SANTA CLARA — Two undeniable truths shape the 49ers’ Week 6 matchup in Washington: The team is 0-5 and is set to play Kirk Cousins, the quarterback most connected to the rebuilding efforts under way in the South Bay.
Cousins is set to be a free agent after this season. He’s excited about it, too. The Niners will be flush with cap space, and Kyle Shanahan and his father, Mike, were responsible for drafting Cousins out of Michigan State in 2012.
Since his team is winless — instead of, say, 4-1, which isn’t inconceivable when you consider four losses were by three points or fewer — Shanahan can use this year to better evaluate what he’s got on the roster and how he can better position it for the future.
“You’re always carrying two thoughts,” the first-year head coach said Wednesday. “You always want to win right now, but you don’t want to do it at the expense of hurting yourself over time.”
It’s amazing the kind of perspective being under a six-year contract can give an NFL coach. Shanahan was intent on making the most of being 0-5, because it allows him a chance to find out what kind of talent he has on his roster.
“A lot of people can fool you when you’re 5-0. Everybody’s happy, everybody’s perfect. It’s very easy to do everything,” Shanahan said. “When you’re 0-5, a lot of true colors come out with people, and you get to find out the guys you want to go to war with and the guys who are going to be a part of turning this thing around.”
When the 2017 season is done — for the 49ers that will be about 5 p.m. on Dec. 31 — Shanahan and general manager John Lynch will have options. Because of their cap space, they could find a franchise quarterback in free agency, and because of their record, an exciting prospect should be available.
“That’s one of the reasons that we were so excited to come here,” Shanahan said, referencing how the team is positioned for the future.