We’ve discussed every prominent member of the 49ers this offseason in-depth except for head coach Kyle Shanahan. The 2021 season was full of ups and downs for the Niners’ head coach. For every complaint, Shanahan made two or three decisions that helped get this team to the NFC Championship for the second time in three years.
Each year, Patrick Daugherty of NBC Sports’ compiles a ranking where he assesses each NFL head coach. Shanahan has gone from 15th heading into 2019, to 8th, before dropping back down to 10th last season.
After a deep playoff run, Shanahan finds himself back in the top-10:
7. Kyle Shanahan
Career Record: 39-42 (.481)
With The 49ers Since: 2017
Last Year’s Ranking: 10
Kyle Shanahan still hasn’t found what he’s looking for. That is despite finding what he was looking for. Shanahan got to live out every coach’s dream: Being completely secure in his job and trading up for his handpicked quarterback. Only he didn’t use Trey Lance after selecting him at No. 3 overall. There has been offseason scuttlebutt he still won’t play Lance in 2022. Shanahan falls in and out of love hard.
He doghoused past trade-up Dante Pettis despite a solid rookie season. He did the same thing to Brandon Aiyuk in 2021. He took Trey Sermon 106 spots higher than Elijah Mitchell then featured Mitchell. It can be exhausting to follow when your only stake in the matter is PPR points. It can also be amazingly fruitful. Shanahan has posted just two winning seasons in five years in San Francisco, but both reached the NFC Championship Game. His seemingly limitless ability to scheme creative, effective NFL offense is ever evolving.
It is also once again smacked up against its limits in 2021. With almost any other starting-level quarterback, the 49ers would have beaten the Rams in the conference title tilt. Instead, Jimmy Garoppolo sunk the ship as Lance held the clipboard. Shanahan has diagnosed his own problem over and over again. He needs the right personnel to match the program. It is time he trusts his own player evaluations and takes this team to the next level.
Each coach above Shanahan has at least a 60% winning percentage. One spot behind Shanahan, Matt LaFleur has nearly won 80% of his games in Green Bay. Outside of Bengals head coach Zac Taylor at No. 12 – fresh off a Super Bowl appearance – you have to go down to No. 18 to find a coach with a lower winning percentage than Shanahan.
That last paragraph speaks volumes. Here’s how I view it: The 49ers were successful with Jimmy Garoppolo at quarterback. The 49ers weren’t successful because Jimmy Garoppolo was at quarterback.
It was painfully evident that, even when healthy, Shanahan didn’t fully trust Garoppolo. Do you remember when, I believe, it was Week 18 against the Rams, when Garoppolo threw a pass down the left sideline, and it landed perfectly into the hands of Brandon Aiyuk for a long gain? We can count on one hand how many times Kyle called that play. That’s a trust issue.
You see it work and wonder why Shanahan didn’t run those types of concepts more. But then you recall the “oh no” throws from Garoppolo that happened at least once a game.
Head coaching goes far beyond calling plays and making a decision at quarterback. The success of Shanahan’s coaching tree in a handful of years speaks for itself.
Look at the production of less-heralded players to the development of Day 3 draft picks, including undrafted free-agent rookies. The upgrade in talent from the day Shanahan and his staff took over in 2017 and how they’ve maintained a winning formula makes it easy to place Shanahan in the top-10.
Do you believe he should be ranked as high as No. 7?