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Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports


The Post-Holiday 49ers Wishlist That Doesn’t Include an Edge Rusher

Bret Rumbeck
Jan 8, 2019 at 6:36 PM


Another San Francisco 49ers football season is complete, and the offseason is still in its infancy. Though, it feels as if we haven't seen the 49ers play in a thousand years. The playoffs may be going strong, but for 49er junkies, we may as well be standing on the edge of an event horizon watching the seconds tick by like centuries.

I'm never happy to see football season leave, especially when the 49ers picked up more of a competitive edge during the second half of the season. The four-win 49ers beat the Seattle Seahawks at home, held the Chicago Bears to 14 points and had a second-year tight end set the NFL single-season record for receiving yards.

However, a sliver of me is happy to have my Sunday afternoons back. After completing two seasons in the Kyle Shanahan Era, 49er football has been like watching primitive man master fire. Early man may have cooked his antelope to a perfect medium rare now and then, but probably sustained more burns and foodborne illnesses than the perfect steak.

The 2018 49ers were similar; the team would play a good half or even great game, only to follow up the performance with a laundry list of mental errors, blown coverages, dropped passes or a frozen offense.

With 10 days behind us and nearly 200 days until training camp, I present to you an offseason wishlist for the 49ers.

Cut the Waste


The 49ers have the same habit my late grandmother did: Keeping worthless scraps of garbage in her dresser drawers so she could "look back and remember them."

That sounds sweet and sentimental until grandma passes away and you're forced to go through piles and piles of worthless nonsense – including the first bar of soap she used to give my infant mother a bath.

Like grandma, the 49ers hoard below average talent and then convince the fanbase the player or players are going to make an impact.

Example: Veteran tackle Garry Gilliam.

Gilliam was not a stellar tackle in Seattle, but the 49ers brought him in during the 2017 season. He played 38 snaps before injuring his knee and listed on the injured reserve list on November 7, 2017.

This season, Gilliam played 32 snaps at right tackle in a Week 1 loss to Minnesota only after the 49ers lost guards Mike Person and Joshua Garnett to injury. In those brief moments, Gilliam allowed one sack, one hit, three hurries, and five pressures. He played 37 snaps in Week 4 against the Los Angeles Chargers. While he didn't allow a sack, he did allow two hits, three hurries, and five pressures. (Per Pro Football Focus)

What hurt the 49ers more than anything this season wasn't the lack of a dominant edge rusher, but a complete lack of talent backing up the starters.

Football isn't a soft sport; players will get hurt and not finish games. The 49ers need more than Garry Gilliam as a second-string tackle. Head coach Kyle Shanahan and his staff have done a better job at developing younger players - please see running back Matt Breida as an example - but Gilliam is not one of them. His ability is not going to cut it against top tier NFL defensive lines. It's time the 49ers find talent this offseason who can step into a role without any loss of skill.

Jimmie Ward: Stay or Go


The 49ers' secondary needs a complete overhaul, and it starts with figuring out what the team wants to do with safety Jimmie Ward. After five seasons, the former first-round selection has done very little to prove his worth.

In 51 career games, Ward has racked up two interceptions, 21 passes defended and 182 combined tackles. Ward finished the 2016-2018 seasons on injured reserve. In fact, the 2015 season was Ward's only year when he appeared in all 16 games.

At times, Ward flashes moments of solid play; unfortunately, champions are not built on occasional moments and hope. Ward enters the 2019 season as an unrestricted free agent, and I'm hopeful the 49ers do not bring him back to the Bay.

Build from the Last Two Seasons


I've written time and again that moral victories in professional sports are pointless. Praise for good individual play following a blow-out loss is simply handing trophies to the youth soccer team because each kid showed up to the game with shin guards in the proper place.

The men who have been with Shanahan during the last two seasons are more than the ten wins they've mustered. They've been battered and beaten, yet still show up to work each day with a positive attitude and hunger to win.

Throughout the bad games and a lengthy injured reserve list, the atmosphere surrounding the organization feels much different than a terrible franchise headed off a dark cliff. 4949 Centennial Boulevard is not a toxic waste dump of problems, and it appears it's still a destination for high-end free agents.

Maybe the 49ers had to learn to lose and suffer at the hands of bad luck to finally complete a rebuild. At least, that's how I see the continued set of unfortunate circumstances that have highlighted Shanahan's time in Santa Clara. Now, it's time for Shanahan to morph these failures, close losses and imperfections into weapons.

In the Inferno, Dante wrote that those who tried to predict the future were punished in the Eight Circle of Hell for fraud. I have no fear of Hell but feel readers deserve more than an article full of guesses about who the 49ers will draft or sign.

We're seven months from seeing a 90-man roster. I trust the executive team, Shanahan and his coaching staff to find the right mix of free agents and rookies to bring the 49ers roaring back this fall.

All stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference unless noted.
  • Bret Rumbeck
  • Written by:
    Bret Rumbeck has been writing about the 49ers since 2017 for 49ers Webzone and 49ers Hub. He is a Turlock, CA native, and has worked for two members of the US House of Representatives and one US Senator. When not breaking down game film, Bret spends his time seeking out various forms of heavy metal. Feel free to follow him or direct inquiries to @brumbeck.
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.


1 Comment

  • mbniner
    As far as cleaning up the roster, Gilliam, Ward, Garcon, M. Smith, Beathard, Mitchell and either Armstead or Thomas (remember that Street is coming off IR) should be cut/traded. Person can be retained as a valuable backup OG/C. Some boarderline players, depending on off-season acquisitions, are Marsh and Coyle. As far as FA or draft additions, obviously we need TWO ERs, an OG to compete with Garnet, a big WR, an ILB and a CB.
    Jan 12, 2019 at 10:04 AM
    1

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