SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — The San Francisco 49ers remarkable turnaround season from 4-12 doormat to NFC Champions came up a quarter short of being a Cinderella year in Super Bowl LIV.
And the locker room was somber as was the flight home on Monday. It will be days and weeks before the disappointment wears off. But eventually it will and they will begin focusing on the season ahead.READ MORE: Asian American Attacks: San Francisco Shop Owner Says Teen Thief Pepper Sprayed Her
In the moments after the game, Joe Staley — a fixture on the 49ers offensive line since they fell just short of winning in back in Super Bowl XLVII — had a hard time dealing with the emotions.
“I’m sorry, this is just super disappointing,” said Staley choking back tears. “This is very hard, um, being in this moment right now.”
“You put your heart and soul, your whole entire life trying to be a Super Bowl champion, and you get to the end of your career and you realize how rare these opportunities are,” he added. “The emotions are all still raw and real for me right now.”
While Staley is nearing the end of his career, linebacker Fred Warner — who had one of two San Francisco interceptions of Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes — was looking to the future.
“It was a great season,” he said. “I can’t take anything away from what we’ve done. To go 4-12 and then go to the Super Bowl and have a chance to win in it, it’s one of those things that will hurt for a while. I’m going to do everything in my power to make sure we’re better.”
Other players took to social media to voice disappointment and the promise to fans that their season wasn’t a fluke. That the dark days are over for the 49ers, who were one of the league’s younger teams.
“Proud of this team!” Richard Sherman tweeted. “Wasn’t the result we wanted but we battled through. I wasn’t good enough tonight and I will fix that. Thank you for all your support this year.”
Offensive lineman Mike McGlinchey likewise reflected on the turnaround year.READ MORE: Santa Clara Wins NCAA Women's Soccer Championship, Topping FSU In Penalty Kick Shootout
“Win, lose or draw, always damn proud to be a 49er,” he tweeted. “We will build from this. Thank you to everyone for the outpour of support.”
Receiver Dante Pettis also pledged the campaign to return to next year’s Super Bowl began with the final buzzer.
“Love my brothers,” he tweeted. “Next season begins now.”
But receiver Kendrick Bourne, who will become a free agent in this off-season, was struggling just with the moment.
“Worst feeling I’ve ever felt!,” he tweeted.
While the core of the team is relatively young, San Francisco GM John Lynch faces some tough decisions with the squad’s free agency heading into next year starting with defensive line stalwart Arik Armstead.
The former No. 17 overall pick had a career year in 2019. In 16 regular-season games, Armstead recorded 54 combined tackles, 10 sacks and two passes defensed. He also led the team in quarterback takedowns, and took a major step forward in his fifth season.
Then there is Emmanuel Sanders, who the 49ers picked up in a trade with the Denver Broncos. Sanders recorded 36 receptions for 502 yards and three touchdowns in 10 regular-season games. But with the emergence of Deebo Samuel and the promise of high draft pick Jalen Hurd who spent the season out with an injury, Sanders time in San Francisco may have come to an end.MORE NEWS: UPDATE: 2-Alarm House Fire Contained In San Francisco's Bayview District
Bourne also may find himself the victim of a salary cap squeeze as could off-injured running back Matt Brieda, who saw his role with the team diminish with the emergence of Raheem Mostert.