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49ers mailbag: Will Brock Purdy be starting QB in 2024? Where does SF go from here? Why did Kyle Shanahan defer in overtime? Offensive line upgrades?

Marc Adams
Feb 14, 2024 at 10:23 AM--

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The 2023 season for the San Francisco 49ers has come to a close. On Tuesday, the players came back into the facility to clean out their lockers and pack up their things. Many spoke to the media.

And now a long offseason begins. There will be plenty of moves and questions to address. But for now, we're jumping into the final 49ers Webzone Mailbag of the 2023 season. But don't worry, we'll be back throughout the offseason.

Here's this week's mailbag:

Where do we go from here? Who replaces Greenlaw next year? Given how both Deebo and Bosa said they weren't right to start the season after a contract issue, can the 49ers re-sign Aiyuk before camp to not repeat those issues with him? - Niner Jim

We'll have to wait and see what this Achilles injury does to Dre Greenlaw's 2024 season. I reached out to Dr. Nirav Pandya, Professor of UCSF Orthopedic Surgery and Director of Sports Medicine at Benioff Children's Hospital, to ask his thoughts on Greenlaw's injury. He replied, "A couple of studies show that about 70 percent of NFL linebackers return to play after the injury. They end up returning between 9-12 months after the injury. That being said, there are a lot of newer surgical techniques/aggressive rehab that have allowed some more recent players (i.e. Aaron Rodgers and Cam Akers) to come back on an accelerated timeline, so there is still a possibility he could be back in time for the first half of the season."

So we'll hope for the best for Greenlaw. It's possible he could play in 2024. Nine months would put his return sometime in November. But he also could miss the entire season.

Certainly losing Greenlaw had a major impact on the outcome of the Super Bowl, especially when you watched Oren Burks get beat by Travis Kelce over and over. I would think that Dee Winters and Jalen Graham would have a shot at playing until Greenlaw is ready. Both Burks and Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles are scheduled to be free agents, so both could be moving on.

Winters played one defensive snap in the second half when Flannigan-Fowles went out. Graham only appeared in four games this season. He had one tackle. I'm not sure how the 49ers see those two players.

As for Brandon Aiyuk, the 49ers are planning to make extending him a priority, so I think it will happen. Unfortunately, they like to wait until the eve of training camp. That didn't work out for Deebo Samuel, and it even affected Nick Bosa. There were some social media posts on Monday with Aiyuk's girlfriend and brother talking like the Super Bowl was the last time Aiyuk would play for the 49ers. I have no idea why they are saying that unless they believe he's a free agent. Or maybe they're trying to tighten the screws on the 49ers' brass.

Let's hope this isn't a distraction for him. When Aiyuk spoke with reporters on Tuesday, he wasn't giving out much information. He did say that he would like to remain with the 49ers if it was the right move. When asked what that would look like, Aiyuk answered, "Being a champion."

During the session with reporters, Aiyuk was overcome with emotion when speaking about his teammates. He clearly loves the guys he plays with. Hopefully, they can work out an extension. The 49ers need Brandon Aiyuk.

Does Brock Purdy come in as the starter this offseason or think they bring in someone else? - JP

Yes, Brock Purdy is your starting quarterback for 2024. And if his 2023 season is any indication, he will be the 49ers starting QB for years to come. Don't forget, Kyle Shanahan and John Lynch were convinced Purdy was the guy even when he barely had a right arm left. I know they reached out to Tom Brady, but that was more about due diligence because of Purdy's injury.

Also, they believed in Purdy enough back in August to send Trey Lance to Dallas. And, of course, Jed York said that Shanahan told him Purdy was their best QB back in 2022 when he was still the third-stringer.

And who would they bring in that could beat out Purdy? Look at how much Purdy improved from 2022 to 2023, and that was with no offseason to work on his craft (because of his rehab).

If you think questions aren't going to swirl the QB spot for SF, you're far more optimistic than me. Brock is my QB, but there was more than one analyst who said if the Niners didn't win the Super Bowl, they should give Sam a shot. I'm just bracing for it. - Adam M.

There may be some calling for a quarterback change in San Francisco, but it won't happen. And you won't be hearing it from anyone with the 49ers. As I wrote already, Purdy is the QB for 2024. Shanahan and Lynch were certain he would be in 2023, if healthy. They should feel more strongly about it now.

I can't imagine Sam Darnold will be returning. He will likely find a team that is willing to make him the starter.

Why didn't they defer on the OT kickoff? You then know what you need and you wouldn't have settled for a field goal. It gives you the extra 4th-down play to make the 4 yards needed for 1st down. - Bryan C.

Shanahan said it was so they would have the third possession if that opportunity arose. With all due respect, I don't understand his reasoning. The only reason you would take the ball in that situation is to give your defense a breather. They had been on the field a lot, and they were gassed.

Still, I wish Shanahan had chosen to kick, so the 49ers offense was playing with four downs, rather than three. It's helpful to know what the other team has already done. But that's not what Shanahan decided, and we saw the outcome.

Anything you can pinpoint as reasons for the loss? My initial thoughts: 1. Niners need to upgrade the O line. Brock had no time to pass during those last crucial drives. 2. Kyle needed to use Mitchell/Mason to give CMC a breather. CMC was spent at the end. And Mitchell/Mason would've carved up the tired KC defense 3. Add another playmaker bc Deebo is injury-prone. Why add speedy WR's like Bell and Gray if you don't use them? Thanks for letting me rant - Andy G.

Here are my responses to Andy's thoughts:

  1. The offensive line was a problem, at times. It was in Super Bowl LIV, as well. And in the 2021 NFC Championship Game. And in the 2022 NFC Championship Game. I'm sensing a theme.
  2. I would love to see Elijah Mitchell and Jordan Mason more. One of my best friends is a Chiefs fan. He texted me in the first half, when the 49ers were running the ball so well, and said that if the 49ers keep that up, they're going to wear down the Chiefs' defense. I agreed and wanted it to continue. It did not.
  3. The 49ers already have more playmakers on offense than any other team. But I would agree that another playmaker would be an advantage for those times that Samuel (or anyone else) goes down. I'd like to see them get the ball to Jauan Jennings more. He may have been named the MVP if Purdy completed that third-down pass in overtime and Jennings scored on it.
  4. Ronnie Bell and Danny Gray are the ones responsible for their playtime and lack of productivity. They both need to learn to block better (no block, no rock), and they need to learn to run better routes. This will be a big offseason for them both.

Why did we stop running the ball in the second half?- Brad F.

They ran the ball some in the fourth quarter and overtime. But it was very curious why they didn't run the ball more in the third quarter. When Ji'Ayir Brown picked off Patrick Mahomes at the beginning of the second half, I thought for sure Shanahan would start running it down the Chiefs' throat. But he didn't. In fact, he threw the ball six straight times, and eight out of the first nine second-half plays. It's no coincidence that they had three straight three-and-outs to open the third quarter.

The 49ers lost the game in overtime, but you can argue they lost the game in the third quarter when they didn't take advantage of the Chiefs' offensive struggles.

Now where do the 49ers go after this Super Bowl loss? How much slicing & dicing is going to happen to this roster? - Ed H.

The 49ers will reload. Here's a list of the team's scheduled free agents. They'll replace those they lose and hope to land some solid players in the draft. We'll see how many coaches they will need to replace. We already know that are losing offensive passing game coordinator Klint Kubiak to the New Orleans Saints. That's a bigger loss than it might seem. The team was high on Kubiak.

Some believe the 49ers could move on from Steve Wilks as defensive coordinator. I heard one beat writer say he thought Wilks could be fired if the 49ers lost the Super Bowl. I disagreed with that thought, but the reporter knows the inner workings of the team more than I do, and on Tuesday, Shanahan didn't exactly squelch any talk about Wilks being let go. We'll see what happens.

Maybe not the starting spot, but the backup position. Do they keep Sam Darnold & Brandon Allen or replace them? RT will be the main talk throughout the season. - Jose

I would expect Darnold to move on to either a starting role or a backup role where the starting QB is not as set as it is in San Francisco. Brandon Allen is a free agent, as well. I'm sure the 49ers would like to bring him back, but maybe they have some other guys in mind.

Right tackle will be discussed. I know fans want to upgrade. Could the 49ers look to upgrade at right guard, as well? Spencer Burford is the one who missed the block on Chris Jones in overtime. To his credit, he admitted as much on social media, to take the heat off Colton McKivitz. Some were blaming McKivitz, and Burford wanted to set the record straight. He told reporters on Tuesday, "I should have stayed in the B gap and stayed on Chris."

I respect that.

How do you think the 49ers will address their cap situation and will they finally fix the OL? - Paul N.

The 49ers are very creative, and I would expect them to figure things out. I'm not one of the ones who believe the window is closing. Sure, if the 49ers stand pat, in a couple of years the window may start to close. But they won't stand pat. They're going to work hard to make the team better, and hopefully, younger.

Remember, Lynch and Shanahan built the best roster in football from a miserable group of misfits in 2017.

Do they address the right side of the offensive line? In the last play for the offense, they let Chris Jones get a free run at Purdy. Last year, Purdy had the injury from pressure from the right side again. They gotta address this. - Braydizzy

I hope so. The 49ers have made some moves to improve the offensive line (trading for Trent Williams, drafting Burford, McKivitz, Mike McGlinchey, and Aaron Banks). But some of those moves have been lower-round picks, and I believe they need to pay more attention to the line, especially the right side and interior. This is now the fourth big game the 49ers have lost because the offensive line couldn't hold up.

SMH at another coaching fiasco on the biggest stage. How do the coaches not understand the overtime rules and make sure Warner defers? Why weren't they pounding the ball with CMC in the 3rd quarter like they did in OT, especially when they were gifted two short-field opportunities? - Kyle D.

I'm sure the coaches knew the overtime rules. When Purdy met with reporters on Tuesday, he said that QB coach Brian Griese went over the overtime rules with him. Shanahan said on Tuesday that he didn't speak to the team about the new rules, but had his position coaches do it.

So there were players and coaches who knew what was going on. And did it matter if they knew the rule? The goal of the offense was still to score a touchdown. The goal of the defense was still the same—don't let the Chiefs score.

I agree with the lack of run game in the third quarter being an issue. There should have been a more balanced attack on those three drives.

When do we hold Kyle Shanahan responsible for putting the offense into terrible situations (abandoning run) and for his poor game management in the biggest games (OT rules?) Is Wilkes getting fired? Seems like he put players in terrible positions on the last few drives. - Jeremy M.

I think Jed York is looking at Shanahan's entire body of work. And if so, he's seeing that, for the most part, the coach has been very successful. Some game management issues need to be cleaned up, but overall, we should be thankful he's the team's coach. I saw some fans calling Shanahan a loser. How are you a loser when you've won multiple NFC Championships? I understand that's not the ultimate goal, but losing the Super Bowl doesn't make him a loser.

As I already mentioned, I don't believe Wilks will be fired. The defense was great in the Super Bowl, apart from a couple of drives. So I would predict he will get another year. But I have been surprised before by this team.

Shanahan is on course to be our Andy Reid in Philly right? I mean, he just can't seem to figure this out. - B.B.

If Shanahan is Andy Reid, then that should mean he will eventually win one, right? Let's just hope it's with the 49ers and not some other team. And to be fair, Reid didn't win one until he was gifted the best QB on the planet. If Shanahan and Lynch had picked Mahomes in 2017, there's a chance the 49ers have won three or four Super Bowls already.

Creativity left the offensive building when we lost Mike McCarthy. Shanahan's play calling the first three offensive series in the third quarter let Kansas City hang around. - Ralph N.

I think Ralph meant Mike McDaniel. Mike McCarthy left the 49ers in 2006...when Alex Smith and Frank Gore were heading into their second season. And I don't know that McCarthy has ever been called "creative."

I know that some believe McDaniel was the creative genius on Shanahan's staff. And he is creative. But I don't believe all the creativity left the building with McDaniel. Shanahan called a good game in the first half, and late in the game. The third quarter is a different story. I have no explanation for that.

Man, it's getting so gut-wrenching, losing every time we get there now. I grew up and never saw them lose one. I would almost not even want to go to the Super Bowl now. I'm not sure if they ever get back there I'll even want to watch it. - Marty B.

Hang in there, Marty. After the pain and frustration wear off, you'll feel differently. I'd rather make it all the way and lose than not make it at all. Yes, it hurts more the farther you go, but it's worth it to me. I'm sure Dallas Cowboys fans would trade places with us.

Chris Jones is a free agent! Can we grab him? - Sean S.

Chris Jones had a good game. And he's a great player. But he's not the player he once was, and yet, he will get paid like he is. I would pass on him.

Seems that only 8 teams that lost the Super Bowl made it back the next season, and only three won it. Despite Vegas making the 49ers the early odds on favorite, history indicates otherwise. If history proves true, is this core group of guys window closed to win the Lombardi? - Niner Jim

You're correct. Teams who lose the Super Bowl normally have a hard time getting back the following season. Just look at how things went for the Philadelphia Eagles this year. And all we have to do is go back to 2020, when the 49ers were the defending NFC Champions, and struggled through an injury-riddled season.

As I mentioned earlier, I trust Lynch and Shanahan to do their jobs and not allow the Super Bowl window for this team to close anytime soon.

That's all we have for this edition of the 49ers Webzone Mailbag. Thanks for all your amazing questions. We'll be back throughout the offseason whenever there's news. Or when we get bored.
The opinions within this article are those of the writer and, while just as important, are not necessarily those of the site as a whole.

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