The 49ers will be sticking with the blueprint they’ve constructed instead of blowing things up and going back to the drawing board.
The disastrous 1-6 record isn’t causing them to deviate from their long-term plan toward an eventual return to playoff contention, coach Kyle Shanahan said Monday.
“Our record right now doesn’t impact the big picture,” he said. “It’s tough to deal with. It’s frustrating. We’re all working extremely hard and want much better results. But, just because the record doesn’t show that isn’t going to make you doubt yourself and go rip up your plans to do something totally new.”
San Francisco, coming off its most lopsided defeat of the season Sunday to the undefeated Los Angeles Rams, is tied for the NFL’s worst record and poised for a top-10 draft pick for the fourth spring in a row, which hasn’t happened for the 49ers since 1962-65.
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They find themselves wading through a lost season after entering with expectations to compete for a playoff spot. But the loss of franchise quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo in Week 3 with an ACL tear in his left knee thwarted any possibility of a postseason trip for the first time since Jim Harbaugh’s penultimate campaign in 2013.
Shanahan and general manager John Lynch have taken the long-term approach to rebuilding a club that finished 2-14 when they took over in Febuary 2017. The 49ers have $40 million in cap space, according to Overthecap.com, and could have as much as $69 million next spring, which projects to be the seventh-most in the NFL.
“We knew when we came here it was going to take some time,” Shanahan said. “We want that to be as fast as possible, there’s no doubt about that. But you don’t want to make stupid decisions because of that.
“We’re trying to be smart in everything we do. We’re not trying to just do this a quick, easy-fix way. We’re trying to build this thing to last. And to do that, it does take some time. (We) planned on it going faster and it hasn’t so far. But, that doesn’t make me lose any confidence in what we’re doing or the people that we have here. I know we need to continue to work and continue to get better. But we’re going through a tough time right now. But that doesn’t change anything to me where I feel we’re going.”
Injuries and turnovers have been the most glaring themes to the season. Losing Garoppolo and $30-million running back Jerick McKinnon for the year dramatically changed the plan.
But the 49ers have also seen key young players regress in their development. The 2017 draft class that showed promise during the five-game winning streak last season isn’t living up to the hype, save for tight end George Kittle.
No. 3 overall draft pick Solomon Thomas doesn’t have a sack this season and hasn’t helped the team’s lackluster pass rush. Linebacker Reuben Foster started the year suspended and hasn’t been nearly as effective as he was late last year, when he was playing like one of the NFL’s premier inside linebackers. He missed three tackles Sunday and made just one, according to Pro Football Focus. The scouting service says Foster leads the team with 12 missed tackles.
Cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon has periodically lost his starting spot after his stirring two-interception rookie campaign. Free safety Adrian Colbert, a once-promising seventh-round pick, was placed on season-ending injured reserve with a high ankle sprain Monday following a rough go to the early portion of his second campaign.
Shanahan was asked about the idea of sophomore slumps in the NFL.
“I think, percentage-wise, it happens to a lot of people,” he said. “That doesn’t mean everybody in their second year is like that. I think when you come in as a rookie, you don’t really know what to expect. You’re just wide-eyed and trying your hardest to make your dream come true and you don’t even look back.
“... You come back the next year and you want to take it to the next level. And you do a little bit more, you work more, (put) a little bit more pressure on yourself, try to do extra and you kind of forget what got you there. I think that does happen with people.”
But there’s a little bit of good news for San Francisco: Their next three opponents - the Cardinals, Giants and Raiders - had a combined record of 3-16 before New York’s Monday night road game against the Atlanta Falcons. The 49ers’ seven previous opponents this season have a combined record of 29-16-2.