NFL

49ers Didn’t Improve At All this Off-Season

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It’s crazy to think just four years ago the San Francisco 49ers were yards away from winning the Super Bowl.

Today, they’re one of the NFL’s have-nots.

Following their Super Bowl run in 2012, the Niners went back to the NFC Championship Game, but fell short to arch rival Seattle.

Since then, San Francisco has missed the playoffs for consecutive seasons.

Nonetheless, things really went south last year when the Niners endured arguably the worst offseason in NFL history.

Former head coach Jim Harbaugh left for Michigan, guard Mike Lupati, running back Frank Gore and others left via free agency, while offensive tackle Anthony Davis and defensive players Patrick Willis, Chris Borland and Justin Smith all retired.

Oh yeah, promising edge rusher Aldon Smith was also released following his latest arrest.

Having said all of that, San Francisco exceeded some expectations by winning five games which is somewhat of an accomplishment considering how depleted their roster was and still is.

You’d think after such a horrendous offseason a year ago that general manager Trent Baalke would be more aggressive this time around. However, that has simply not been the case.

With the offseason essentially over, the 49ers have roughly $49 million in cap space to work with because they refused to use some of it to you know, actually get better.

Now, no one is expecting the 49ers to go from last to first this upcoming season, but it wasn’t asking too much to see some improvement this offseason. This past season, San Francisco finished 29th in total defense and 31st in total offense.

With such low rankings across the board, it screams San Francisco needs help any and everywhere, yet their biggest offseason transaction was the hiring of Chip Kelly.

On the bright side, if anyone could cater to Colin Kaepernick’s skill set, it would be Kelly. 

“[Kaepernick’s] worked as hard as anyone on this team in his rehab,” Kelly said. “He’s been great in every meeting we’ve had. He’s been in every single training session we’ve had. I have nothing but positive things to say about Kap, and I am excited about him. I think he is a heck of a football player.”

There’s been ongoing speculation surrounding the former second-round pick from Nevada on whether or not he would even be in a Niners uniform in 2016, but if you ask Kelly, he never doubted it.

“I never thought [he would leave], anyway” Kelly stated. “My thoughts haven’t changed since I sat down with you at the combine. That was my story then, and I am sticking to it.”

Although Blaine Gabbert exceeded some rock bottom expectations in 2015, it would be premature to assume he will automatically be the starter this season. To be quite frank, neither one of these guys are going to light the world up offensively and it doesn’t help that San Francisco didn’t upgrade at the wide receiver position.

When you other receiving options across from Torrey Smith are Quinton Patton and Bruce Ellington, there isn’t all that much to get excited about.

During San Francisco’s run, they excelled at the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball, which was an area of focus during the draft. With their first two picks, they selected defensive end DeForest Buckner and guard Joshua Garnett.

While those are good acquisitions, it’s still going to be another long year in the Bay Area.

San Francisco has arguably the worst roster in the NFL entering 2016 and they play in one of the toughest divisions with the Super Bowl champs of three years ago in Seattle, the NFC’s No. 2 seed last year in Arizona and a team that was competitive and should be improved in Los Angeles.

If Chip Kelly can navigate the 49ers to anything outside of picking in the Top-5 of next year’s draft (without trading), he should be given coach of the year consideration with this roster.


About Mark Gunnels

Mark Gunnels

Mark Gunnels is an NFL columnist for Football Insiders. He has several years of experience covering the NFL and NCAA football. He's the radio color commentator for Lincoln University football. Mark's work has been featured on Sports Illustrated, Fox Sports and Yard Barker.