November 20, 2017

San Francisco 49ers
INSIDE SLANT

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  One win changes everything for 49ers

One win and one trade.

Rarely has one and one added up to so much.

Such is the current state of the San Francisco 49ers as they enter their bye week with the second-worst record in the NFL.

But second-worst means second-best when it comes to the 2018 draft, which has taken a completely different outlook in the wake of the aforementioned trade.

As of Halloween 2017, the 49ers are no longer moving forward with just head coach Kyle Shanahan, a promising rookie class, a bunch of high future draft picks and a boatload of cap space.

They also have quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo.

Sunday's win over the New York Giants will go down as many things. Shanahan's first. A testimony to perseverance. A never-to-be-forgotten day in the life of Marquise Goodwin.

But make no mistake: It was also the first 49ers win in the recruitment of Garoppolo, who many envision as the link to the glory days of Joe Montana and Steve Young, even as others warn he can become a free agent at season's end.

With just one win, it suddenly doesn't seem like such a mistake to rush Garoppolo into the starting lineup against Seattle in the first game after the bye.

Albeit against the lifeless Giants, the 49ers proved they can protect their quarterback. And equally important, they demonstrated it's possible the new guy could deliver a win or two as momentum-gatherers heading into the draft, free agency and, eventually, next season.

It's one reason players, coaches and even front-office personnel celebrated the 31-21 victory over the Giants like a division-clincher.

"It's easy to lose a team when you just haven't won," 49ers general manager John Lynch explained in the aftermath of the win. "That's what this business is all about. When you're not (winning), it can be miserable.

"I think the fact that everyone feels that positive energy and sees progress despite the fact that it wasn't showing up on the win-loss record. And that's why you saw a 46-year-old GM bouncing around with our players. It was fun. That's what makes this league so special."

Lynch and Shanahan also could have been celebrating the end of a 10-game stretch in which the 49ers have already dealt with the three powers of the NFC East Washington, Philadelphia and Dallas as well as Carolina.

Rematches with Seattle and the Los Angeles Rams remain, interspersed with four chances for Garoppolo to shine Chicago, Houston, Tennessee and Jacksonville.

If the 49ers somehow remained motivated to show up at 0-9 and in the wake of a cumulative 93-30 drubbing the previous three weeks, it's easy to envision a positive outlook for the rest of the season.

After all, Lynch and Shanahan only have so many draft picks and so much money with which to fill in around their new quarterback. Those with the best attitudes among the other 52 on the active roster stand the best chance to get invited back next season.

"We want to continue to see who's responding, who is going to be a part of this moving forward," Lynch noted. "But we also want to raise that standard. After a win like against the Giants, yeah, we were elated in the locker room.

"But that didn't keep us and the coaches from going in there and coaching hard and saying, 'Hey, guys, we won, but we can be so much better if we tighten up some of these details.' We're going to continue to develop that as part of our culture."

Only with a real quarterback moving forward