49ers are in "Win now mode." Sound familiar?
If this is true, then the 2021 team has to be better than the 2019 version. So let's compare. Below I will give a breakdown from coaching to position groups. Finally, I will give the winner of each category, whether it be the 2021 team or the 2019 version. Keep in mind as I walk through this process I will not look at how the 2019 season played out but rather what the thoughts were of each group going into the season.
Head Coach: Kyle Shanahan as the head coach is just as revered now as he was then. Push.
Offensive Coordinator: Mike McDaniel has been "promoted," however Shanahan is still calling the plays. Nothing has changed as Shanahan is one of the most brilliant minds in the game. Push.
Defensive Coordinator: 2021 will be the first year for defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans. 2019 was Robert Saleh's third year in the position. 2019 gets the nod here.
Quarterback: Jimmy Garoppolo is widely regarded as the starter in 2021. That said, Trey Lance in my opinion will start Week 1. Either way, the group as a whole is much more talented in 2021. Beathard nor Mullens are good enough to be in this year's quarterback room.
Running Back: Trey Sermon and Elijah Mitchell are unknowns much like Jeff Wilson Jr. and Raheem Mostert were in 2019. Wayne Gallman isn't as well regarded as Tevin Coleman was in 2019. This year's starter is Raheem Mostert who, much like Matt Breida in 2019, is a speedy back with a high per carry average. 2019 Breida and 2021 Mostert are coming off nearly identical attempts and yards the prior two seasons combined. If Jeff Wilson Jr. was healthy I would give this team a nod here but him being out makes this a push.
Fullback: Kyle Juszczyk is still a swiss army knife who can pick on opposing teams linebackers. Push.
Wide Receivers: This year's version is not without its share of concerns. Health may be an issue and there is no clear cut slot receiver. That said, the 2019 receivers were a disaster, Deebo Samuel was a rookie and Dante Pettis was in the dog house. Expected contributor Jalen Hurd was injured and nobody knew what Kendrick Bourne brought to the table. This year's version is clearly better, on paper
Tight End: Although the main players here are the same in George Kittle and Ross Dwelley the circumstances are much different. George Kittle has established himself as an All Pro player and arguably best tight end in the league. Ross Dwelley is entering Year 3 as a solid No. 2 option. This version is certainly held in higher regard than the 2019 version.
Offensive Line: This is extremely tough to evaluate. At first glance it seems as though the offensive line has improved. In the case of Laken Tomlinson and Mike McGlinchey the names are the same. Joe Staley was still a very good player headed into 2019 but he is not at the level of Trent Williams. As you look deeper, McGlinchey has regressed, Alex Mack is good but Weston Richburg was thought to be pretty good also. Mike Person in 2019 was coming off a year where PFF ranked him 18 amongst qualifying guards. There are high hopes for Aaron Banks but he has yet to take a snap. Edge goes to the 2019 offensive line.
Defensive Line: One name, DeForest Buckner. 2019 is much better.
Linebackers: Much like the tight end position, the names are familiar. Major change is Samsom Ebukam is on the current roster and Kwon Alexander was on the 2019 version. Dre Greenlaw was a rookie in 2019 and Fred Warner was on the rise but wasn't the best linebacker in the game, as he is today. This year's core gets the win here.
Cornerbacks: In 2019, Richard Sherman was coming off his worst year as a full time starter and was on the wrong side of 30. Although Ahkello Witherspoon and Emmanuel Moseley were getting lots of buzz, they had yet to prove anything. As for K'Waun Williams, his 2018 and 2020 campaigns from a production standpoint were similar, however he was much healthier in 2018. Slight nod goes to the 2021 cornerback group.
Safeties: Names remain the same but the circumstances are much different. Jimmie Ward is coming off his two best seasons as a pro. Jaquiski Tartt missed a majority of 2020, but after 2019 he has officially arrived. Clear advantage for the 2021 safeties.
Special Teams: Robbie Gould is the kicker today as he was in 2019. In 2018 Gould was much more accurate than he was in 2020. Punt and kick returners, nothing blows my hair back but it didn't in 2019 either. 2019 unit has the edge here.
A lot of pressure on this year's team, expectations have risen since 2019 and the team's leader Kyle Shanahan is in a must-win situation in order to avoid the hot seat. Team is respected amongst the league and they won't sneak up on anyone. One major change for the NFL this season is the addition of one regular season game. Depth will be more important than ever. When I look at the team depth, the edge definitely goes to the 2019 team, the defensive line alone ran eight deep.
You should notice a big omission from the breakdown above, Emmanuel Sanders. He was not on the team at this point in 2019, but was a huge addition in Week 8. If this were a boxing match, I would say 2021 landed the harder blows with a better starting lineup. 2019, however, won more rounds with team depth and lower expectations. Decision goes to the 2019 San Francisco 49ers. Thus this year's team is not truly in “win now mode.” Not yet.