The worst thing an NFL team can do is consistently fail to meet high expectations. For the past two seasons, that’s precisely what the 49ers have done.
Sure, they’ve had plenty of injury issues. But most teams go through stretches that test the depth of the roster. Regardless of reasons or excuses, the 49ers simply haven’t been very good in the two seasons after they had a 10-point lead with seven minutes left in the Super Bowl.
After Sunday’s 14-point loss to a Cardinals team that had neither Kyler Murray nor DeAndre Hopkins, the 49ers have now lost eight straight home games, including the first half of their 2021 home slate. They haven’t won a home game with fans present since dismantling the Packers in the 2019 NFC title game.
Speaking of eight, they’re once again eight games under .500 during the Kyle Shanahan/John Lynch regime. That’s 32-40. Take out the 13-3 record from 2019, and they’re 19-37. Basically, two losses for every one win.
As Mike Sando of TheAthletic.com noted, 2019 is the exception but it’s treated as the rule. That could soon change.
It doesn’t mean Shanahan or Lynch are on the hot seat. Three seasons after signing six-year deals that covered 2017 through 2022, they each received three-year extensions, through 2025. Although the initial deals famously include provisions that fully-guaranteed the entire amount of the deals with no offset language, no such reporting emerged as to the extensions. And those factors — how much Shanahan and Lynch are guaranteed to be paid and how much of that amount has an offset attached — will be relevant to when and if either Shanahan or Lynch land on the hot seat.
After firing three coaches in three straight years (Jim Harbaugh, Jim Tomsula, and Chip Kelly), the 49ers craved consistency. They’ve got it with those six-year Teflon-coated contract, but they’re now consistently not as good as they’re supposed to be. With Shanahan and Lynch under contract for four more seasons after 2021, the question becomes when or if their positions will ride on turning it around.
In many respects, that will hinge on the development of quarterback Trey Lance. Whether it’s 2022 or 2023, Shanahan and Lynch eventually will be accountable for the status of the football organization. And they won’t have first-round picks to help make the team better in either of those seasons, thanks to the trade that brought Lance to town.
Given that Shanahan calls the shots and Lynch sets the table, it’s possible that Shanahan would be given a chance to hire a new G.M. before Shanahan ends up coaching for his job. Ultimately, those decisions will be made by Jed York, the man who once notoriously said that the owner can’t be fired.
Even if, in plenty of NFL cities, plenty of fans would say the owner should be.