MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. – So many said so much to so many in the days leading up to Super Bowl 2020, and if Merle Webb had been here and played for the 49ers, he might have said the following:
"Let's win this game for all small schools that never had a chance to come here."
Webbs Hickory Huskers did just that in Hoosiers, but the 49ers on Sunday didn't end their improbable journey from rags to wealth and lost Super Bowl LIV to the Chiefs (31-20) at Hard Rock Stadium.
No, the 49ers didn't win everything, but maybe the Giants could take inspiration from how the 49ers became a sudden win with intelligent moves, intelligent coaching, and the rise of a quarterback. The giants are on the "worst" part of the equation. Now comes the hard part.
At that point a year ago, no one connected anything about the 49ers franchise and a Super Bowl. They went 4:12 in 2018 after playing 6-10 as head coach of Kyle Shanahan's first year. Last place last season consisted of five consecutive, non-winning seasons and no playoffs for the 49ers played under three different head coaches.
Sounds familiar? The Giants will play for Joe Judge in 2020, their third head coach in the past four years. Their records in the past three years are 3-13, 5-11 and 4-12 and they have missed the postseason seven times in the past eight years. They seem to be as far from reaching Super Bowl LV in Tampa as almost every team in the league. A year ago, nobody advertised the 49ers and looked at what they did.
Can the giants justify themselves?
The 49ers are the third team in NFL history to win four or fewer games in one year and make it to the Super Bowl the next year. The Bengals did it in 1988 (and lost the Super Bowl) and the Rams did it in 1999 (and won the Super Bowl).
The 49ers arrived there and lost, and of course that stung.
"We will lick our wounds and we will get over it," said Shanahan. "We surprised many people this year."
A Super Bowl run certainly sounds far-fetched for the Giants, but what about a high-quality, winning team?
The 49ers in 2018 had the built-in excuse to lose quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo to a torn ACL after just three games. But they also made significant squad improvements as their latest high draft picks – DeForest Bucker (2016), Mike McGlinchey (2018) and especially Nick Bosa (2019) – were great additions in the first round. Later favorites such as George Kittle (fifth round), Fred Warner (third round) and last season Deebo Samuel (second round) and Dre Greenlaw (fifth round) were mixed in.
In the free agency, the 49ers signed Richard Sherman and Weston Richburg in 2018, and in 2019 a pro bowler, Kwon Alexander, added and acted for Dee Ford.
"Every time you go through a season like  it's disappointing, "said Shanahan." In this league, winning four games is very difficult everywhere, and in most countries it is very difficult for people not to turn a bit against each other. In the second half of the year, people are more worried about their off-season than actually going out, working through these practices, and trying to get better. Especially if you don't have that much to play.
“We found it so impressive how hard the boys worked every week, how we felt, even though we only won four games in each game that we were very proud of at the end of the year. We almost started to say that's a problem, aren't our boys angry enough? "
In order for the Giants to reach such a turning point, quarterback Daniel Jones must take a big step forward in his second year. One has to imagine that the younger draft picks – DeAndre Baker, Dexter Lawrence, Julian Love, Oshane Ximines and Corey Ballentine – continue to grow and evolve design. The 49ers got their offensive line right and Shanahan installed a zone blocking scheme that took Garoppolo's heat. The Niners have also significantly improved their pass rush with Bosa. The Giants have to play copycats with this model, although they chose number 4 in the upcoming draft, they are highly unlikely to land a top-notch pass rusher in the bosa form, and Chase Young of Ohio will then probably disappear from the board.
"It's really the boys' ability to really get through the tough times," said Buckner.
The Giants are experts in difficult times. Now comes the hardest part: ending these difficult times.