The 49ers are expected by most to contend for their sixth Vince Lombardi Trophy in 2023. But some executives and coaches around the league aren’t ruling out San Francisco taking a step back.
The Athletic recently polled key decision-makers around the NFL — including general managers, executives, head coaches and assistant coaches – about the upcoming season. The topics covered included naming an MVP, best three quarterbacks and the top non-quarterback offensive player in the league.
Eighteen decision-makers were asked to name three teams that will surprise people “in a bad way” this upcoming season. The 49ers tied for the most votes in that category (five) along with the Dallas Cowboys and Green Bay Packers.
The Buffalo Bills, Miami Dolphins and Tampa Bay Buccaneers tied for second place with four votes apiece.
There was no reasoning mentioned in the article to why San Francisco tallied the most disappointing votes. The Bills’ struggles in the run game (aside from quarterback Josh Allen) were mentioned as a red flag, as was the Dolphins having “too many egos” paired with a young coach in Mike McDaniel.
Perhaps the 49ers’ sky-high expectations don’t leave much room to surprise fans in a positive way. There’s also the unknown of quarterback Brock Purdy, who went 8-0 in the eight games he played more than three quarters last year but could regress to the mean.
It’s also been an odd last month for the 49ers. They traded away former quarterback of the future Trey Lance, and star pass rusher Nick Bosa’s contract holdout could leak into the Week 1 matchup against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
To be fair, 22 of the 32 teams received at least one vote in that same poll, more evidence of the league’s unique parity every season. But other consensus Super Bowl contenders, such as the Kansas City Chiefs and Cincinnati Bengals, did not receive a single vote in that category.
The good news for any members of the 49ers Faithful now panicking? Top-tier talent usually wins out. And the 49ers have plenty of that.