The preseason is not a reliable indicator of regular season success in the NFL. The 2008 Lions went undefeated in the preseason, then went on to be the first team to go winless in a 16 game regular season.
However, sometimes little snippets of games can give viewers both good and bad indicators about a team. This preseason, there is a team whose rebuilding process may not take as long as some people think.
Ever since Richard Sherman tipped away San Francisco’s Super Bowl hopes a few years ago, the 49ers franchise has cratered. They are coming off a pair seasons with just seven combined wins.
Rookie head coach Kyle Shanahan and new general manager John Lynch certainly have their work cut out for them, but they have made tremendous strides.
The third preseason game is the so-called “dress rehearsal.” San Francisco traveled to Minnesota last week. The 49ers starters ran the Vikings out of the building for a half.
Brian Hoyer was brought in to stabilize the quarterback situation while the 49ers look for the next young guy. Only time will tell if rookie C. J. Beathard can be that guy. For now though, Hoyer has a chance to guide this team to being very competitive very quickly.
Hoyer is not the kind of guy that a fan base is going to rally behind and buy his jersey, but he can get the job done under the right circumstances. He has been around for almost a decade, has a winning record as a starter and 18 more career touchdown passes than interceptions. There is zero pressure on Beathard to go out and resurrect this franchise right now. That is a beautiful thing.
Also, the 49ers have done a better job putting talent around Hoyer than people realize. Running back Carlos Hyde seems healthy and rejuvenated after getting lost in the shuffle last year. He has managed to put up almost 1800 total rushing yards in his first three seasons despite injuries and organizational dysfunction.
Wide receiver Pierre Garçon was also brought in via free agency and had his best statistical season in 2013 in a Redskins offense that was coordinated by Kyle Shanahan. Garçon also has not missed a game since 2012. Staying healthy and being productive is a rare but great combination to have for any wide receiver.
Honestly, it does not take much to turn an offense from laughable to decent in the NFL. At minimum, you need a serviceable quarterback, a running game that can take some pressure off the quarterback, and a reliable pass catcher or two. For the first time in a handful of years, the 49ers have all of those things in place.
On defense, the 49ers lack big names outside of linebacker Navarro Bowman, but that unit punctuated the relevant part of its preseason by shutting out Minnesota in the first half. Thanks to the ineffectiveness of Chip Kelly’s offense, they spent more time on the field than any other defense last year. That will not happen again this year. That alone should make for a significant improvement.
The brilliance of Kyle Shanahan cannot be overlooked, he has elevated every healthy quarterback he has ever worked with. He is a big reason for Matt Ryan’s MVP campaign last year and the rookie of the year campaign of Robert Griffin III in 2012. Much like his father who is a Super Bowl winning head coach, he knows how to put his players in the best position possible to succeed.
The playoffs might be a stretch for San Francisco this year, but they could flirt with .500. That would be quite an accomplishment considering where they were just a few months ago. The 49ers fan base has two things it has not had for a while, hope and optimism.