The San Francisco 49ers had so much hope going into the 2018 season. They acquired a young promising quarterback in Jimmy Garoppolo, the signed Richard Sherman, as well as some weapons on offense, and picked up running back Jerick McKinnon. Unfortunately bad luck hit this team before the first snap of the season. First, McKinnon tore his ACL before the season even started. Then in week three, Garoppolo tore his ACL and just like that, the 49ers faithful knew it was going to be another long year. The fans would have to wait at least one more season for this team to strike gold again.
Besides injuries being the main cause of the Niners struggles this season, this team also knew how to blow it in close games. The 49ers showed fight and were in every game, even though they had second and third string running backs, receivers, and defenders out there for most of these games. Even though these guys played decent, they committed unnecessary penalties, or turned the ball over late in games.
One of the best games this season was against the Green Bay Packers on Monday Night Football. The Niners backup quarterback C.J. Beathard outdueled Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers for most of the game, but when it was tied late, Beathard tried to play hero and threw a deep interception. San Francisco just need a few more yards for a first down, run the clock down, and then kick a field goal. Instead Rodgers was given enough time to drive down the field and win the game for Green Bay, as he is known to do. It was this game that cemented a long season for the Niners as they fell to 1-5 on the year.
Now for the positives of 2018 for the red and gold. George Kittle was an undrafted free agent in 2017 and in just his second year in the NFL, became one of the best tight ends in the game. Kittle was the 49ers unexpected MVP and he set the all-time single season receiving yards record for a tight end. Kittles best game was against the Broncos when he went for 210 yards on just seven receptions. This guy had to deal with three quarterbacks, Garoppolo, Beathard, and another breakout star in Nick Mullens.
Yes Nick Mullens was a big positive for the Niners in the second half of the season and beyond. When Brett Favre, talked highly of his guy you knew that this team had another hidden gem. Mullens played at the same college as Favre, which was the University of Southern Mississippi. Mullens was a fabulous college quarterback and broke a lot of Favres records there. He showed his leadership and skill early when he threw for 16/22 against the Raiders and three touchdown passes. Even though it was against Oakland, this third string quarterback showed veteran presence on the field, even when he was only a practice QB at one point. Mullens will either be the backup to Garoppolo next year or possibly be a great trade target for this team. Either way, this guy was pure gold.
Overall, the 49ers have been in a lot of tough games, most of which resulted in loses. They dealt with injuries, young players making mistakes at critical times, and just not having enough weapons. This team was the only NFL team to play without it’s starting quarterback and running back, yet still had a chance to win on any given Sunday. Besides getting destroyed by the Los Angeles Rams, the 49ers battled and found some hidden talent in their depth. If this team stays healthy, drafts well, and picks up a few more veterans, they have the potential to win 9 or 10 games next season and maybe even give the Rams a run for their money.
Michael Garaventa – Contributor
Editor – Scott Neville