Jim O\'Connor-USA TODAY Sports

Jim O'Connor-USA TODAY Sports



Every February football season dies and every July it is born again. There are just a few short hours left until the polished gold helmets sparkle under the Santa Clara sun. Nary the sound of plastic pads echoing off the glass luxury suites at Levi's Stadium and we're already knee deep in bold predictions on the final San Francisco 49ers roster.

In an article published on July 24, NFL Media Editor Gregg Rosenthal listed 49ers running back Carlos Hyde as a surprise training camp cut.

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Coach Kyle Shanahan was going to be "sick" and dreaming of rookie Joe Williams if the team didn't draft him, according to the MMQB's Peter King. So general manager John Lynch wound up trading up to get a guy in Williams who wasn't even on his draft board.

Compare that investment -- emotional and otherwise -- with the team's lukewarm appraisals of Hyde this offseason. A talented and extremely elusive runner, Hyde has one year left on a contract signed three head coaches ago. He's admittedly the biggest long shot to lose his job on this list, but Shanahan and Lynch are just starting their extreme makeover and have proven they are ready to act with conviction.

Naturally, Rosenthal's addition of Hyde set fire to social media news feeds, group text messages, and barroom sports talk.

With any football discussion, readers can find sprinkles of truth among the nonsense, and there's one reason the 49ers may part ways with Carlos Hyde. He's yet to prove he can handle the grind of a full 16 game NFL season due to multiple injuries: an ankle sprain, a concussion, foot fracture, shoulder separation and an MCL tear.

These injuries are concerning because Hyde's entering his fourth year and it sounds like he has the body of a 37-year old running back. 49ers coaches and executives must ask themselves how much punishment Hyde can take before becoming an ineffective back, so it's fair to consider a preseason trade or release.

Enter the 2017 season and a purge and rebuild of the 49ers roster. Right now, there are six running backs and two fullbacks on the roster. Let's assume the team keeps Kyle Juszczyk at fullback, and Tim Hightower, Joe Williams, Matt Breida, and Hyde at running back. Immediately, I see a rotation of these players and finding the right set of plays and situations that maximize favorable outcomes for each.

Additionally, a backfield rotation may result in the 49ers finding the right number of carries for Hyde that allows him to rack up yardage and touchdowns, while saving his body from repeated crashes into linebackers.

A running back rotation may not result in a 1,000-yard rusher, but if the 49ers can rush for more than 1,800 yards as a team, it's going to be a bigger compliment to a passing game that looks to be slightly below average.

Kyle Shanahan is a smart coach. He knows how to tap unknown skills from his players and build confidence in his quarterbacks. Indeed, he will find a way for Hyde to achieve glory in the running game. Don't forget Hyde's played in three different offenses in his career and averaged at least 4 yards per rushing attempt.

Sure, some backs may feel more comfortable in a particular type of running attack. There are running backs who thrive on the grind of lead and power runs, while others may shudder at the slightest thought of hearing "I-Right, 19 Bob" in the huddle. The suggestion that a veteran like Hyde can't make minor adjustments to his running game is illogical.

During the February 9, 2017 press conference introducing John Lynch and Shanahan, Lynch stated that one of Shanahan's best skills as a coach is taking "…players and he plays to their strengths. I think that's what great coaches do. They play to the strengths."

Expect Shanahan to build plays for Hyde that work best for him and in specific situations. Why force Hyde to run plays that Joe Williams or Matt Breida might like more? It's the same with a quarterback who loves being under center. No coach on the planet is going to force that guy to run every pass play out of a gun formation. These kinds of strategies do not set up players for success.

The cold bleakness that blanketed last year's 49ers was equal to the dark side of Pluto, making it hopeless to find any signs of life. However, Hyde finished the year with 988 yards rushing in just 13 games. Thousand-yard rushers do not fall from the sky with winged shoes and abilities enhanced by Earth's yellow sun.

Ultimately, Carlos Hyde's fate is in his own hands. Kyle Shanahan and Bobby Turner need to find a path for Hyde to succeed, and John Lynch needs to retain Hyde at least through this season. A backfield devoid of Carlos Hyde is not the formula for success for the 49ers, not this year and not in the future.