The plan was for Jimmy Garoppolo to build on the excellent numbers he produced last season while guiding the 49ers to the Super Bowl and take the next step to the top echelon of NFL quarterbacks. But not much has gone according to plan for the 2020 49ers in this peculiar season where nothing has seemed quite right for San Francisco from the very start. That’s particularly true at quarterback, where not even Plan B (Nick Mullens) or Plan C (C.J. Beathard) has worked out well for the team.
Garoppolo, indecisive in the pocket and throwing late, could not lead the 49ers to a fourth-quarter comeback victory in the opener against Arizona, a task he had been successful at four times during the team’s dominant 2019 season. That set the early tone for the season, and Garoppolo’s development was further thwarted by a high ankle sprain early in Week 2 at New York, an injury that kept him out the next 2½ games. Garoppolo had the worst start of his career upon his return in Week 5, making observers wonder if he should have even been out on the field.
Mullens was terrific in his Week 3 start in place of Garoppolo, running the offense superbly and passing for 343 yards during a 369 rout over the New York Giants. But his weaknesses were exposed in Week 4 against Philadelphia, when Mullens committed three killer turnovers and was eventually pulled in favor of Beathard, who looked good leading a late rally against the Eagles’ soft prevent defense. But when getting a longer look after Garoppolo was pulled in Week 5, Beathard looked like a fourth-year quarterback who had made little improvement since the last time he played in a game in 2018.
Bottom line: The 49ers felt so good about their quarterback room entering this season while carrying three players on their active roster at the position for the second consecutive year. That faith has to be rattled a bit after what they’ve seen over the first half of 2020, and the pressure will be on Garoppolo to lift his game and keep the 49ers in playoff contention against a gauntlet of playoff contenders over the second half of the season.
RUNNING BACKS: A
Bulked up and eager to continue his progress as the team’s lead back, Raheem Mostert is a big play waiting to happen, as he displayed in very quick fashion by taking a short pass 76 yards for a touchdown in the opener and taking a quick pitch 80 yards for a touchdown in Week 2, producing the fastest time recorded by a NFL player over the past five years during that run. Mostert has added some strength and tackle-breaking power to his elusiveness and likely would be near the top of the leaderboard for NFL rushers if he hadn’t missed two weeks with a sprained knee. As it is, Mostert led all NFL rushers with a 7.0 average entering Week 6, illustrating what a fine weapon he has become.
Jerick McKinnon has looked very good at times in his return from the knee injury that kept him out over the past two seasons, averaging 5.5 yards as the top backup to McKinnon and also ranking among the team’s leading receivers as an outlet valve in the passing game.
Versatile four-time Pro Bowl fullback Kyle Juszczyk remains a receiving threat as well, and along with his quality blocking, even rushed for the first touchdown of his four seasons in a San Francisco uniform during Week 5.
Tevin Coleman averaged just 1.7 yards per carry before a knee injury took him down in Week 2, and Jeff Wilson was averaging just 2.4 yards in late October as the other short yardage back.
Bottom line: Mostert has suddenly blossomed into one of the most exciting gamebreakers in the NFL. The 49ers need to get him the ball, but they also need to keep him healthy. That’s why it’s essential they make optimum use of the rest of their capable backs moving forward.
WIDE RECEIVERS: C
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It was a season to remember. It was a season to forget. Either way, you look at it, it was the strangest of seasons for San Francisco that you will ever see. Looking back at the year that was to illustrate that point, The Niner Report has assembled the best, worst and most unconventional of the 49ers’ 2020 season.
TO BE DETERMINED…
49ers enter offseason with options at QB
TOP 8 Worst encore seasons
There have been plenty of tough acts to follow in the history of the 49ers franchise with a team that has five Super Bowl championships, seven Super Bowl visits, 16 trips to the NFC Championship game, and 27 playoff appearances. That kind of success has seen the 49ers enter many seasons over the years looking to take the next step to greatness or simply maintain it. That makes them fall and crash even worse when San Francisco failed to achieve those goals coming off triumphant seasons. The 2020 49ers know all about it, which lands them a place on this list of the worst encore seasons in franchise history.
SEASON IN REVIEW
Did somebody say Super Bowl hangover?
After building the 49ers into NFC champions with young talent during their first three years together — when San Francisco had a total of 40 rookies see action from 2017-2019 — the team’s leadership tandem of general manager John Lynch and coach Kyle Shanahan found themselves with considerably less draft capital at their disposal in the fourth year of their partnership.
GOOD MOVE OR BAD MOVE?
Revisiting 49ers’ 2020 personnel decisions
STOCK UP STOCK DOWN
STOCK UP STOCK DOWN
SOLD ON SALEH
Highly regarded DC likely to leave San Francisco after season for higher position
SHOPPING FOR A NEW DC
With the imminent departure of Robert Saleh during the offseason to a head coaching position elsewhere in the NFL, the 49ers will find themselves searching for a new defensive coordinator for the first time since 2017. With the defensive talent the 49ers have on hand, and San Francisco possessing a playoff-ready roster and one of the NFL’s most respected coaching staffs, the position will be attractive to a wide variety of candidates, including several veteran coaches who have had previous success in the league. Here’s a look at some top candidates who could be in the running to become San Francisco’s new DC in 2021.
TOP 10 Team executives
Achieving the highest level of success at every stop of his football lifetime, John Lynch climbed the ladder from collegiate star to nine-time NFL ProBowler to respected television analyst before he joined the 49ers as a first-time general manager in 2017. Since then, he’s become one of the men most responsible for building the franchise back into a champion with his shrewd moves and organizational acumen. Named the NFL’s 2019 Executive of the Year by the Pro Football Writers of America, Lynch has quickly earned his place on this list of the greatest team executives in 49ers history.
‘I've shown a glimpse of what I can do'
QUESTION SESSION WITH WR DENZEL MIMS
JC Deep Dive: Coaching candidates from college
On Nov. 27, Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer caught the attention of Jets fans when he mentioned Northwestern head coach Pat Fitzgerald as a possible candidate for Gang Green, if they make a coaching change.
Shoots from the hip
SEASON OF SAVINGS
If the Jets end up with the NFL’s worst record and land the first pick in the 2021 draft, there is a good chance they will select a quarterback.
The Jets had issues at cornerback this season, so it’s an area they could address with a few of their myriad 2021 draft picks.
Jones, Sanders, Baker's big play
Cornerback Byron Jones made quite an impact on the field in his first season with the Dolphins, but he also was recognized for his off-the-field work.
HOWARD'S FINEST HOUR
How and why the Dolphins cornerback ‘kept balling’ in 2020
Another major step forward
The 2020 season will end up being viewed as an undeniable success for the Dolphins, no matter the outcome of the final two games
THE SECOND CAREER OF MARTELLUS BENNETT
The former NFL tight end writes the kind of children’s books he would have loved as a kid.
Raiders have decision to make about oft-injured OT Brown