As the confetti settles on the San Francisco 49ers’ loss to the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LVIII, we can take an early peek at how this defeat impacts Kyle Shanahan and the 49ers moving into next season. Recent history suggests that San Francisco will face an up-hill battle in order to return to contention in 2024. Perhaps no other teams understands the daunting road ahead of the 49ers more than their NFC West division rival Los Angeles Rams.
That was 15-round prize fight. Both teams landed haymakers. Both kept getting back up. The Chiefs ultimately delivered at the very end to entrench their dynasty — the 49ers needed to score a TD in OT, and they didn't.— David Lombardi (@LombardiHimself) February 12, 2024
Gut-wrenching doesn't begin to describe it for the 49ers
The Rams won Super Bowl LVI against the Cincinnati Bengals in the longest season in NFL history. The league continues to expand the season, and 2021 was the first year of 17 regular season games and an expanded playoff tournament that allowed seven entrants from each conference. The end result is a grueling slog that takes a substantial toll on teams that are able to make a deep run.
The Rams basically fell apart the season following their Super Bowl run, and it started with injuries along the offensive line that saw Matthew Stafford shut down prematurely for the year as a consequence. The Bengals were able to reach the AFC Championship game again, but back-to-back deep playoff runs caught up with them in 2023 where Joe Burrow never seemed 100% healthy and suffered a season-ending arm injury.
Last year’s Super Bowl loser, the Philadelphia Eagles, saw both of their coordinators hired as head coaches by other teams and they seemingly lost their ability to adjust on the fly late into the season this year before flaming out in the wildcard round. Making the championship game puts you at a serious disadvantage from a coaching staff standpoint, as other teams have been working to finalize their staffs for weeks but the final two standing are still on the starting line. The Chiefs and 49ers don’t aren’t even sure right now who they are losing from their own staffs, and they surely haven’t dedicated much time to figuring out who will be the replacements or new reinforcements for 2024.
With the expanded regular season and playoff tournament, the NFL season has never been more grueling. The only team to earn back-to-back trips to the big game since has been the Chiefs, who are now officially a dynasty and will have a head start over ever other team with Patrick Mahomes under center.
The 49ers are fortunate to have earned a trip to Super Bowl LVIII, but they can’t just assume they’ll be back next year. The odds are already stacked against them both from a physical toll and coaching staff perspective. Meanwhile there are teams like the Rams, Detroit Lions, and Green Bay Packers in the NFC that are ascending and have had time to chart their course forward into 2024 and beyond.
History suggests the 49ers will have a steep climb back to contention next year. Does that create an opening for the Rams in the NFC West and NFC conference?