The 49ers had arguably the most dramatic first five weeks of the NFL season, with each of those games all decided by eight points or less. That led to a 2-3 record as their Week 6 bye arrived.
San Francisco's biggest obstacle thereafter was the health of its players. Already without running back Raheem Mostert, who was widely expected to handle the lead role and suffered a season-ending knee injury, and starting linebacker Dre Greenlaw, who landed on Injured Reserve due to a Week 2 groin injury, the 49ers also were dealing with kicker Robbie Gould being sidelined for four games due to a groin injury he sustained in pregame warmups in Week 4 against the Seahawks. Then in Week 9, starting right tackle Mike McGlinchey suffered a season-ending torn quad.
Any one of those injuries – among a host of several others – could've derailed San Francisco's season. Instead, they went 8-4 after the bye and managed to snag the sixth and final season in the NFC playoff picture, buoyed by a run game that produced 100 or more rushing yards in 13 of its 17 regular season games.
That in part helped the 49ers make a surprising playoff run with upset wins over the Cowboys (Wild Card Round) and Packers (Divisional), setting the stage for an NFC Championship showdown with the Rams in Los Angeles. However, the 49ers' season would end there with a 20-17 loss to the Rams.
Not many on the personnel side, but the same cannot be said for the coaching staff.
- Offensive Coordinator Mike McDaniel was hired as the Dolphins' new head coach
- Special Teams Coordinator Richard Hightower took the same position on the Bears' new coaching staff led by head coach Matt Eberflus.
- Quarterbacks Rich Scangarello departed to become the University of Kentucky's new offensive coordinator, replacing Liam Coen, who returned to the Rams this offseason.
- Tight ends coach Jon Embree took the same position, and added assistant head coach duties, on McDaniel's Dolphins staff.
- Wide receivers coach Wes Welker took the same position on McDaniel's Dolphins staff.
- Senior defensive assistant James Bettcher was hired by the Bengals as their new linebackers coach.
Among the nine new hires to the 49ers 2022 staff, the two most notable were former NFL quarterback Brian Griese as quarterbacks coach and former Chargers head coach Anthony Lynn as assistant head coach/running backs coach. Griese had been a broadcaster and analyst for ESPN since 2009, while Lynn spent last season as the Lions' offensive coordinator.
Kyle Shanahan enters his sixth season as head coach of the 49ers, compiling a 39-42 regular season record and 4-2 playoff record through his first five years.
What to watch for
Who the 49ers starting quarterback will be
San Francisco made a big trade up to No. 3 overall in 2021 to get Trey Lance, but externally the view from experts was that Lance needed time to develop because of his lack of experience (19 career games, including just one game played in 2020 due to North Dakota State postponing its season to the spring). So, sticking with veteran Jimmy Garoppolo wasn't much of a surprise.
The 49ers were "close" to trading Garoppolo, and effectively handing the reins to Lance, until Garoppolo elected to have shoulder surgery, complicating that process.
So for now, it's going to be a waiting game for the Rams defense to figure out who they will be preparing for in Week 4. By now, Los Angeles has a clear idea of what to expect from a Garoppolo-led offense. There is some tape out there on San Francisco's offense under Lance – he did play six games, starting two last year – but that likely doesn't encompass every aspect of an offensive that would utilize his skillset and traits.