The 49ers' future revealed -- by the Magic 8-Ball

Clay Kallam
Jimmy Garoppolo has won 24 of 32 starts, which is pretty much as good as it gets.Getty Images

I’ve been thinking about this 49er story for weeks, it seems like, and I never could quite penetrate the San Francisco fog to come up with anything clear cut.

Sure, the Jimmy Garoppolo-Trey Lance debate is Topic A, but really, nothing will be decided for months – or longer. Remember, Garoppolo is 24-8 as a starter, a .750 winning percentage that ranks second all-time, behind only Tom Brady. That, however, doesn’t mean much if Garoppolo is holding a clipboard instead of a football, and he’s done too much of the former so far in his career.

He’s not the only one with injury question marks, though. Raheem Mostert is a strong, fast and powerful running back, just as George Kittle is a strong, fast and powerful tight end, and Deebo Samuel is a strong, fast and powerful wide receiver. But who knows how much any of them will play, given their history?

So with all this uncertainty, I turned to a constant source of insight into the future – the Magic 8-Ball. What better way, given my own uncertainty, to answer some key questions about the 2021 iteration of the San Francisco 49ers than to consult the timeless wisdom of the Magic 8-Ball?
Who needs computers?Mattel

And so I did.

1. Will Jimmy Garappolo start 10 games?

“It is decidedly so.”

This is definitely good news for the win-now 49ers. John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan made it clear when they traded all that draft capital for Trey Lance that the time to win is 2021, not 2026. And though some may wish Lance starts from day one, refer them to the winning percentage quoted above.

When Garoppolo is on the field, the 49ers win games, and that’s the bottom line in every sport.

2. Do the 49ers have enough depth at wide receiver?

“Cannot predict now.”

The Magic 8-Ball is not afraid of ambiguity, and thus is unwilling to commit that Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk will be able to carry the load at wide receiver. If both remain healthy, the third receiver won’t have to do much, but Samuel’s take-no-prisoners style of play makes it seem unlikely he’ll start 16 games.

Of course, the Magic 8-Ball holds out some hope, and who do you trust more? Me or that infallible Mattel product?

3. Will Richard Sherman return to the team?

“Concentrate and ask again.”

OK … I confess my mind wandered a bit. I was wondering if I should have that last piece of pie with another cup of coffee this morning. With whipped cream …

The Magic 8-Ball, though, demands nothing less than complete focus.

“Outlook good.”

This is surprising, but what does Richard Sherman want most? To win, and the 49ers have a chance to be really good this year, even in a tough division. Seattle is totally dependent on Russell Wilson, Arizona relies on a second-year quarterback and the 49ers beat the Rams twice last season.

On top of that, Sherman is comfortable in the Bay Area, knows the 49er system and already has the respect of the locker room and the football community. Where else will he find all that?

4. Will Trey Lance make an impact in 2021?

“My reply is no.”

This is a classic bad news/good news reply. The bad news is that the 49ers invested a lot in Lance, and in 2021, they’ll get nothing for it. The good news – the answer to question 1 – is that with Garapollo healthy, the team doesn’t need Lance to have an impact.

Or, on the other hand, it could be that even if Lance plays a lot, he’s not ready for NFL prime time, and in this, the Magic 8-Ball echoes a lot of learned football commentary.

5. Will the 49ers make the playoffs?

“As I see it, yes.”

The Magic 8-Ball is not suggesting that you run to Tahoe and put down a few big ones on the Niners’ postseason chances, but it is, in its infinite wisdom, suggesting that this fall could be fun for 49er fans.

And given that Santa Clara, er, San Francisco was 6-10 last year, being in the hunt instead of playing the spoiler would certainly be a big step forward.

And after all, would the Magic 8-Ball lie about something as important as this?

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Clay Kallam is a lifelong East Bay resident who spent several decades in local journalism -- and still writes for Diablo Magazine (among others). Over the years, he has covered just about every aspect of life in the Bay Area, from rock-and-roll to the arts to political coverage to food to sports. On the food front, he does not claim to be a critic, but rather someone who enjoys a good meal, a well-made drink and a nice red wine. As for sports, he has written for national publications (including Sports Illustrated and Slam) and covers girls' basketball across the nation for MaxPreps. He is a high school coach and a serious fan of the local teams -- and savored every minute of the Giants' and Warriors' championships. He graduated from Acalanes, UC Santa Barbara (ancient history) and Cal (philosophy). He lives in Walnut Creek with his wife Maggi, who takes many of the food photos. He appreciates his readers and is always happy to talk about anything he's written. His food experiences can be found at #dishdining on Instagram, and emails can be sent to

Walnut Creek, CA

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