The San Francisco 49ers put themselves back on the map in 2019 as one of the best teams in the league. The 49ers had a massive surge forward with their first trip to the Super Bowl in nearly a decade. Although they fell short in disappointing fashion, there is a tremendous level of optimism around the franchise’s bright long-term future. However, Hall of Famer Jerry Rice has voiced some hesitance about making a second straight trip to the grandest stage in 2020.
49ers’ impressive 2019 season
The 49ers headed into last season with the hope of making a significant push forward after falling well short of the playoffs the year before.
San Francisco more than blasted past those initial expectations as they guided their way toward the NFC’s best record. The 49ers built a powerhouse team on both sides of the ball behind a dominant defense and strong running game.
Those two aspects set the 49ers up to guide their way through a deep playoff run by smoothly reaching Super Bowl 54 behind convincing wins over the Minnesota Vikings and Green Bay Packers. They may have fallen one quarter short of earning their sixth Super Bowl win in franchise history; San Francisco proved that they have arrived as a legitimate contender in the NFC.
Jerry Rice isn’t as optmistic about Super Bowl return
Despite a disappointing close in Super Bowl 54, the 49ers have earned the recognition as being a bonafide title contender next season and possibly beyond that.
Many have already pegged them as being one of the favorites to make a push toward the Super Bowl in what could be a rematch against the Kansas City Chiefs. However, Rice has voiced that next season could prove to be much more difficult as their success in 2019 has put a significant target on their backs, especially in the NFC. (H/T Yahoo Sports)
“I think you’re a target now,” Rice explained, “because every team is going to give you their best shot. Every game is going to be like a playoff game, and I have gone through this. It’s hard the next year. You’ve got to battle through, but I feel like they have the players that can do that.”
Rice doesn’t doubt that the 49ers can return to the Super Bowl, but rather that it will be a more challenging path. Opponents will be motivated by another notch to take them down in similar fashion as to what the Los Angeles Rams faced last year.
San Francisco has the firepower on both sides of the ball to make another impressive push, but there’s no denying that the road will be steep.
Can the 49ers return to the Super Bowl?
The 49ers are returning mainly the same roster that they had last season with some additions through the draft and free agency.
Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo is also firmly entrenched as the starter despite the massive criticism he has faced following the Super Bowl 54 loss. The 49ers should still see their defense rank among the top units in the league, while their young core group on offense should continue to take strides forward.
San Francisco will have the challenge of possessing the fourth-hardest schedule in 2020 with a .527 winning percentage from last year. The challenge from the NFC West should only be more difficult with the Arizona Cardinals expected to take a step forward.
The 49ers’ fortitude will be tested next season, but they certainly have the pieces in place to make another deep playoff run.