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With Championship Window Closing, 49ers Must Go All Out to Win Super Bowl 55

Gilbert Brink
Aug 26, 2020 at 7:33 AM

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It's a harsh reality to face, but the 49ers' Super Bowl window is rapidly closing. A team that had just returned to national prominence is already looking at the end of its championship window. For so many teams, that time-frame in which a championship is possible is an incredibly brief one.

Look no further than the team the 49ers lost to in their last Super Bowl appearance in 2013 for a prime example of how small a championship window can be. Capitalizing on the final year of QB Joe Flacco's rookie contract and the twilight years of Hall of Fame level defensive talent S Ed Reed and LB Ray Lewis, the Ravens seized the moment and defeated the 49ers in 2013. Since then, the Ravens paid Flacco a big contract and saw those great defenders move on, leading to just 3 playoff appearances in 7 seasons and no campaign extending further than the divisional round playoff game. Despite the minimal success, the Ravens are still coached by HC John Harbaugh, proving that one Super Bowl title will buy you a lot of good will with a fanbase and ownership.

History is littered with teams with a similar story. They briefly had a chance to win the Super Bowl, and wouldn't see that opportunity again for a long time. The current LA Rams seemed to be headed in this direction. A team that looked to be poised for a long reign of success, lost Super Bowl 53 and has been in a free-fall ever since. The last team Kyle Shanahan coached for before joining the 49ers, the Atlanta Falcons, had their moment up 28-3 in Super Bowl 51. After losing that game they have only made the playoffs in 1 of the 3 following seasons, being eliminated in the divisional round the following year. Suffice it to say, these championship windows don't stay open for long.

The 2020 season is the 49ers' best chance to win a Super Bowl in the next 10 years. Winning the Super Bowl the year after you lose a Super Bowl is incredibly difficult, as only 2 teams (the 2018 Patriots & 1972 Dolphins) out of 54 Super Bowl winners have accomplished this goal. Based on those numbers, the 49ers have about a 4% chance to win Super Bowl 55. Let's not let numbers drag us down. This team has a better chance than that to win a title this season. This is exactly why it has to win one in 2020. Like it or not, its championship window is closing.

The 49ers' ascendancy into title contention was a unique one. Often in today's NFL we see title contenders built on the backs of QBs on rookie contracts (Seahawks '13-'14, Rams '18, Chiefs '19) which allows money to be spread elsewhere throughout the roster. The 49ers paid their QB a big salary before they became successful. In doing so, there was little money left to spread around, and the 49ers handed out big contracts to free agents (LB Kwon Alexander, CB Richard Sherman, DE Dee Ford) in an effort to compete. The plan worked, and the 49ers currently have one of the most talented rosters in the entire league. As talented as they are, the bill for their services matches up as well. Heading into the 2021 offseason the 49ers are estimated to have over $24 million in cap space. Thanks to the generous TE George Kittle (making less than $6 million per year over the next 2 seasons), the 49ers seem to have some space to work with to sign some key players. Upon further review, however, the optics aren't so optimistic. The 49ers have a staggering 29 players scheduled to be free agents in 2021, with nearly 10 of them being starters. That's almost one side of the ball potentially gone in free agency. Cornerstone pieces like LT Trent Williams and CB Richard Sherman are both unrestricted free agents. Those 2 alone could eat up that entire $24 million, leaving the other 27 players on the unemployment line. Look even closer and the situation gets more grim. As of today, the 49ers have $173 million in contracts tied to the 2021 roster, there has been speculation the league wants to reduce the salary cap to near $175 million in 2021 to cover for revenue lost from 2020's COVID-related struggles. It seems the 49ers front office may be bracing for this lowered cap, hence the current number of $173 million dedicated to 2021. If this reduction were to come to fruition, not only could the 49ers be unable to sign any of their 29 free agents, they would probably be forced to cut some of the 48 players that they currently have on contract for the 2021 season.

The financial restraints that this team is currently facing simply do not allow it to be title contenders well beyond 2020. With this in mind, the 49ers must go all out on their "legendary revenge tour" and claim the title that they let slip away in February 2020. A great general manager is always looking to the future, but right now 49ers GM John Lynch has to live in the present. Here and now, the 49ers are one of the best teams in the NFL. Bolstering arguably the best defensive line in football, the best rushing attack in football, a dominant linebackers group, promising young WRs, a blossoming franchise QB and one of the best offensive minds in the league today, the 49ers have to live in this moment. If there is a gamble to take, the 49ers must take it. As it stands, the 49ers current WR corps is banged up. Top receivers Brandon Aiyuk and Deebo Samuel are both nursing injuries that could linger throughout the season. A player like WR Antonio Brown, once seemingly a terrible idea, must be considered at this point.

In 2019 the 49ers were wise to roll the dice when they traded for WR Emmanuel Sanders. He isn't on the team today, but taking that risk helped propel that team to Super Bowl 54. GM John Lynch must evaluate the roster, identify any weaknesses and be on the prowl for a solution for this season. If Lynch isn't panning the trade market for a quality RG, he should be ashamed of himself. This team is too good to think about 2024. The talent is too rich to worry about a 3rd round pick in 2021. Certainly bold moves could make the 49ers worse in the future, if you haven't gotten the message by now, newsflash: the 49ers are already going to be worse in the near future.

The 49ers fans and front office will forgive that 9-7 finish 2 years from now. They'll get over 7-9 next season. All of that can be forgiven, as long as the 49ers deliver that 6th Super Bowl victory in February 2021. Hell, the 49ers can give Kyle Shanahan and John Lynch another six year contract extension if they want to. As long as the 49ers live in the here and now, recognize how special this team is and do everything humanly possible to bring home that trophy, this season, before that window closes, we'll forgive it all.
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.


  • Sean
    I know you won't approve this comment because you don't approve any comments but, I'm sure you see them. Once again a baseless article written by the Cohn of the webzone...
    Aug 27, 2020 at 11:13 AM
    Response: Thanks for reading the article.
  • Michael cortese
    The Niners can free up some money by letting Solomon Thomas walk and giving Clowney a one year deal. If he clears a medical evaluation. Clowney would thrive move side to side on the defensive line with Bosa Armstead and Ford take double blockers. Our sack numbers can be an all time high.
    Aug 26, 2020 at 11:59 AM
    Response: The numbers used in this article already account for Solly walking, he's not on the books in 2021
  • TOM
    I have to disagree. Lynch and Shanahan came here with the specific goal of building the team for the long haul. That they were willing to essentially swap Buckner for Kinlaw shows they can make the tough choices to keep the cap from completely dictating what they are able to do. The key is to keep drafting guys who can contribute. They have gotten tremendous value out of late round picks and UDFA's.. If they can continue to do so it will enable them to move on from high priced vets as they get older and to keep the team both young, financially viable and, hopefully, competitive.
    Aug 26, 2020 at 9:10 AM

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