The San Francisco 49ers surprised many experts on their way to a Super Bowl berth in 2019. Although they did not win the Lombardi Trophy, the general consensus was the Super Bowl window for the organization was wide open. This belief only grew during the offseason when the majority of the roster was brought back for the Revenge Tour.
For all intents and purposes, the Revenge Tour never left the station. A season opening loss to Arizona, followed by injuries to key starters throughout the roster led to a 10-loss season. The disappointment led to the 49ers using four draft picks, including three first round picks, to trade up to acquire the third pick in the draft which they used on quarterback Trey Lance.
Now, after a promising offseason that once again saw the 49ers bring back a number of their own free agents along with adding a few others in key areas -- Samson Ebukam and Alex Mack for example -- many believe that the 49ers are right back into their Super Bowl window.
There are two reasons to pump the brakes on this for 2021, and both involve the 49ers quarterback situation.
First reason: Since the first season to be played under a salary cap in 1994, no team has won the Super Bowl with a quarterback that is taking up more than 13.1 percent of their cap total.
Second reason: Over the 55-year history of the Super Bowl, no rookie quarterback has ever led his team to the big game.
It is safe to say that with either Jimmy Garoppolo or Lance at the helm, the likelihood of the 49ers winning the Super Bowl in 2021 is about the same as Cameron Frye getting those miles off of his father’s Ferrari 250 GT in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.
Despite this gloomy forecast, the 49ers could still have a very exciting season and set themselves up for 2022, when their Super Bowl window should truly be open.
How open that window could be will depend on Lance.
If Lance can go out and prove to be the player San Francisco expected him to be when they drafted him, the window should be open for at least three years. Having a quarterback on a rookie deal would allow the 49ers to build a solid roster around their young quarterback. The extra money would make a new contract for Fred Warner far less daunting, same with Nick Bosa and other veterans with contracts coming up over the next few years.
The window doesn’t necessarily close the moment that Lance moves on from his rookie deal. Look no further than Tom Brady with New England and Tampa Bay, along with the Chiefs and Patrick Mahomes for examples of how it can work. For years, Tom Brady worked with the Patriots to move money around so that his cap hit would still allow the organization to put a solid team around him. We are now seeing that play out with Mahomes in Kansas City, as he reworked the contract that he signed prior to 2020 in an effort to lower his cap charge so the Chiefs could go out and restock their roster.
As long as Lance is able to play at a high level and work with the organization to both maximize his pay while minimizing the cap hit each year, the Super Bowl window should be open for San Francisco.
No pressure, Trey.