Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

SI sees the 49ers making the playoffs in 2021 despite some offseason losses

Jun 13, 2021 at 12:23 PM--

The San Francisco 49ers didn't envision a six-win campaign coming off a Super Bowl appearance. Of course, they probably also couldn't have imagined the onslaught of injuries they would have to endure in 2020. And that was before being forced to relocate their entire operations to Arizona.

The Niners would like to put last season behind them and hope for better luck in 2021. Even a relatively healthy roster should result in a much-improved season.

Conor Orr of Sports Illustrated recently listed six losing teams from last season that will make the playoffs in 2021 (h/t to Kirk Larrabee). At the top of the list was San Francisco. It's not a bold statement, considering the general perception is that the injury-plagued 2020 campaign, not the 2019 Super Bowl run, was the outlier. There is just too much talent on the roster.

"The 49ers are a good team that, even in their worst moments, are still capable of dissecting a sloppily game-planned opponent," wrote Orr. "We've seen that throughout Kyle Shanahan's tenure, even if it has been a career thus far that has resulted in one playoff (and Super Bowl) appearance. Still, it's hard to imagine a roster this deep, one that tore through the NFC with an upper-middle-tier quarterback (in Jimmy Garoppolo) just two years ago, will spiral."

Nothing in the NFL is guaranteed, though. Even if the 49ers roster remains healthy, the team did suffer some offseason losses. The biggest may be defensive coordinator Robert Saleh leaving to become the head coach of the New York Jets. He took a couple of top assistants with him, too.

"The loss of Robert Saleh and a platoon of Shanahan's key assistants shouldn't be overlooked," Orr continued. "Offensive line coach John Benton joined the Jets with Saleh and former passing game coordinator Mike LaFleur. However, Shanahan was able to retain some talent, including former quarterbacks coach Rich Scangarello and offensive line coach Chris Foerster."

San Francisco was bold this offseason, trading up nine spots in the draft to No. 3 overall to select Trey Lance, Garoppolo's eventual replacement. For now, the rookie adds depth behind the veteran who has missed 23 games over the past three seasons.

"With Lance presumably grabbing the baton at some point this season, we'll get an early glimpse at how the scheme can diversify itself with mobility under center," Orr added. "Because Shanahan is already a step ahead of the rest of the NFL, he'll now be even further along."

The other five teams on Orr's list are the New England Patriots, Los Angeles Chargers, Dallas Cowboys, Denver Broncos, and New York Giants.

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