The San Francisco 49ers played in a Super Bowl just five years ago and returned to the NFC Championship Game the following year, but the franchise has since slipped into the NFL's cellar, going 15-33 over the past three seasons.
Just months removed from a 2-14 campaign, though, Colin Cowherd argued on Tuesday's episode of "The Herd" that 49ers fans have reason to be optimistic following the arrival of new GM John Lynch and head coach Kyle Shanahan.
Most of the NFL's bad teams don't seem to have a plan
"Of all the bad teams in the NFL - like Buffalo is a bad team, they’ve gone 17 years, no playoffs. Jets, Cleveland, Jacksonville, Bears, Rams, Niners.
"Of the seven teams that are a little bit of a mess, San Francisco is really interesting, to me.
"You know [how] before a pilot takes off on your planes, they have a flight plan? A lot of times when it comes to football, I just want to be able to see your plan."
Cary EdmondsonCary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports
Jim Harbaugh had a plan for Michigan and he's executed it
"When Jim Harbaugh took over Michigan, they have recruited over the last two years… I think it’s like 13 defensive linemen. When Harbaugh got to Michigan, it was very obvious what his plan was. We’re going to get real physical. We’re going to recruit the hell out of the offensive and defensive lines - and they’ve done that, and they’ve done it at a high level.
"He wanted to create physical football at the point of attack. His belief was to beat Bama, to beat Ohio State, I’ve got to win in the trenches. You could see it from his recruiting. He poked Ohio State in the ribs, he poked the SEC in the ribs. He wanted to get noticed. Nationally, he wanted to make Michigan discussed, so when he walked into homes down in Georgia, Florida and Texas, the football players had heard of him. It was very obvious what Jim Harbaugh was doing. ‘We’re going to make Michigan football the talk. I’m going to go to pro wrestling events, I’m going to go to Cubs playoff games, I’m going to do these camps and it’s going to get publicity from the media.’ He comes on my radio show and he’s crazy and people talk about it.
"The gameplan was really obvious. Michigan had fallen off the radar of college football, and he’s like ‘I’m getting us back on the radar…’"
Rick OsentoskiRick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
San Francisco now has some stability at quarterback
"Here’s my thing about all these teams in the NFL. You know, your Buffalos and your Rams and your Bears and your Browns and your Jets. I think the Rams are finally getting, now that Jeff Fisher’s out, they’ve got a little bit of an offensive plan I like. New offensive guy, get a new left tackle, get a center, get Robert Woods.
"But San Francisco, to me, is really interesting. So the first thing they do is they stabilize the quarterback position. You’ve got Kaepernick, you’ve got Gabbert… ‘We’re just going to bring in a guy that’s one game over .500 to stabilize the quarterback [spot], Brian Hoyer."
Kelley L CoxKelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports
The 49ers aren't trying to be great, they're trying to stop their freefall
"We’re not going to be great at quarterback. We’re going to stabilize quarterback. We’re going to give these guys, the GM and the coach, six-year contracts.’ Nobody gets those!
"‘We’re going to stabilize the organization.’ And then two years ago, their first three picks were defense. Last year, four of their first top five picks are defense. And here I’m being told by Peter King and Peter Schrager, they’re going defense. So I’m seeing a plan.
"Long contract stability. Brian Hoyer’s not great… heavy defense [to] keep us in games. We’re not going to be great at quarterback, and there’s no great quarterbacks on the market.We want to be in games. We want to be competitive, we want to be viable. Defense, defense, defense. John Lynch, defensive guy. They hire the Denver Broncos’ lead scout to lead that part of the organization. I see a plan here with them, and I also believe they’re going to go after Kirk Cousins, potentially."
The 49ers don't have to commit to any of the QBs in this class
"But what, essentially, they’re saying is: We don’t like any of these college quarterbacks a ton, so at this point we’re just going to stabilize quarterback - because we can’t get great. We don’t think we can get great this year.
"Sam Darnold next year? Maybe we can be great. Kirk Cousins, we can be really good. But we’re not going to be really great right now, so let’s just stabilize it. I like what I see out of the Niners. I’m very interested in the No. 2 pick in the draft, I’m very interested in their direction.”