQB. Garoppolo described a moment before Sunday’s game when fullback Kyle Juszczyk approached him in the locker room.
Said Garoppolo, “And we hugged, and he was like, ‘Man, I don’t want to get emotional or anything, but this is our last regular-season game together.’”
There is no scenario in the world in which winning a Super Bowl is a bad thing. It might even create a better trade market for Garoppolo, which would be a win-win and benefit the organization in the future.
We’re in agreement that two wins within the division are not a recipe for any kind of sustained success.
Now, look at some of the players who have been acquired since the 2017 offseason: George Kittle, Deebo Samuel, Nick Bosa, Fred Warner, Trent Williams, and Juszczyk. Those players are among the absolute bests at their positions.
Then, toss in some others, such as Elijah Mitchell, Brandon Aiyuk, D.J. Jones, Dre Greenlaw, Azeez Al-Shair, and, perhaps, Ambry Thomas.
Don't forget: This organization went from a complete and thorough rebuild to the Super Bowl in Year 3, and that is impossible unless there were a lot more home runs than strikeouts.
The 49ers’ pass defense ranked sixth in the NFL, allowing just 206.5 yards passing per game. In the final three games of the regular season, the 49ers allowed 175 yards passing per game. Enough said.
The 49ers have a much better defense with linebacker Dre Greenlaw and cornerback Emmanuel Moseley on the field.
That was apparent in how the 49ers held the high-powered L.A. Rams offense to just 265 yards of total offense in Week 18.
Robert Saleh held the 49ers’ defensive coordinator position for four seasons before he landed his head-coaching gig last offseason with the New York Jets.
I don’t believe DeMeco Ryans will be hired in this coaching cycle, but I would not rule it out, either. And that was something that most certainly was not being talked about following Saleh’s first or second season as 49ers’ defensive coordinator.
Shanahan sounds like a person who has thought ahead about what he would do if Ryans was one-and-done as the 49ers' defensive coordinator.
“It’s a matter of time with him,” Shanahan said of Ryans landing a head-coaching job. “So if a team comes calling, they'll get a hell of a one, but I don't want to lose him, yet.”
Robbie Gould came through in the clutch for the 49ers in Week 18. He averaged 45.0 yards on two emergency punts in the second half after Mitch Wishnowsky was declared out with a concussion.
Wishnowsky was mired in a big-time slump over the final five games of the regular season. He got worse with each game. His downturn came just as he had two of his better games as a punter in Weeks 12 and 13 against Minnesota and Seattle.
His kickoffs have been even more disappointing than his punting. It looks as if his leg is dead. Gould is handling the kickoff chores now, too.
The 49ers head to Dallas this weekend. It is a game that can go either way.
The 49ers have what it takes to beat any team in the playoffs. But it can also swing the other way. The 49ers can lose to any team in the postseason, beginning with this game against the Cowboys.
What the 49ers did against the Rams on Sunday will get them bounced from the playoffs. They cannot spot a team 17 points and expect to advance.
They need to be more efficient on offense, defense and special teams to make any kind of a postseason run.