San Francisco 49ers 2021 Season Recapby Jackson Caudell February 1, 2022 0 comments
The San Francisco 49ers finished the season 10-7 and closed the regular season as one of the hottest teams in the NFL. They rode that hot streak into the playoffs and made it to the NFC Championship game. However, the team came up short against their division rival, the Los Angeles Rams, in a 20-17 game that they once led by double digits. This was a season in which wide receiver Deebo Samuel emerged as one of the best all-around weapons in the NFL and the team reached its second NFC championship in the last three seasons. There are plenty of questions surrounding this franchise this offseason, as they attempt to remain a contender in the NFC for years to come.
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What Went Right
For starters, this team finally stayed healthy. San Francisco has one of the NFL’s best rosters but has been struggling to stay healthy ever since Kyle Shanahan was hired as the head coach. In the two seasons they stayed healthy, the 49ers have made deep postseason runs. Samuel was a first-team All-Pro receiver and had one of the biggest breakout seasons in the NFL. The rookie Elijah Mitchell stepped up after Raheem Mostert suffered a season-ending early in Week 1. Having a running game with Mitchell was key for the offense and the sometimes erratic passing game.
What Went Wrong
The passing game was not good enough for this team to win a championship. However, it’s not fair to put the blame solely on Jimmy Garoppolo. The 49ers did not have a lot of weaknesses once their defense finally got rolling during the middle of the season. However, the passing game wasn’t dynamic enough for this team to get to the Super Bowl. While Mitchell was the rookie back that stole the headlines, Trey Sermon was supposed to be that guy. The team traded up in the draft for him and for some weeks, he was a healthy scratch. It is unclear what his role will be going forward, but it was a dreadful rookie season for Sermon.
Team Award Winners
MVP – Deebo Samuel
Samuel was not just one of the best players for the 49ers, but one of the top weapons in the NFL. He was a dynamic receiving threat, but as the season went on, he was used as a runner too, fully unlocking his potential. Samuel finished with 77 catches for over 1,400 yards and six touchdowns, as well as 365 yards and five touchdowns on the ground. He was dynamic after the catch and was a threat to score every single time that he touched the football. Look for him to build on this season and keep getting better moving forward.
Offensive Rookie of the Year – Elijah Mitchell
A rookie sixth-round pick out of Louisiana stepped up and became this team’s lead running back. Shanahan needs a dynamic running game to help his offense reach its full potential and Mitchell did great filling in for Mostert once he was injured. Mitchell rushed for nearly 1,000 yards and five touchdowns while catching 19 passes for 137 yards. There have been a number of running backs that have thrived in the Shanahan offense and Mitchell is the next one that could be a star.
Defensive Rookie of the Year – Talanoa Hufanga
It was tough for any defensive rookie to get on the field for San Francisco. However, the guy that impressed the most when he had his opportunities was Hufanga. A rookie fifth-round pick out of USC, Hufanga mostly made his mark on special teams but did well in some game action he received. Hufanga finished the season with 32 tackles and two pass deflections. With an offseason ahead of him, look for Hufanga to make a bigger impact next season.
Biggest Surprise – Trent Williams
Most around the NFL think of Williams as one of the top offensive tackles in the NFL. However, the kind of season that he just put together for the 49ers is incredible. At his age, most offensive linemen start to show signs of aging and their game starts to slow down. Williams was one of the best overall players in the NFL this season and it is close to unprecedented. On an offensive line that can struggle at times elsewhere, it was a great time for Williams to have such a great season.
Biggest Disappointment – Brandon Aiyuk
While Aiyuk was able to save his season by finishing strong, he was overall disappointing in his second season. Aiyuk had a great rookie season in 2020 and it was thought that he might even emerge as the top option on the offense alongside George Kittle. However, it was Samuel that took over the lead on the receiving end while Aiyuk was mostly just the third option. It will be interesting to see how Aiyuk plays in 2022 because the 49ers are dangerous when he is playing well.
One Burning Question
What Happens to Jimmy Garoppolo?
Garoppolo is one of the most criticized players in the NFL. He has been good enough to lead a team but is not dynamic enough to be a game-changer. This was evidenced by the 49ers trading a lot of draft capital for Trey Lance. Most figured that Lance would sit behind Garoppolo for a season and then take over in 2022. However, Lance started two games this season when Garoppolo was injured and there were mixed results, but the upside is clearly there. That is leading to the question of what the team is going to do with the veteran quarterback this offseason. He might be sought after on the trade market and the 49ers need draft capital after trading for Lance last offseason.
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