49ers rebuilding from the ground up

Cristian Medina,

On Feb. 3, 2013, the San Francisco 49ers were 7-yards away from a game-winning touchdown, but were unable to score and lost Super Bowl XLVII to the Baltimore Ravens.

Since then, it’s been nothing but downhill for the Niners as they’ve gone through numerous player and coaching changes, as well as the regression of their starting quarterback, Colin Kaepernick, who once showed much promise. Since the 2014 season, the 49ers have gone through two head coaches and compiled a combined record of 15-33.

After last season’s dismal 2-14 performance, team owner Jed York decided to make significant changes in hopes of laying the groundwork for resurrecting a franchise that showed potential to return to its dynasty days of just five years ago.

The 49ers cut ties with General Manager Trent Baalke and Head coach Chip Kelly last month. Baalke was the general manager since 2011 and had been with the team since 2005. Kelly was fired after just one season.

After an interview process that went longer than the other five teams with head coaching vacancies, the 49ers hired Atlanta Falcons offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan to take the helm moving forward after they lost to the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl on Feb. 6.

Shanahan, son of Super Bowl-winning head coach and former 49ers offensive coordinator Mike Shanahan, will have his work cut out for him but should fair well after leading the Atlanta Falcons to a Super Bowl appearance with the league’s highest scoring offense and the league’s most valuable player, quarterback Matt Ryan.

The 49ers made a surprise hire for general manager in former player John Lynch. Lynch was not publically in the running for the job until the day before he was hired and has no front office experience. He previously worked in broadcasting, but did win a championship in 2002 with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

He’ll have to surround himself with a staff of experienced scouts and player personnel experts if he wants to be successful. He’s already began doing this, most notably by hiring Denver Broncos Director of Scouting, Adam Peters, to be their vice president of player personnel.

Despite his lack of management experience, he’s no stranger to the football field; he played college football at Stanford and played 14 seasons in the NFL.

The hiring of Lynch can go either one of two ways for owner York. It can be a failure similar to that of former Detroit Lions President and General Manager Matt Millen. Millen, a former NFL player, left broadcasting and went straight into the front office with disastrous results. For the seven years Millen was in charge, the Lions combined record was 31-97, including the 2008 winless 0-16 season.

The second is it could be seen as a genius move that results in a Super Bowl win like that of the Denver Broncos and their Executive Vice president and General Manager, John Elway. Elway helped the Broncos win two Super Bowls as their quarterback in the 1990s and was hired in 2011 to run the team. While Elway technically had management experience as CEO and co-owner of an arena football team for five years, it’s definitely not the same as running an NFL team.

Shanahan and Lynch will have to rebuild a roster that is nearly void of top-level talent. Their first task will most likely be to find a new quarterback. According to several ESPN reports, Kaepernick will reportedly opt out of his contract in March making him an unrestricted free agent. Backup quarterback Blaine Gabbert is clearly not the answer, and while it’s possible Kaepernick could return to the team, the 49ers will likely look to the draft, trade and or free agency for their future quarterback.

Look for the the Niners to pursue quarterbacks like the Washington Redskins Kirk Cousins or New England Patriots backup quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. Getting Cousins would depend on what kind of franchise tag Washington places on him and whether or not the Niners would be willing to trade their number two overall draft pick this year as well as a first round pick in next year’s draft. The price tag for Garoppolo would also be very high.

The 49ers could also use their number two draft pick on a quarterback. Clemson’s Deshaun Watson and North Carolina’s Mitch Trubisky are names that are rumored by draft experts to be on the 49ers’ draft board. If they don’t use their second pick on a quarterback, the Niners could look to later rounds to fill that spot. Names to keep an eye out for are University of Miami’s Brad Kaaya and Cal’s Davis Webb who won the Senior Bowl Most Valuable Player award this year. It’s worth noting that last year’s Senior Bowl MVP was Dak Prescott, who led the Dallas Cowboys to the playoffs this year.

The hires of the Shanahan and Lynch should prove successful in the long run. All fans can do now is put their faith in this duo and hope that York stays out of most football decisions. The 49er rebuild has officially begun.