SANTA CLARA — Heading into the 2018 season, the San Francisco 49ers had lofty goals of making their first playoff appearance since 2014.
Unfortunately for head coach Kyle Shanahan and the rest of the organization, a multitude of bad breaks — including injuries to key starters — have resulted in a 2-10 record.
Considering that San Francisco was officially eliminated from playoff contention with their 43-16 loss to the Seattle Seahawks, Shanahan said Friday that the final four weeks of the season, including Sunday’s Week 14 matchup against the Denver Broncos, will be used to re-evaluate the team’s existing roster.
Along with that, here are three things to watch for when San Francisco takes on the Broncos on Sunday afternoon at Levi’s Stadium.
The re-evaluation period has begun in San Francisco
While trying to win the remaining four games of the season are undoubtedly on the to-do-list for the second-year head coach, those same games offer a chance to take inventory of the pieces currently on the team and coaches on staff.
“I’m evaluating the heck out of our team,” Shanahan said. “There’s a lot of tough decisions that we’ve got to make at the end of this year. How guys look, how guys play, how they act.
Ranging from the reviving corps, running back room and defensive back unit, the 49ers have room to improve in each and every position group.
According to Shanahan, the 49ers will be looking to retool via free agency and the draft over the offseason which means clearing space for new additions. These final 16 quarters of football will be considered as an audition or next season.
This process isn’t limited to players, as Shanahan says coaches and other staff members will also be looked at, having their futures with the team assessed.
“We have a lot of things to think about possibly staff-wise and just the whole building,” Shanahan said. “I try not to make any decisions until the time comes. I’m going to let this all play out … You don’t want to jump to conclusions. You want to sit back, relax and see what happens.”
Marquise Goodwin to suit up for Sunday
Arguably the most explosive receiver on the roster, Goodwin hasn’t set foot on an NFL football field since Nov. 12 against the New York Giants on Monday Night Football, when he caught four balls for 69 yards.
In the 25 days since, Goodwin has been dealing with an undisclosed family issue. On Sunday afternoon, however, Goodwin is set to make his return. On Friday, he declined to discuss what’s kept him away from the field.
“It’s been awesome just to feel the love from my team and have the support from them,” Goodwin said. “Just being around them and preparing for this week has been great.”
This season, Goodwin has led all 49ers receivers with 339 yards and has become one of San Francisco’s most versatile receivers thanks to his speed and refined route running.
During Goodwin’s absence, rookie wideout Dante Pettis has taken his place, and over the last two games, the Washington product has posted 215 receiving yards and three touchdowns.
This season, the pair have had a special relationship as a veteran-rookie combo, which has included Goodwin helping Pettis adjust in his first year in the NFL.
“I love having Marquise back,” Pettis said. “He’s helped me a ton this year. I’m glad I can be here for him now in return.”
With the support of his teammates, Goodwin will be active on Sunday against the Broncos after having a full week of practice under his belt.
Shanahan expects things to open up a bit more offensively with an additional weapon on the field, but more importantly, he’s happy to see Goodwin in good spirits once again.
“It’s been good for Marquise to just be in the building, get his mind off of things and play football,” Shanahan said. “I’ve felt he’s gotten better as the week has gone on but I’m just excited to have him back.
Benchmark test for McGlinchey against Von Miller
In his first NFL season, Mike McGlinchey, San Francisco’s first-round pick out of Notre Dame, has proven himself worthy of the the No. 9 overall selection.
While McGlinchey has faced some of the league’s top talents like Aaron Donald and Melvin Ingram so far this year, his biggest test will come in Week 14 as he lines up across from Broncos outside linebacker and premier pass rusher Von Miller.
“When the schedule comes out and you know who you’re playing, it’s one of those games that you circle,” McGlinchey said. “It’s a big opportunity for me to play against a guy like that; a once-in-a-generation type of player.”
According to Pro Football Focus, McGlinchey has earned a ranking as the 15th-best offensive tackle in the NFL this season.
Taking on some of the best defensive lines in the NFL, including the Minnesota Vikings and Los Angeles Rams, McGlinchey has only given up three sacks and two quarterback hits.
For the heap of talent McGlinchey has faced in the first 14 games of his inaugural season, Miller comes as the most impressive according to the 24-year-old lineman.
“He’s the best at what he does in the world,” he said. “He’s in a class of his own.”
Over the course of his eight-year career, Miller, the MVP of Super Bowl 50, has 96 total sacks, the fourth-most among all active NFL players.
“He’s crazy athletic. Got one of the best first steps I’ve ever seen and does a great job of bending,” McGlinchey said. “I’m excited for the challenge.”