We are at that point of the season where those outside the playoffs are looking for new coaches and those still inside the playoff bracket are hoping to keep theirs. As vacancy after vacancy was filled, some in somewhat predictable fashion, there is just one opening left, and the name of Kyle Shanahan now seems indelibly linked to the job.
As other potential candidates, such as Tom Cable withdrew, citing that they heard a deal between Kyle Shanahan and the San Francisco 49ers was imminent, those rumours seemed to be confirmed earlier today (19th January) when Atlanta Falcons head coach, Dan Quinn, announced to the Falcons players that Offensive Coordinator, Kyle Shanahan will be the new head coach of the 49ers.
If this comes to pass then the young Shanahan will be walking in similar footsteps to his Super Bowl winning Father, a former Offensive Coordinator of the 49ers himself. Also as he wouldn’t turn 40 until December 2019, Kyle Shanahan will automatically become one of the youngest head coaches in the NFL, in what some would argue is one of the more toxic situations in recent NFL seasons.
San Francisco, have declined rapidly since Jim Harbaugh had them in the NFC Championship game for three years running to the extent that Kyle Shanahan when the formal announcement is made, will become the fourth Head Coach in four seasons, and he will be taking over at the same time as a new GM. The 49ers are seemingly so smitten with their Kyle Shanahan choice that he is due to meet with potential GM candidates to see with whom he meshes best.
For a first-time Head Coach, this is a unique position to be in, and puts Kyle Shanahan in a very powerful position when it comes to future negotiations. The Head Coach of a team is usually a General Manager decision, or at very least a combination of owner and GM, but this time round it seems that Jed York is happy to buck that trend. Internal powerplay between coach and GM is not a new phenomenon in San Francisco, and last time Jed sided with his GM Trent Baalke over Jim Harbaugh.
Baalke, is no longer in post either in San Francisco, and just maybe Jed York is reflecting that he made the wrong choice last time, and in future is looking to back his coach to the extent of getting a GM to fit the coach and not the coach to fit his GM.
Why Shanahan ?
Off the back of the regular season, Kyle Shanahan and Josh McDaniels (New England) were the hot coaching prospects. Josh McDaniels has had the advantage of working with Tom Brady of course for many seasons now. Kyle Shanahan has emerged from out of his father’s shadow in Washington to establish himself firstly in Cleveland and for these last two seasons in Atlanta. After a bright start in Atlanta the Falcons faded from contention in his first season, but this year Kyle Shanahan’s offence was ranked number one in the league and made Matt Ryan a MVP candidate.
Importantly for a potential 49ers coach he was also able to take down the much-vaulted Seattle Seahawks defence in the playoffs, a win which included a 99-yard TD drive in a little over 4 minutes’ drive.
Not to take anything away from the schemes that Kyle Shanahan put in place in Atlanta and worked on with Matt Ryan, it is important to remember that it still took two seasons for the Falcons to explode into their current incarnation. That is with an offence that apart from Ryan includes Julio Jones, Tevin Coleman and Devante Freeman amongst others.
As of right now that calibre of player is simply not on the 49ers Roster, possibly you could make a case for Carlos Hyde when healthy, thus leaving Kyle Shanahan to oversee a big player overhaul through the draft and free agency. One thing in his favour is that San Francisco is a team with one of the highest salary cap space available, thus giving him a chance to recruit some free agents.
This will take time to achieve for the 49ers to turn around therefore, even if Kyle Shanahan decides to take play calling responsibilities himself, and as I’ve mentioned time, is not something that coaches have been given in San Francisco recently. That has to change and Jed York needs to back his choice and give him the chance to complete this change. If they do that and give him the personnel he wants, then Kyle Shanahan has a chance to emulate his dad once more and win his own Lombardi trophy.