It’s never a good sign to hear members of a team say they are “excited” to have a season finale, as the 49ers did this week.
You may be excited to go to the playoffs. Or happy to start the season. But if you’re excited about it being over, it must have been a real downer.
And that was that. If the 2019 season was a rocket ride to the glitter and fame of football’s biggest showcase game, 2020 was more like a long, hot bus ride across flat, informal landscapes. And the cherry on top was forced into confinement in a hotel away from home for over a month.
Milestones slipped out of reach as the season crept along. First, there was no chance of winning the division. So no playoffs. Followed by the reality that a winning season was impossible. And finally a hope to at least win the last game that goes out on a positive note.
None of that happened. And in the end, everyone, players, coaches and staff just wanted to get off the damn bus and get away.
“I want to be very far from the surface of the earth in the next month,” George Kittle said. “Do not try to find me or ask me questions. . . Please.”
Kyle Shanahan joked that he was so eager to get started that he had packed his bags two full days before departure. After the final crush to a loss for Seattle, assume that Shanahan was still more eager to travel.
The 26-23 defeat was more than just the season’s 10th loss. It encapsulated the season.
The Niners went on the field with their usual list of new and previously unknown players on the list of new and previously unknown due to an almost incredible number of injuries and the pandemic. They played pretty well early and even took a ten-point lead. But in crunchy times, they were executed by superior talent in Russell Wilson, and the now inevitable fumbling of the 49ers quarterback.
So it’s fine that the season is over. Because we do not need to see more of it. We understand that.
You are welcome to move on. Spend time debating the skills of draftable college quarterbacks. Assess the effect of Robert Saleh’s expected departure. Consider potential free agents. And, of course, continue to hurt the potential of Jimmy Garoppolo.
But before we do that, it’s worth looking back on. Security in 2020 certainly taught us some things. A few observations:
The smoothness of Shanahan’s keel remains: You may remember that one of the concerns the 49ers had about hiring Shanahan was the perception that he might be a little arrogant and abrupt. And as the media noted in the first three years, he has been anything but. In fact, he has gone out of his way to be cooperative and provides long, thoughtful answers to questions.
But honestly, it’s not hard to pull off when you’re heading to the Super Bowl. Let’s see how he feels when he only wins six games. You’ve seen football coaches like Bill Belichick or Alabama’s Nick Saban who get uncomfortable when asked a tough question.
But Shanahan stayed cool. Unless I missed it, he did not become defensive or snapped back. His calm was so noticeable that a reporter asked Shanahan how he can be so fiery on the sidelines but composed in post-game interviews.
First, he said, “I think I’ve been doing this for a long time.”
Which, even if we think of him as a young coach, is true. He’s only 41, but he spent 15 years as an assistant before taking over the 49ers four years ago.
And then he made a real veteran movement, a shout to journalists.
“When you don’t win and stuff like that, I expect to have tough questions,” he said. “But also when I give you a soft compliment, I also think you have been quite good to us. I’ve had some places (Washington? Cleveland?) That are not so good. So not to be confused with really good, but you guys are respectful, I try to be respectful in answering your questions. ”
And that’s how you handle the media. A little warning that made the media not think he was saying they were “really good” sounds like classic Shanahan. Never one to throw too many compliments. It makes me wonder if he has ever been happy with one of his quarterbacks. Nothing wrong with a little back-patting. Just a thought.
It’s true, QB is the most important player: Do not take my word for it, ask Shanahan. When asked what it takes to have a consistently successful franchise, he went straight to the guy they give the ball to start each game.
“I think the key to long-term success is to have the right quarterback all the time and then have a good coaching staff and a good human resources department,” he said. “I think if you look. . . all the teams that have good quarterbacks in the last decade, with good coaches and good staff departments, they have a chance to be in the playoffs year in and year out. ”
There’s a reason guys who can hurry passers-by get the big bucks: This enduring image of the 49ers season 2020 is the sight of Nick Bosa leaving the course on a golf cart. This injury, and do not forget Dee Ford, made a huge difference. The numbers are the thing. In 2019, they fired the quarterback 48 times. In 2020, it was 30.
And finally, now that everyone can attend Zoom Press conferences, people are fooling our media questions: Been there done that. Let’s just say that it is not easy to ask perceptive questions at short notice, especially now that they are being broadcast live. I know I’ve asked some really stupid ones.
I keep working on it. Is not that what the low season is for?