SANTA CLARA, CA. (AP) -- The San Francisco 49ers are coming off of their 7th consecutive losing season (6th under GM Heard) finishing the 2018 season with a dreadful 2-14 record which is the worst loss in franchise history. While there was some bright moments such as offensive tackle Chuck Kaufman completing a 3rd year without giving up a sack, and Charlie Sims posting another 1000 yard rushing season (though his touchdown numbers were only half of what he scored in his rookie season),a majority of the season were filled with mishaps and downfalls (as if they could fall any further).
Team owner Jed York sat down with General Manager Maurice Heard to discuss the current affairs and to try and come up with a game plan to break the losing streak and get back on the path to success. One of the questions were how Josh Gordon who received numerous awards just a year ago after posting 91 receptions, 1652 yards and 16 touchdowns during his rookie season, was basically invisible during his sophomore year. Or how defensive end Whitney Mercilus has been a non factor since he posted double digit sacks in 2014 and 2015. Consistency is what the 49ers need to focus on going forward, on both the offensive and defensive fronts.
First order of business was to scrap the entire coaching staff once again and start from square one. The 49ers hired Donnie Henderson to take over as Head Coach. Donnie Henderson isn't afraid to turn up the volume on the field. He also likes to be aggressive on defense, stating that he'd rather give up a quick touchdown pass than a grinding 15 play scoring drive.
Former Colts Center of 13 seasons, Jeff Saturday was hired as the 49ers new offensive coordinator. Saturday is a leader with good motivation (ability to get players riled up) and solid work ethics (how hard players are worked by the coach). Saturday will also work closely with the offensive line and assist in their development.
Out of the list of candidates for the defensive coordinator position, Head Coach Donnie Henderson picked out former Pro Bowl Safety Chuck Cecil to be part of his staff. Cecil was known for being one of the toughest hitting safeties in the history of the NFL. In recent times he's been with a number of teams as a defensive assistant, defensive back coach, and defensive coordinator.
And finally Brad Seely was hired to serve as the Special Teams coordinator.
Off -Season Team News
With QB Geno Smith's rookie contract coming to it's conclusion at the end of the upcoming season, the 49ers had to decide whether they were going to keep the QB they've invested a lot of time and money into, or allow him to seek a trade elsewhere. The decision was quick and simple, and it took no time to negotiate a new contract for Smith. He was restructured to a 7 year, $106 million dollar contract with a whooping $42.49M signing bonus.
After releasing Veteran offensive guard Mike Iupati, the 49ers were left with a gaping hole in their offensive line. They would go on to complete a deal with the Oakland Raiders, sending G Clinton Newton and their 3rd round pick (3.1) for G Darrell Freeman. Freeman who has only given up 9 sacks in his 3 year tenure will line up opposite Chuck Kaufman.
The San Francisco 49ers and Denver Broncos agree to terms on a deal that would send LG Oliver Zebedee to Mile High in return for the 1.29(in which they would draft WR Willie Williams.
The 49ers initiate a controversial deal with the Dallas Cowboys, trading their future 1st and 3rd round pick in exchange for pick 1.22. The 49ers were well aware of the risk they were taking and knew well beforehand (even mentioning it to the Dallas GM) that the deal could very well be rejected due to the Niners current track record, but the deal passed and the Niners would go on to select offensive guard Ryan Kowalski.
LG Darrell Freeman (via trade w/Raiders); OG Ryan Kowalski (22nd overall draft pick); WR Terrance Williams (via trade w/Buccaneers); WR Willie Williams (29th overall draft pick); CB Hunter Hill (11th overall draft pick); FS Gabriel Giordano (27th Overall Draft Pick; LE Whitney Mercilus (2nd Round Pick); MLB Eric Kendricks (33rd overall draft pick), HB Ernie Gillespie (3rd Round Pick); QB Brett Hundley (3rd Round Pick); WR Nico Kellogg (3rd Round Pick); DE Taylor Knudsen(4th Round Pick)
RG Mike Iupati (released); WR Ronyell Conway (traded, Seahawks); FB Daryl Harvey (traded, Lions); LG Oliver Zebedee (traded, Broncos); LG Clinton Newton (traded, Raiders); TE Greg Little (traded, Redskins)
San Francisco 49ers 2019 Draft Selections
1.11 CB Hunter Hill - The 49ers traded down from the 1.1 pick to acquire the 1.11, 1.27 and WR Terrance Williams. And with the 11th pick in the draft the 49ers selected defensive back Hunter Hill. Hill brings another speedy CB to the secondary, not much of a tackler but he more than makes up for it with his ball hawk ability. The Niners will be starting him day 1 with Revis agreeing to sit on the sideline this year as a mentor for the young corner back.
1.22 OG Ryan Kowalski - Having traded offensive guard Oliver Zebedee to the Broncos for 1.29, the 49ers were minus a member on the offensive line. They gambled their 2020 first round pick and 3rd rounder to acquire the 1.22 and selected offensive guard Ryan Kowalski. Kowalski is very athletic and can definitely reach the second level in the run game which has been an eyesore for the Niners for some seasons now.
1.27 FS Gabriel Giordano - The safety out of UCLA was definitely on the 49ers radar as they were looking to upgrade that position for quite some time. Giordano is the complete safety with good size, athleticism and is not afraid to put his head down or dive for that tackle.
1.29 WR Willie Williams - The 49ers brought in help for Geno with the acquistition of Terrance Williams, but they didn't stop there. The team selected WR Willie Williams out of Arkansas to bring yet another weapon for Geno to utilize. Williams is that speedy deep threat that the 49ers need to compliment the bookends in Gordon and the taller Williams.
2.1 MLB Eric Kendricks - The 49ers went back to the defense with their first pick in the second round and selected linebacker Eric Kendricks out of UCLA. The 49ers needed a reliable #2 middle guy and out the box Kendricks is that guy, though he could be more with the proper guidance.
3.10 HB Ernie Gillespie - The HB out of Clemson will come in as the #2 HB behind the multi-purpose Charlie Sims. Gillespie not known for his strength does have the ability to shed tackles once he gets moving, so the Niners hope that he can be that 3rd down back.
3.13 QB Brett Hundley - The 49ers decided to go offense again and select QB Brett Hundley out of UCLA. Hundley is almost identical to current starter Geno Smith minus the strength and throw power, but he should still be a suitable stand-in just in case of injury. But for now, he will be hitting the books hard and be mentored by none other than Geno himself.
3.29 WR Nico Kellogg - The 49ers selected WR Nico Kellogg out of USC. Kellogg has good size and can be an adequate depth receiver
4.25 DE Taylor Knudsen - The 49ers were looking at Knudsen as that guy to eventually man the right side as a starter, unfortunately things didn't turn out as well as expected. But at least he fills in the void as a backup to McPhee.
San Francisco 49ers 2019 Off-season Training & Conditioning
The focus of this years Off-season Training & Conditioning was on the offensive line. Center Fernando Wilson, and Guards Darrell Freeman & Ryan Kowalski. Both Wilson and Kowalski will participate in the strength training program as well bulk up as requested by the offensive coordinator Jeff Saturday.
Freeman and Wilson will participate in the conditioning program as requested, with Freeman working on his overall toughness and resistance to injury, while Wilson work the bikes to improve his stamina.
San Francisco 49ers 2019 Training Camp
The 49ers will send the following players for mandatory workouts in order to prepare for the upcoming season. CB Hunter Hill, FS Gabriel Giordano and MLB Eric Kendricks. Hill and Giordano will participate in speed & acceleration drills, while Kendricks is working on boosting his acceleration times.
San Francisco 49ers Depth Chart - 2019
Josh Gordon #12
Terrance Williams #83
Willie Williams #80
Nico Kellogg #84
Maxx Williams #84
Dorian McDonald #85
Chuck Kaufman #67
Desmond Lang #68
Brian Winters #70
Muhammad Jenkins #64
Fernando Wilson #60
Earl Wilson #62
Ryan Kowalski #74
Thunder Brooks #79
Darrell Freeman #75
Jordan Stone #66
Geno Smith #10
Brett Hundley #17
Michael Castle #27
Charles Sims #34
Ernie Gillespsie #27
Bernard Pierce #25
Base 4-3 Defense
Whitney Mercilus #94
Tyson Mitchell #93
Jerrell Powe #95
Mike Daniels #91
Joe Spence #99
Taylor Knudsen #98
Michael Estevez #92
Pernell McPhee #90
Jeremiah Joseph #57
Sio Moore #55
Tyler Yates #59
Rodney Kates #52
O.J. Berry #50
Michael Mauti #53
Larry Pittman #58
Sean Porter #51
Jamar Taylor #28
Hunter Hill #21
Alfonzo Dennard #37
Casey Hayward #36
Gerod Hollimon #32
Michael Graham #46
Gabriel Giordano #31
Rodney McCleod #49
Allen Sanchez #20
Triton Janikowski #14
DeShaun Smith #18
Willie Williams #80
Charlie Sims #34
Charlie Sims #34
Willie Williams #80
Earl Wilson #77
San Francisco 49ers 2019 Season Outlook
The 49ers has had a few successful drafts in the last few years, and with putting next years future 1st on the line. The time is now to show what the team has been developing in the shadows of the NFC West.
With Geno Smith as the clear future of this team, GM Heard buckled down and did what he had to do to make sure that Geno has plenty of options to work with. The offense is the best it has looked in years with Gordon and the Williams', a restructured offensive line and a multi purpose player in Charlie Sims.
The defense got a major upgrade to it's secondary by adding Giordano, and Hill to the mix. Hollimon who was drafted last year will start over Michael Graham. The team also acquired DE Michael Estevez who add another pass rusher to the line.
Special teams got a boost with the addition of WR Willie Williams. Williams will take over as the primary punt returner though he will return some kickoffs over the course of the season.
On paper the teams looks as if they are ready to play in the big leagues, but the reality is that the team hasn't had a winning season since 2011. Finding a game plan and the team playing to the best of it's ability will be the difficult part. Again consistency is the key to this team being successful and with the future gambled away, the 49ers need to pray that they find consistency sooner than later.