SANTA CLARA — The morning after winning their fifth consecutive game and their third in a row against a team going to the playoffs, the 49ers turned in their playbooks, cleared out their lockers and went home.
Two members of the equipment staff sat in the middle of the locker room collecting iPads containing digital playbooks and crossing names off a long list. Players sat at their lockers assembling cardboard boxes and filling them with shoes and clothes before catching flights out of town.
“This year was so special,” offensive lineman Joe Staley said. “I don’t think there’s a team in the NFL that would want to see us right now in the playoffs.
“I’ve never experienced anything like (this), and I don’t think anybody else has. Teams that have started 0-9, the most wins they’ve had in the entire season is three. Three was the record in the history of the NFL, and we finished with six.
“When we were 0-9, no one was pointing fingers. There was no division between offense and defense of who was doing their job, who wasn’t. That’s very easy to fall into because you want to protect yourself as a person. Especially with the young team we had, it’s pretty rare to have a lot of maturity from a lot of the young guys on this team. That’s one reason we’re really excited about what we have going right now.”
Staley is 33, the second-oldest player on the team. Does he feel reinvigorated after ending the year on a five-game winning streak?
“I do,” Staley said. “If you would have asked me that question Week 6, it would have been hard for me to answer. It really is a shame the season is ending.”
AMONG THE RECOGNIZED
The 49ers announced their team awards for the 2017 season Monday morning.
Wide receiver Marquise Goodwin won three awards. He won the Garry Niver Award for professionalism with the media, the Ed Block award for sportsmanship and the Len Eshmont Award for inspirational and courageous play. The Eshmont Award is the most prestigious honor bestowed on a 49er.
Goodwin’s wife gave birth to a stillborn baby on Nov. 12.
“I’ve always had to be resilient my whole life,” Goodwin said. “I’ve always had traumatic things happen and had to overcome it and endure a lot of pain. I’m definitely blessed to be here still alive and still well and still kicking.”
Goodwin suffered a concussion Sunday against the LA Rams, but said he felt fine and “definitely would” have played this week if the 49ers had a game to play.
Fullback Kyle Juszczyk won the Bill Walsh Award, which the coaching staff formerly gave to the team’s most valuable player. This year, the coaches gave it to the player “who has best represented the standard of professional excellence established by Walsh.”
Juszczyk is the only player on the 49ers who made the Pro Bowl this season. He played in 14 games, started 10 and caught 33 passes for 315 yards and one touchdown.
Defensive tackle DeForest Buckner won the Hazeltine Iron Man Award, which the defensive coaches give to the “most courageous and inspirational defensive player.” Buckner started all 16 games this season and recorded 61 tackles and three sacks.
Center Daniel Kilgore won the Bobb McKittrick Award for demonstrating “the courage, intensity and sacrifice” of McKittrick, who coached the 49ers offensive line from 1979 to 1999.
“(Kilgore) could have won (this award) many years,” Staley said. “He’s such a hardworking dude. Very consistent. Just everything you want as a teammate. Gives everything he has during practice. Never takes a meeting off. Never takes a workout off.
“And his play has elevated as he has gone along this year. He has played at a really high level for us as the season has gone on and done a lot of great things for us and allowed us to have some success that we were having.”
Rookie safety Adrian Colbert won the Thomas Herrion Memorial Award, which the coaches give to the rookie who made the most of his opportunity.
Colbert was a seventh-round pick. He started the season as a third-string free safety. After injuries to Jimmie Ward and Jaquiski Tartt, Colbert started six games and finished the season with 37 tackles and five pass breakups.
“You’re not going to be given anything,” Colbert said. “You’ve got to work for it.”
GAROPPOLO’S FUTURE STILL MURKY
Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo is scheduled to become a free agent when the new league year begins on March 14. He addressed his contract status Monday.
“I like being here. I think we had a good thing going at the end of this year, and we’ll see what happens.”
When asked if he wants his agent to begin negotiating a multiyear extension with the team this offseason, Garoppolo was coy. “We haven’t even really got that far yet. I’m supposed to talk to him in the next couple days and get down to LA and we’ll figure all that stuff out and go from there.”
“Why won’t you say you want to be with the 49ers long term?” a reporter asked.
“I haven’t really had a chance to think about it,” Garoppolo said. “The season just ended. We’ve got a long way to go. When we get those conversations started, we’ll go from there.”
If Garoppolo doesn’t sign an extension with the 49ers, they can give him the franchise tag — a one-year contract that will be worth roughly $24 million next season. Both head coach Kyle Shanahan and general manager John Lynch have said they would be willing to tag Garoppolo.
So, while his long-term future is uncertain, his short-term future isn’t. He almost certainly will be on the 49ers next season.