April 24, 2018

San Francisco 49ers
INSIDE SLANT

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  49ers have hope with Garoppolo

The San Francisco 49ers have fired coaches the past three years after eight-, five- and two-win seasons.

So where does 6-10 leave the fourth guy?

Dumb question.

Few teams in the history of the NFL have ever been more excited about a six-win season than the 49ers. Head coach Kyle Shanahan's job not only is safe, but it's more likely he will be greeted at the Levi's Stadium gate by a statue next season than a "No Trespassing" sign.

You want improvement? The 49ers were one of just two teams to go winless in September and October, and the only team to go unbeaten in December.

That's borderline amazing.

Some outside-the-box analyst will give Shanahan his/her Coach of the Year vote. But truth be told, the first-year head coach must share the accomplishment with several people.

That list starts with general manager John Lynch, who handed New England its biggest loss of the season when he stole the Patriots' backup quarterback, Jimmy Garoppolo, for a second-round pick that got less valuable by the week.

Then, of course, there's Garoppolo, the best first-five-games quarterback in 49ers history.

And throw in veterans such as left tackle Joe Staley, running back Carlos Hyde, strong safety Eric Reid and kicker Robbie Gould, who easily could have used a slow start as a way out, as someone no less accomplished as linebacker NaVorro Bowman did.

Now everyone wants to stay. Even the coach.

And for a change, he will.

WHAT WENT RIGHT: New 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan stuck with Brian Hoyer and C.J. Beathard long enough to ensure a high draft pick, then switched to Jimmy Garoppolo, who won back the fans.

WHAT WENT WRONG: The season ended. Imagine an all-in NFL postseason. Anyone betting against the only team that went unbeaten in December?

MOST DISAPPOINTING PLAYER: Outside linebacker Aaron Lynch. Now you see why this physically imposing guy bounced around from program to program in college. Great talent. Minimal results. His inconsistency and injuries are equally agonizing.

MOST SURPRISING PLAYER: Kicker Robbie Gould. Who'd have thought the 49ers could let Phil Dawson go and actually upgrade without using a draft pick? The nearly perfect Gould, basically a scrap-heap find in the offseason, was far and away the team MVP among guys who were around for more than half the season.

ASSISTANT COACH ON THE RISE: DeMeco Ryans. The recently retired player learned the coaching ropes as the defensive quality control coach in 2017. He has a lot of fans in the coaching ranks, and could be in line to become a full-time position coach, or possibly even a coordinator, in the very near future