49ers leave dismal Jarryd Hayne-era behind

Peter Mitchell, AAP US Correspondent
Australian punter Mitch Wishnowsky is one of the main reasons behind the 46ers' rejuvenation

Australian Mitch Wishnowsky's Super Bowl-bound San Francisco 49ers are not Jarryd Hayne's dismal 2015 49ers.

The NFL is nicknamed the Not For Long league for the rapid turnover of players and proof of that is trying to find former Hayne teammates on the 49ers' team facing the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday (Monday 10.30am AEDT) in Miami for the Super Bowl.

Only a handful remain on a 49ers' roster that has risen from the ashes after tumultuous losing seasons.

"There were definitely some years where I didn't really see the vision and where the future of the franchise was going," the longest tenured 49ers' player and former Hayne teammate, offensive tackle Joe Staley, told reporters in Miami this week.

Hayne's head coach Jim Tomsulu was fired hours after the team finished last in the NFC's west division losing 11 of 16 games.

Hayne, of course, jumped ship before the 49ers' 2016 season began with the aim of playing for Fiji in the rugby sevens at the Rio Olympics, but instead he ended up back in the NRL.

Tomsula was axed despite only being in the first year of a four-year $US14-million contract.

They replaced Tomsula with Chip Kelly, signing him to a four-year $US24-million contract, but Kelly was also fired after one season with the 49ers losing 14 of 16 games.

Club general manager Trent Baalke was also shown the door.

The 49ers' rise began in early 2017 with the signing of then 37-year-old offensive whiz Kyle Shanahan as head coach and nine-time Pro Bowl safety John Lynch as general manager.

Success was not instantaneous with the Shanahan-Lynch run 49ers losing 22 of 32 games in their first two seasons.

They worked on re-shaping the roster with the additions of youth and experience, including Seattle Seahawks' five-time Pro Bowl cornerback Richard Sherman and New England Patriots back-up quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo.

They also took a major gamble on Perth-raised punter Wishnowsky, a 27-year-old high school dropout and former glazier.

Shanahan and Lynch selected the Australian in the fourth round of last year's seven-round draft.

It's rare for teams to use a valuable pick on a punter.

Wishnowsky was the NFL's highest drafted punter since the Jacksonville Jaguars selected Bryan Anger in the third round in 2012.

The new, wiser 49ers were methodically building their Super Bowl calibre squad, needed a punter and Wishnowsky was the best of the bunch.

"You were a target from the beginning," Shanahan, surrounded by Lynch and the 49ers' other excited coaching staff and management, told Wishnowsky in a congratulatory phone call at the time.

"We were worried we were going to lose you, but we got you here man so we're pumped up."

The 49ers started the 2019 season with eight straight wins and ended it with 13 wins and three losses, the equal second-best regular season record in the NFL.

Staley arrived in San Francisco as a first-round draft pick in 2007 and 13 years later has a chance, after losing the 2012 Super Bowl and enduring the dark Tomsula-Kelly days, to win an elusive championship.

"So many friends that you worked with for so long come and go, coaching staffs," Staley said.

"You definitely have a greater appreciation for it later in your career.

"You realise how rare and hard it is to get here."