With the NFL season having officially begun Thursday night with Tom Brady and the Buccaneers defeating the Dallas Cowboys 31-29 in Tampa Bay in a thrilling opener, the San Francisco 49ers get set to kick-off their own campaign Sunday in Detroit against the Lions. And the excitement running through the franchise is palpable.
The San Francisco 49ers will open their NFL season in Detroit on Sunday at 10 a.m. PT against the Lions, in a game in which they are favored to win by more than one touchdown. Despite an outwardly impressive, albeit meaningless, pre-season that saw the Niners go 2-1, the team is poised for a strong run this year, and has set the expectation for themselves of getting back to the Super Bowl, despite observable doubt from the sport’s top analysts across the country.
General Manager John Lynch and Head Coach Kyle Shanahan were busy this summer, signing C Alex Mack and DE Samson Ebukam while rounding out the receiving core with additions of WR Mohammed Sanu, WR Trent Sherfield, and WR River Cracraft. The 49ers also drafted RBs Trey Sermon and Elijah Mitchell, who will feature in the backfield to differing degrees this campaign.
The biggest signing from this off-season, however, was QB Trey Lance from North Dakota State University, after the 49ers traded up from 12th position to secure the high-risk, high-reward signal caller with the 3rd overall pick in the 2021 Draft. Much has been made about what his role will look like this year, and while many analysts around the league are of the opinion Lance is ready to play and have been calling for him to start Week 1, head coach Kyle Shanahan has maintained throughout that Jimmy Garoppolo is the team’s starter.
While Shanahan has remained steadfast in his support of Garoppolo, it’s hard not to imagine him drooling over what could be with Trey Lance. Shanahan has built a reputation for being one of the game’s most all-time dynamic play callers, and he has done so with relatively immobile quarterbacks like Matt Ryan and Garoppolo. What is already a night terror for opposing defensive coordinators becomes even scarier when they have to also respect a QB that can gash you for big yards on the ground.
A Lance-led 49ers could be truly dangerous with all of the problems that it poses, and many fans have expressed feelings of irritation and impatience at having to wait for the dawn of the Lance-era. However, it seems this season Trey Lance will mostly take a backseat to Garoppolo, learning what he can, developing, and potentially entering the game in specific situations where his attributes help expose certain holes in opposing defenses.
Despite not being backed by a single NFL analyst to win the Super Bowl this year, the 49ers are extremely well positioned to return and achieve their quest for the franchise’s sixth championship. In some respects, this is easy to understand, as the 49ers were devastated by injuries last year and were all but forgotten about. However, the team still retains its core from the last time they went to the Super Bowl in 2020, and are healthier and hungrier than ever to win another NFL title. That being said, from the players and coaches to the front office and the vendors throughout the stadium, there is a buzz within the organization about kicking off this season and having The Faithful back in Levi’s.
With pandemic restrictions relaxing nationwide, NFL owners are salivating at the thought of all those dollar signs walking through the turnstiles again each and every Sunday afternoon. And despite being, for the most part, out-of-touch billionaires, you can almost sympathize with them over a loss of income last year as well as their excitement to see increased game-day revenues returning this season. But throughout the 49ers organization, it feels a little different, with a tangible excitement to connect with its fans driving each and every action.
The 49ers have always maintained a strong commitment to their community and have been working diligently on ways to top the fan experience from last year. While that shouldn’t be too hard with the opportunity of having fans back at Levi’s Stadium this season, the Niners organization has put together some pretty cool initiatives through interesting partnerships that will be sure to provide the 49ers Faithful with a truly unforgettable experience, whether you get a chance to see the team play in-person or not.
55,000 new stadium seats in Levi’s pic.twitter.com/xCZOjxuNKs— Kyle Johanson SFist (@KJSFist) August 6, 2021
If you’re headed to Levi’s for the home opener against Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers on Sunday September 26th, you will want to make sure to download the 49ers app prior to game day. Much effort has been made to offer a streamlined experience when entering and accessing the stadium, and the app helps fans manage tickets, order food, and provides a better understanding of what’s happening inside Levi’s on game day.
The app also allows access to the 49ers Museum, which is open again for the first time since March of 2020 and has been updated with new experiences for returning viewers. Next to the museum, stadium-goers can find a Levi’s personalization station inside the Team Store where they can have a variety of Niners merchandise customized to their liking.
The 49ers have always been creative when it comes to their corporate partnerships and have managed to keep it fresh this year while still enhancing the gameday experience. Manscaped, the 49ers’ below-the-waist grooming partner, has positioned some comedic banners in the men’s restrooms that will be sure to merit some laughs.
As always, the 49ers are partnering with Santa Clara County to follow and uphold all COVID-19 guidelines and regulations within Levi’s Stadium on game day, and you can find detailed expectations and some frequently asked questions here.
For those who won’t be able to make the (let’s be honest, if you’re coming from SF, dreaded) trip to 49ers Mecca this year, the team is still generating new ways to connect with the team, as remote fan engagement was, and continues to be, huge during the pandemic.
The organization as a whole is thrilled to share with fans the implementation of the Supporter’s Club, a subscription-based fan engagement tool which aims to create direct and lasting connections with the 49ers global fanbase. The Supporter’s Club requires an annual membership fee of $75, 10% of which is donated to the 49ers Foundation to help support their ongoing efforts to educate and empower Bay Area youth. Drawing on inspiration from their partners at Leeds United, a professional soccer team that plays in the English Premier League, the Supporter’s Club offers an elevated fan experience that allows Faithful to personalize their experience as well as connect with fellow 49ers fans around the world.
Whether you’ll have the chance to come watch the team play in person this season or prefer to watch from the comfort of your own home, the franchise as a whole is making every effort to connect with their fans when and where appropriate. As the 49ers get set to celebrate their 75th anniversary this year, there is an energy within the organization that seems to extend far beyond the football field and into the community.
Don’t be surprised when the 49ers run through the NFL this year, as they are hungry, healthy, and playing with a chip on their shoulder. Despite being in the toughest division in the NFL, the 49ers have one of the easier schedules in recent memory, which again, begins this Sunday at 10 a.m.
(Top Image: Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images)