By HCR Staff | Dec. 29, 2019
The San Francisco 49ers have had such a good season to this point that it’s as if it was too be expected.
Except that it wasn’t–far from it, really.
Sure, there were high hopes, but that’s the case for every team. For the 49ers, who are heavily invested in head coach Kyle Shanahan and GM John Lynch (both were given unusual six-year term contracts), it was time for results. And notwithstanding the league-wide respect that Shanahan and Lynch possess, their two-year record together was an abysmal 10-22.
The biggest uncertainty that Shanahan confronted was the health of quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. Garoppolo tore his ACL early in the 2018 season, and his rehab set back his QB development significantly. Not a good development for a head coach with a career record of 10-22.
Add to this the ascension of division foe Los Angeles Rams, and the successful rebuild of the Seattle Seahawks. So would anyone have guessed the 49ers would be 12-3 at this point with a game for the number one playoff seed?
The answer is no. A reasonable guess would have been 8-8, maybe 9-7 on the high side, especially when one considers the schedule the 49ers confronted.
Instead, Shanahan has overachieved. He’s done a masterful job of not only leading, but leading through a brutal schedule and a good number of key, crippling injuries.
Shanahan has exhibited tremendous adaptability and resilience throughout the year. Due to injuries, he’s had to incorporate a lot of untested players, and the 49ers haven’t missed a beat. The 49ers have lost three games–all on the final play of the game. With a bit of luck and perhaps a couple of different calls on 50-50 decisions under the gun, the 49ers could be 15-0 right now.
What we like about Shanahan is that he simultaneously brings innovation and an old school vibe. The old school comes from his many years in and around the game; he is far more veteran than the typical 40-year old coach. His youth brings innovation; this year, he even made 33-year old Sean McVay’s style seem passé.
He is a very, very sound in-game strategist. He exhibited this trait from his rookie season; in fact, he ended the year in the top 10 of our HCR rankings even with a 6-10 record. Like every head coach, however, he’ll misjudge one here or there (the end-of-game sequence in the first tilt with Seattle comes to mind).
Shanahan has built one of the NFL’s best teams with a relatively inexperienced QB coming off an ACL. He’s turned an AAF player into his team’s most versatile offensive lineman (Dan Brunskill). He’s taken TWO undrafted players and turned them into dangerous runners (Matt Breida and Raheem Mostert). He’s created a bona fide star out of another late round pick (fifth rounder George Kittle). He gave a coach his first opportunity to be a defensive coordinator, and now that coach is considered a rising head coach candidate (Robert Saleh).
There’s more, but you get the point. Kyle Shanahan has overachieved this year–when the pressure and skepticism were at its highest. A 12-3 record at this point exceeds expectations, but there may be more to come.