49ers have come long way under Kyle Shanahan-John Lynch leadership

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49ers have come long way under Shanahan-Lynch leadership originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea

SANTA CLARA -- The 49ers were in such a state of disrepair at the end of the 2016 season, then-head-coaching candidate Kyle Shanahan did not hold back when explaining to CEO Jed York just how little talent was on the team.

Shanahan’s blunt message, though jarring, did not exactly surprise York during the interview process.

York already knew.

Ultimately, the rebuilding that was needed was seen as such a long-term project that York hired Shanahan and general manager John Lynch to eye-popping six-year contracts.

That was seen as a huge level of commitment for an organization that had already cycled through consecutive one-and-done head coaches Jim Tomsula and Chip Kelly with former general manager Trent Baalke.

Then, on the first day of free agency in March 2017, the new 49ers welcomed in a seven-member class of veterans to officially begin the remodel.

As the Shanahan-Lynch regime enters its sixth season, only two of that original group remain.

“(You’re) making me emotional, man,” Pro Bowl fullback Kyle Juszczyk said when asked to reflect on the journey since that day.

“That was a long time ago. It is crazy to think about us being up here six years ago. I think the only ones left in that group are outside of John and Kyle are me and Robbie (Gould).”

Wide receivers Pierre Garcon and Marquise Goodwin, quarterback Brian Hoyer, tight end Logan Paulson and linebacker Malcolm Smith joined Juszczyk and Gould on the stage inside Levi's Stadium for the introductory press conference for the entire group.

“I remember in that time I felt like a freshman in college and I felt like we were starting a new program," Juszczyk said. "And that’s really what it was. We’d basically cleared house. It was all new players, all new coaches.”

The 49ers’ front office and coaching staff have made their share of mistakes in five seasons, but the results are undeniable. The 49ers went from one of the worst teams in the league to one of the NFL’s top four teams in two of the past three seasons.

“Honestly, I have a huge sense of pride for where I’m at now from that moment because I feel like we succeeded in a lot of the goals we set out and the culture that we built, the winning mentality,” Juszczyk said. “The wins that we have had, going to the Super Bowl, going to the NFC Championship, I’m just extremely proud of what we’ve built and how now when new people coming into the program.”

Juszczyk said there is now an expectation when new players come to the organization. Those players are held accountable for building on what has already been established.

“I think we’ve really accomplished the things we set out to do and now we have one more goal and that’s to go get a Super Bowl,” Juszczyk said.

This season begins a whole new era -- one that will likely define this generation of the 49ers franchise.

Te results will start to be seen from the biggest gamble of the Shanahan-Lynch era — and one of the boldest moves in franchise history.

Quarterback Trey Lance, 22, officially takes over for Jimmy Garoppolo as the 49ers’ starter. The 49ers traded first-round picks in 2021, ’22 and ’23, plus a third-rounder, to move up to No. 3 overall to select Lance in the 2021 NFL Draft.

As the 49ers begin the final season of the original contracts for Shanahan and Lynch, the coach said he is feeling more optimistic about his team than at any point previously. He believes this is the perfect time to integrate a talented, unproven young quarterback.

“I feel as good about our roster as I have,” Shanahan said. “I love our team right now. Like when I just sit and go through our positions some of the young guys that we’ve added, some of the young guys in the last couple years who have quickly become some of our better players and leaders, I think our team’s in a great spot to turn it over to a quarterback who hasn’t played before.”

The 49ers accomplished one of the final pieces of the offseason to-do list when All-Pro wide receiver Deebo Samuel was signed to a contract extension through the 2025 season. Such cornerstones as Samuel, Nick Bosa, Fred Warner, George Kittle, Charvarius Ward, Arik Armstead, Trent Williams and Lance figure to be around for a while.

“Especially this organization, they’re always going to take care of the players,” Williams said on Monday upon the completion of the lucrative contract extension with Samuel. “I didn’t really have a doubt.”

RELATED: How Williams assisted with Deebo's negotiations with 49ers

The 49ers have star power, for sure. But what really impresses Williams, a nine-time Pro Bowl left tackle, is the quality of some of the lesser-known players who have made their marks on the roster, too.

“The team just keeps getting better,” Williams said. “The front office, man, is amazing — the guys they continue to bring in. They might sign somebody you never heard of, and when they get here, you understand why they signed them. That’s a nuance of the business that gets lost.”

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