49ers 2017 Season in Review: A Tale of Two Halves

The San Francisco 49ers and Jimmy Garoppolo had an unprecedented 2nd half surge in 2017, raising expectations for 2018.

The 2017-2018 San Francisco 49ers season was one of many ups and downs from the very start. The hiring of a Fox Sports analyst, John Lynch, as general manager on January 30, 2017, did not seem to inspire many, but he would soon prove to be an exceedingly valuable asset. The hiring of the offensive coordinator who orchestrated one of the greatest offenses in NFL history, Kyle Shanahan, was universally praised by everyone around the league. And with the announcement that both were given six-year contracts, the franchise finally had stability as they began their brick-by-brick rebuilding process. The first order of business was to build a sturdy coaching staff, led by the hiring of Robert Saleh, a former Seahawks and Jaguars assistant, as defensive coordinator to help turn the NFL’s 32nd ranked defense into a top unit.

Then came the flurry of free agent signings, which was to be expected with the 49ers abundance of cap space. The 49ers signed Brian Hoyer, whom they hoped to be their bridge QB to either a draft pick or possibly Kirk Cousins (remember when those rumors were everywhere). They added much needed talent and depth at wide receiver with Pierre Garcon, Aldrick Robinson, and Marquise Goodwin. They added offensive weapon Kyle Juszczyk and veterans Robbie Gould and Elvis Dumervil to help teach the young players and steer the team in the right direction.

Then the big night came, April 27, 2017, the 2017 NFL Draft, and the 49ers held the number 2 pick. Lynch and Co. orchestrated a draft night heist by trading down one spot with the Chicago Bears in exchange for Chicago’s first, third, fourth, and 2018 third-round selections, and still getting their prized player, EDGE Solomon Thomas. Armed with picks and John Lynch’s moxie, they moved back into the first round to take LB Reuben Foster, a top five talent with injury concerns, before finishing the draft with a lot of other important, talented players: Ahkello Witherspoon, CJ Beathard, George Kittle, Trent Taylor, and Adrian Colbert. The offseason set the 49ers up with a lot of talent that would be essential to their rebuilding process.

The season, however, did not start as planned. Brian Hoyer started the season 0-5 before being replaced by third-round rookie CJ Beathard, which many thought to be an improbable decision. Beathard didn’t have much success either, going 0-4 in his first four games, but sandwiched in between Beathard’s starts, the 49ers acquired Jimmy Garoppolo on October 30 — more on him later. Beathard led the 49ers to their first win of the season on November 12 against a dysfunctional Giants team, and started his final game, a loss, two weeks later against the Seahawks.

Sitting at 1-10, Shanahan made another change at QB, inserting Garoppolo into the starting role before the game against the Chicago Bears. The 49ers won the game 15-14, and while a one-point win over a 5-11 team may not seem like much, Jimmy G’s performance and some help from Robbie Gould planted the seed of hope into a 49ers locker room that seemed passive and wanted the season to be over. The next week the 49ers won again, a ten-point victory over the Texans. Then another victory, this time over the playoff-bound Titans. Then came the real test, a showdown against the NFL’s best defense, the Jaguars. Garoppolo made light work of them, going for 242 yards and three touchdowns (one rushing) on 70 percent completions, proving he’s the real deal. Garoppolo sealed his 5-0 record with the 49ers (7-0 overall as a starter) with a victory over the Los Angeles Rams backups, becoming the first 1-9 team to ever finish 6-10

In a season filled with front office moves and roster moves, it was one move that turned the 49ers season around. Jimmy Garoppolo brought the 49ers from the basement of the league to the top floor. No one laughs at the 49ers anymore, they’re contenders and are here to stay for a long time. Announced yesterday, the 49ers are 20-1 odds to win the Super Bowl next year –compared to the Raiders being 30-1.

Jimmy G now has a full offseason with the team to master the playbook, and the 49ers still have an exorbitant amount of cap space and a top ten pick in the draft to get Garoppolo weapons and continue rebuilding the defense. Watch out Rams and the rest of the NFC West, the 49ers are coming for the top spot in 2018, and maybe the rest of the league should be looking behind their shoulders too.

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