John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports


Super Bowl Hangover Already Sinking In For 49ers

Gilbert Brink
Jul 9, 2020 at 8:40 AM


The last 3 months of our collective lives as Americans has felt like a terrible hangover. 2020 will not be a year many look back on with fond feelings and memories. The nation's hangover started in March, but the 49ers' hangover began on February 2, 2020.

The dreaded Super Bowl hangover is a powerful mythos in the lore of American sports. It doesn't make much logical sense, a team talented enough to reach the Super Bowl shouldn't magically be transformed into a less capable team due simply to the fact they scored fewer points than the opposition on the first Sunday in February. Yet, there are countless examples of this wretched hangover indeed visiting the 2nd best team in football on an annual basis. Look no further than the NFC West to find an example of how ominous the hangover can be. The LA Rams looked to be poised for a dynasty in 2018. With Jared Goff looking like Joe Montana and Sean McVay resembling Bill Walsh, the Rams seemed poised for a decade of dominance. A little over a year later and they're saddled with a below average QB making $33 million a year, a new stadium they can't pay for and past due bills to Todd Gurley and Clay Matthews.

The aforementioned albatross seems to be making itself familiar around 4900 Marie P. DeBartolo Way. In January I wrote that the 49ers were facing a must-win Super Bowl, this was not a popular opinion. This was not a popular opinion. My thinking then can be attributed to the specter of the Super Bowl hangover. It all begins in the 4th quarter of Super Bowl 54. You all know the story, so let's skip to the fallout. The devastating loss of Super Bowl 54 opened the gates to the insidious demon of doubt. Whether it be the game management of head coach Kyle Shanahan or the overall ability of QB Jimmy Garoppolo, the 49ers enter into the 2020 season with questions surrounding the two most important pieces of their franchise.

A month later, as free agency approached, John Lynch had to make his toughest decision of his tenure as 49ers GM. The bill came due on numerous 49ers starters being free-agents; WR Emmanuel Sanders, DE Arik Armstead and S Jimmie Ward all were due new contracts and the 49ers didn't have the money for all three. In a creative move, Lynch decided to trade team MVP DT DeForest Buckner to the Colts to free up some cap space to sign both Armstead and Ward while keeping eyes on the draft to find the replacement for Buckner. The 49ers landed their prized DT in the draft with Javon Kinlaw. The impact Kinlaw will have on this team will be determined, but in acquiring him the 49ers lost one of the their very best players and a true leader. The loss of such a presence will be an obstacle to overcome.

As the 49ers were drafting Kinlaw to replace the leader of their defensive line, they were losing the leader of their offensive line. LT Joe Staley has been the stalwart anchor of the offensive line for nearly a decade and a half. From Mike Nolan to Kyle Shanahan, Staley has led the 49ers front five through the dark days and the glorious ones. The 49ers knew they had to replace Staley and they landed a giant man to handle this gargantuan task: LT Trent Williams. Unlike Kinlaw, Williams comes with a long career of excellent play to soften the blow. Similar to Buckner, what Staley brought to the table cannot be replaced simply by talent and ability. Staley was the heart and soul of the franchise on the field and Williams is a newcomer who hasn't played a snap of football since 2018.

The 49ers took a month off from devastating losses in May, but when June came they were right back it. WR Deebo Samuel was a brilliant young player who showed potential to be an unstoppable force for many years to come. However, during a workout with teammates Samuel suffered fracture in his foot, which is the same injury that completely annihilated fellow 49er Trent Taylor's 2019 season. Not far behind him, WR and #1 return specialist Richie James Jr. broke his wrist. A week later the defense joined the party when DB DJ Reed suffered a torn pectoral muscle. At this point, the 49ers pre-gamed a 6 pack and are now doing tequila shots on an empty stomach.

Somehow, we have yet to mention the elephant in the room; there have been no mini-camps, OTAs and it's likely there won't be any pre-season. Young players like WR Brandon Aiyuk and Kinlaw will have limited experience with live reps and acquired veterans like Williams will have little time to develop chemistry with new teammates. While the roster atrophies, word circulates that elite TE George Kittle will be asking for WR money and breakout RB Raheem Mostert is requesting a trade. If any team can pull it together, the Shanahan & Garoppolo-led 49ers can. But for a team that has thrived off of chemistry, acrimony abounds.
The views 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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