John Clayton: 49ers fans are in for a long ride back to success

Feb 8, 2017 at 2:40 PM--


The San Francisco 49ers were the final team to fill their head coaching vacancy. The five other NFL teams that had the same vacancy were done filling their roles on January 12. The 49ers targeted Atlanta Falcons offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan after numerous interviews. Team CEO Jed York stood ready to hire him as soon as the Falcons were done with postseason play. That did not occur until Sunday when the Falcons lost to the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LI. The next day, Shanahan was officially hired by the 49ers.

The wait means that every other team with a new head coach had a head start on the 49ers in assembling their staffs. Shanahan and his wife Mandy arrived in the Bay Area on Wednesday after spending Monday and Tuesday in the Atlanta area to prepare for the move to the West Coast. The real work for Shanahan and new general manager John Lynch can finally kick off.


On Wednesday, John Clayton of ESPN released his list of winners and losers among those teams that had head coach vacancies. While Shanahan was viewed around the league as one of the best potential hires in the NFL, the 49ers still made it onto Clayton's list of losers. However, it was 49ers fans that were listed as the losers in the deal and not the organization itself.

"The fact that owner Jed York is giving a six-year contract to general manager John Lynch and the same to Shanahan indicates that it is going to be years before the 49ers get back to the playoffs," writes Lynch as he explains his reasoning. "Shanahan could struggle to put the best coaching staff together because it's so late in the process. And while it's smart to give a first-time coach and first-time general manager extra time to build a roster that lacks talent, San Francisco fans are in for a long ride back to success."

All of Clayton's points are valid, but there seems to be a sense of patience among 49ers fans, who feel that the franchise may finally be headed in the right direction. The Niner Faithful understand that this will be a rebuilding process and a transformation will not happen overnight. That's fine with fans so long as the team steadily improves and does not see more of the rapid decline that followed the firing of Jim Harbaugh following the 2014 season.

49ers fans likely also understand that this coaching staff will take a couple of years to solidify. Because of the late start, anyone who joins Shanahan will really have to prove themselves this season to prevent being replaced by coaches next offseason, when Shanahan and Lynch will not be off to a late start.

Also listed as losers were quarterback Colin Kaepernick and former head coach Chip Kelly. Kaepernick will reportedly void the remainder of his contract and become a free agent in March. If he doesn't, the team could potentially release him. "Kaepernick has no money guaranteed on his contract and will likely be on the market," Clayton wrote.

As for Kelly, the timing of his firing prevented him from being eligible for college head coaching jobs. "Two years ago, Kelly was coming off back-to-back 10-win seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles," Clayton wrote. "Now, he has been fired by two NFL teams in two years and might have to take an offensive consulting job to stay busy until a top college program evaluates him next year."



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