You couldn't have drawn up a worse season than the one the 49ers have endured in 2020.
Expected to contend for a Super Bowl title, the 49ers saw just about every one of their star players go down with a severe injury. Nick Bosa, Solomon Thomas and Dee Ford have missed almost the entire season. George Kittle and Richard Sherman have spent extended time on IR, and quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo has battled two separate high ankle sprains and has played in only a handful of games.
The 6-9 49ers have indeed had a season from hell.
“We were six minutes away from being champions," coach Kyle Shanahan told The MMQB's Albert Breer. "We brought a lot of the guys back, ran into COVID, and by Week 2, we didn’t have the same team. ... We thought that was rock bottom, and it seems like 30 more things happened after that, all the way to being topped off with getting kicked out of your home.”
The 49ers have spent the last month playing their home games in Arizona after Santa Clara County shut down games and practices for competitive sports due to the growing number of COVID-19 cases.
Most teams would have folded a month ago, packed it in and said they'd try again next season. But Shanahan's 49ers have kept grinding and fighting despite being heavily undermanned. After stymying Arizona Cardinals star Kyler Murray in a 20-12 upset win on Saturday, Shanahan was proud of his team and is taking the positive from an otherwise forgettable season.
“Every year’s a different year, and you’ve got to work on that stuff,” Shanahan told Breer. “But we’ve got a foundation. We talk about it a lot, it took us a while to build our culture here and our standard for how we do things. Even though it takes a long time to build that, you can lose that stuff very fast. And the way that this season went, with us getting sent [to Arizona] and where we’re at, that was a big thing for us. We wanted to make sure we didn’t lose everything that took so long to build. And even though our record doesn’t show it, I don’t feel like we have.
“Our guys are made of the right stuff, they’re doing things the right way and they’re going to give us a lot of tough decisions at the end of the year. I know we can’t bring every single person back, but there’s not one person we don’t want to bring back. So we’re going to try to get as much settled and go into this offseason and figure out every avenue to improve our team, and I can’t wait. Gonna enjoy these last eight days, but I’m also looking forward to getting them over with, so we can all rest, recover and come out swinging next year.”
The 49ers will finish their season Sunday when they host the Seattle Seahawks at State Farm Stadium. Then, a critical offseason will begin in which the 49ers will likely have to find a new defensive coordinator, rebuild their secondary and perhaps address their quarterback situation.
The 49ers, like the rest of us, will be glad to have 2020 in their review mirror. But it just might end up being an important rung in their ladder back to the top.