INDIANAPOLIS -- It may not have been the ideal finish, however the San Francisco 49ers had a remarkable season in 2019, climbing from a 4-12 record in 2018 to NFC Champions in a year's time. The 49ers became just the third team in NFL history to make the Super Bowl after winning four-or-fewer games the prior season, joining the 1999 St. Louis Rams (4-12 in 1998) and the 1988 Cincinnati Bengals (4-11 in 1987).
San Francisco underwent five-straight non-winning seasons and a variation of turnover before crafting their own recipe for success. That formula included building its roster for sustained success with a load of young, cornerstone players through the draft and veteran talent who fit the bill of the right "football character."
It's impossible for teams around the league to not take notice of San Francisco's turnaround spearheaded by the leadership of John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan. In Indianapolis for the 2020 NFL Scouting Combine, several teams referenced the 49ers model of success, including their own NFC West counterparts. Here's what coaches and general managers around the league had to say about the 49ers resurgence and the outlook on San Francisco's future.
Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll on what's impressed him about San Francisco's turnaround:
"They've drafted really well. They've got a lot of guys. (Seahawks general manager) John (Schneider) noticed it a couple of years back, that they were starting to build up the numbers even though their record didn't show it. Just looking at the guys coming through the ranks, they have a very good roster. The quarterback, you know, Jimmy Garoppolo, really made a big impact on solidifying the whole style of their team. I don't think Kyle could have done a better job of turning this thing. He did a fantastic job, leaving a mark on his style and the way he does things.
"Their offense was really emblematic of all of the years he's been a coordinator calling plays. I thought he did a fantastic job. But I think it's the accumulation. And they had to pay the price for that. And it took them a while to get it done. But they did choose their players well. They put together a really good defensive group. Particularly, the guys that they put together up front. That's a tough group to deal with.
"And I think John Lynch has done a great job just keeping the whole thing in order, not getting distracted by the lack of success they had. And, also showing that they didn't get distracted by the success they've had, which is just as likely a problem. Very impressive group. As we've seen in our division, we've been through some cycles here, already. The cycles have kind of come and gone. It's a very, very tough division again. There's no doubt about it. And I don't think anybody wants to play us (NFC West). It will make us better."
Arizona Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury on what he can take away from the 49ers recent success:
"It's definitely motivating, there is no doubt, to see what Kyle has built there and staying consistent to his culture and who he wanted to be and hanging with it through some tough quarterback injuries. Being in their division, playing them and seeing what they have, it's definitely motivation for our organization."
Las Vegas Raiders general manager Mike Mayock on the 49ers rebuild:
"I think they did a great job. I give John and Kyle a ton of credit. I don't think it happened overnight. Their quarterback got hurt, which artificially set their record back for a year. But what they've been building over several years is a group of talented defensive linemen, a culture – and everybody laughs about that word. I don't. Building a culture is way harder than people pretend it is. It's easy to say and hard to do. That's why I give them so much credit. They've built a culture of toughness. They run the freaking ball. They believe in getting after the quarterback. I love what they've done, and I give them a ton of credit. But it didn't happen overnight."
Atlanta Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff on learning from the 49ers model:
"John (Lynch) and Kyle (Shanahan) did a helluva a job of putting that team together. At the beginning of the year, there were a lot of naysayers and they just continued to stay to their plans whether if it was on offense. I can speak directly to what Kyle has done and how he approaches that with a really, really sound run game, run scheme that's very important. Then flip it over and they have a really outstanding full package defense and pass-rush deal.
"I think a lot of us look at teams like that and when we try to determine how we can continue to learn from them. Like everyone does, it's a cyclical league and we're all learning from everyone. So of course San Francisco's done a helluva job that way as well."