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Joe Staley: ‘I’m enjoying football again’ playing with smartest coach he’s been around

The 49ers left tackle is excited about what Kyle Shanahan and his coaching staff bring to the table.

The San Francisco 49ers offseason has featured plenty of optimism, and it sounds like the players are enjoying these developments as well. Left tackle Joe Staley chatted with the media on Wednesday before practice (video), and talked about how much he is enjoying coming to practice this year.

The past three years have been rough, with the past two years in particular being an ugly patch. Staley acknowledged that there were days the past two years where he was not excited to come to work. This is not exactly a shocking revelation given how bad things were going, but he is excited that the feeling is back.

A big reason for the excitement is what Kyle Shanahan has brought to the team. Staley was effusive in his praise of the the honesty Shanahan brings to the table. The 49ers have seemingly been pretty clear about how they handle various situations, and Staley appreciates that.

“I think he speaks very openly and honestly with everybody. And he’s done that from Day 1 and I think guys really respect that. And you guys have seen that with different things that have gone in the offseason, whether it be with Vance McDonald trade rumors and all that stuff, he’s been very open and honest with all his players. And he’s the same way with film. He calls out myself and Bowman the same way he calls out a rookie free agent. He expects the same out of all of us. And no one’s above anybody.”

Staley was also impressed with Shanahan’s football intelligence. He initially said Shanahan is, “by far one of the most intelligent coaches that I’ve worked with.” Later he removed any equivocation, saying, “He is the smartest coach I’ve been around.”

“You really, really respect him just because of the overall understanding and knowledge he has of the game. I can’t stress that enough. He is the smartest coach I’ve been around … When you have leadership like that, you have to raise your game. And you know you have to be exactly on your assignments and your techniques because he leaves no stone unturned. It’s not gonna be a situation where it’s, ‘hey man, the coach has never covered that.” Well, yea, they did, because they’ll cover everything. And they expect every single person to know it and hold themselves to the same standard. And that’s offensively and defensively that I’m seeing this.”

Offensive and defensive coaches work to put their respective units in position to succeed, but Staley is impressed with how much detail Shanahan puts in to help people understand how they fit into the bigger picture.

“You leave team meetings with him, we’re just like — I had one today, he was doing the same thing, breaking down different, select plays in front of the whole team. Kind of understanding conceptually what the defense is trying to do, conceptually what is the offense trying to do in this specific play, where are we trying to attack, who has the sombrero, so to say on the play, who’s the guy that it’s putting all the pressure on, what does the defense want to do to try and put the pressure on one specific player, they want to create matchups and all that kind of stuff. And I never really had it broken down for me like that.

“So you mean, even today, we had a meeting like that, and I just kinda looked over to Kilgore — I sit next to him in team meetings — and i’m like, ‘This is awesome.’ You kind of get chills almost, because it’s cool to see football talked about that way, instead of like, ‘Hey, you’ve got to do your job.’ It’s kinda like, ‘Uh, ok, yes sir.’ But it’s like, why do I have to do my job? well this is why Because a play is designed for me to win — I’m the reason why this play is successful or not. Or the slot receiver is the reason why a running play to the right is successful or not. It takes everybody. And he’s really done a good job explaining that, and it’s got the receivers really buying into all that. And they’re selling out for the run game as much as the pass game, so it’s all tied together.”

Whether this all comes together in live game action is another question entirely, but it’s great to see the excitement for this kind of work being put in. The 49ers go their separate ways for the next five weeks, and then open training camp the last week of July. Their first preseason game is August 11, and at that point we’ll get to start seeing where things are really going.