What Jerry Rice thinks 49ers need to bounce back in 2021 originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea
The 2020 NFL season has been one to forget for the 49ers.
Due in large part to injuries and lackluster play, the Revenge Tour never got off the ground. Now at 4-5, the 49ers must start to turn their attention to the 2021 season.
The roster still is one of the best in the league when fully healthy, but 49ers legend Jerry Rice needs to see something in 2021 that he hasn't seen from the 2020 locker room if the 49ers plan to bounce back next season.
"Well, that's something I've been looking for all season. I haven't seen anyone step up and be willing to take that role on," Rice told 95.7 The Game's "The Morning Roast" when asked about who the team's vocal leaders are.
"If you're not playing well on the football field, then you might need to have a team meeting. You might need to call everybody up in a circle and say, 'Hey, this is not the standard for the San Francisco 49ers,' and I haven't seen that. It's almost like no one wants to take over that role. With the quarterbacks they have now -- it used to be always the quarterback or a player like Ronnie Lott, who was well established on the team. You have to be established; then, once you stand up, players are going to listen to you.
"You know you got Nick Mullens and C.J. Beathard. Shanahan likes to go back and forth with these guys. But somebody needs to rally this team and say, 'look, guys, our backs are against the wall. We have to fight. We have to make a stand right now. We're 4-5, we're going into Week 10 and we are going up against a great opponent with the New Orleans Saints. If we go in there, if we do everything we need to do this week, have attention to detail, then at least we will have a chance to go out there and get a win."
With Joe Staley retiring, DeForest Buckner in Indianapolis and Jimmy Garoppolo, Richard Sherman and George Kittle injured, the 49ers have a leadership void at the moment. Even when Garoppolo and Kittle were healthy, it was apparent the 49ers missed the presence of Buckner and Staley, two players who were the backbone of a winning culture.
The 49ers have the talent to make the 2020 season an aberration. John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan have built a good roster with talent on both sides of the ball.
But they still will need to answer their giant quarterback question mark. Is Garoppolo their franchise QB, or do they need to find another option in the offseason?
Many questions lay ahead for the 49ers. They'll have to answer all of them to reopen their Super Bowl window in 2021.