Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

49ers the most likely to go from worst to first in 2021, says Gil Brandt

Feb 19, 2021 at 8:00 AM--

NFL Media senior analyst Gil Brandt took a look at the eight most-likely candidates to go from worst to first and enjoy a Washington Football Team-type turnaround during the 2021 season. Washington won just three games in 2019 and then increased that total by four in 2020. Seven victories aren't overly impressive, but in a season during which the NFC East was downright awful, it was enough to earn the division crown.

At the top of Brandt's ranking are the San Francisco 49ers. Kyle Shanahan's squad was in the Super Bowl just over a year ago, but injuries devastated the roster, and the depth chart was transformed by Week 2, resulting in just six wins. Then you have the impact of the pandemic. Local county restrictions forced the team to Arizona to finish out its last five games.

"It follows, then, that fully healthy campaigns from Nick Bosa, George Kittle, Deebo Samuel, and Dee Ford, all of whom missed serious time last season, would make this team a bona fide contender, even in this relatively strong division," wrote Brandt.

The analyst has concerns surrounding the 49ers' quarterback situation, which has consumed much of the offseason chatter. Brandt feels the team could still move on from Jimmy Garoppolo before the start of the season. San Francisco traded for the quarterback in 2017 and signed him to a then-record contract after five starts and five wins.

Hopes were high for Garoppolo heading into the 2018 season, but an ACL injury limited him to just three games. The quarterback missed 10 games this past season due to ankle injuries. His unavailability has to be concerning.

"It will be interesting to see if Kyle Shanahan sticks with Jimmy Garoppolo, who is returning from his own injury-hampered season, or pursue someone he thinks can run his offense more effectively," added Brandt. "Personally, I don't think Garoppolo is all-world -- he does limit what San Francisco can do, to a degree. But he's still an above-average starter. Frankly, when the Niners' run game is operating at full capacity, it can make any QB look better."

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