Each year when the San Francisco 49ers begin training camp, I often feel like a kid standing outside the toy store watching others cram video game systems and new bicycles into large shopping carts. The fortunate, the fans with practice tickets and the 49er beat reporters, can observe and watch the team grow.

For a football junkie without a way to attend practice, I feel empty and unfulfilled without being there to make a proper evaluation.

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I can't, in good conscience and fairness to readers, watch sporadic tape of practice and provide a fair analysis of the competition. Watching highlights isn't the same as taking notes during a live game or crunching film.

I can, however, note the continuing metamorphosis that is happening at 4949 Centennial Boulevard, and the start of another football season full of positive vibrations.

General manager John Lynch and head coach Kyle Shanahan have installed three key factors that place the 49ers in a prime situation for future success.

The Coaching Staff Remained the Same


Consistency is critical in all sport; consistent perfect practice makes perfect. Unfortunately, when teams cycle through coaches and coordinators, there is little time to build a threatening offense or dominant defense.

No 49er knows how crucial it is to keep a system better than 12-year veteran tackle Joe Staley.

"It's huge. Not only just the four years, I think this is the eight (coordinator) in 12 years," said Staley on July 26, 2018. "I haven't really had that here, besides Harbaugh's era. We really didn't have years where we were going into the season with the coordinating staff being the same. It's nice not having to open up a playbook and just basically learn terminologies."

Any professional quarterback should be able to take a five-step drop and hit an out route in his sleep. It's a different story when the call for an out route differs each year and gets exponentially harder depending on the secondary's coverage.

"Just the situation I was in last year was so difficult because you're preparing for a defense that you're learning in a week, but at the same time, you're learning brand new calls, new verbiage, all that stuff," said quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo during a July 25, 2018 press conference. "So, it was combining all of that into one that made it so difficult. Being able to start from the ground up and learn the why's of the offense, how it all ties together, how one play helps dictate the next play, it just makes more sense."

The 49ers' defense will remain consistent with last year's playbook, allowing veterans to improve fundamentals and defensive coordinator Robert Saleh to use more of his scheme to harass the opposition on Sunday.

"The fundamentals and the techniques and the standard that which we're trying to get our guys to operate, that doesn't change," said Saleh. "They're owning the scheme and mastering their responsibility, that doesn't change. So, none of that really changes. The challenge is for players now to take it and make it theirs here in the second year. When they make it, they'll just grow and just get faster."

Jed York: The New Silent Partner


Something happened to 49ers' CEO Jed York in early 2017, and one day I hope we learn who finally sat Jed down and told him to grow up.

For reasons unknown, Jed had a heavy hand in the team during former head coach Jim Harbaugh's tenure. What felt like a good fit at the start turned into an uncomfortable high school date, with both parties pretending to like one another for winter formal photographs.

To 'reload' the 49ers, Jed hired two different head coaches, all while allowing the general manager to build a team that resembled a Civil War surgical unit.

Whatever the reason or the conversation, Jed figured out he is not a player, nor is he an expert in football strategy.
However, as a CEO, Jed is a salesman. And, his primary job is to always be selling; he needs to sell the brand, which then brings veteran talent to the team. When the team wins, he has potential season ticket holders finally sign on the dotted SBL line.

Jed's success is partially due to controlling his time in the spotlight. More importantly, Jed is allowing Lynch and Shanahan to run the football operation as they see fit, rather than in Jed's image.

For all of the awful things written and said about Jed – which I'm guilty of – he now deserves a handshake and a pat on the back for his willingness to change.

Lynch Finds Competitors


Previous offseasons for the 49ers were as productive as trying to build a fire out of wet, soggy wood lighting it with a magnifying glass under a waning moon. The team drafted poorly and refused to bring in quality free agents to compete for roster positions.

General manager John Lynch changed that mentality.

"John (Lynch) and Kyle (Shanahan) and all the front office people have done a great job of bringing guys that just want to work. So, you see the improvement day-to-day and the willingness to work every single day in OTAs, and we'll carry that through training camp," said Staley on July 26.

Nobody – fans, journalists, or so-called experts – will agree with every trade, draft choice, or free agent acquisition a general manager makes in a year. But what Lynch has done is not only bring in talent, he's helped shift the culture of the team from a barren wasteland to a place of inexplicable splendor made of Ionian red and gold. (h/t T.S. Eliot)

It's amazing what happens when the mentality shifts from the front office, erasing the need to be a 'source' to the national press, to putting the players first. Shanahan and his coaching staff can get more out of one another and the roster when everyone can do his or her job without a junior high whisper campaign happening behind his or her back.

The team is loose, and everyone is enjoying football. Shanahan has a DJ playing music throughout practice, though I don't know if the playlist includes much heavy metal. Players are coming onto the practice field like they've been called down to Contestant's Row on the Price is Right. Players are battling for roster positions because they want to be part of the change in the franchise.

The end of July is always a great time to be a football fan and an even better time to be a 49er Faithful. Here's to the next few months of professional football.