Here’s an interesting what-if scenario that almost happened. Former San Francisco 49ers offensive coordinator Mike Shanahan almost replaced then-49ers head coach George Seifert. Shanahan was on the Talk of Fame Network with Clark Judge and Judge flat out stated it as the interview began (go to the 14:45 mark to hear the statement):
I’m not sure our listeners know this, but had the 49ers not won that year —or if they had not gotten to the Super Bowl— you [Mike Shanahan] were going to be the next head coach of the team. You would have succeeded George Seifert.
Judge covered the 49ers during their Super Bowl run in 1994, so he was definitely privy to some of the insider information floating around the building back then.
The actual act isn’t hard to believe when you think about it. Despite winning the Super Bowl in his inaugural season (replacing Bill Walsh), Seifert’s 49ers had a habit of coming up short. Everyone remembers the call of “There will be no three-peat” in the NFC Championship game against the Giants the following year as well as losses to the Dallas Cowboys coming in the years after. And of course, there’s Eddie DeBartolo, who absolutely hated losing and has been documented for firing Bill Walsh several times, only to be talked out of it by Carmen Policy.
In the 1994 season, the 49ers pushed all their chips to the center, signing Deion Sanders to a one-year deal. The Sanders deal was one of many revolving around putting together one of the most dominant teams in the league. At least on paper. They also signed big name veterans Gary Plummer, Rickey Jackson, and Ken Norton.
In Week 2, the 49ers faced the Kansas City Chiefs, a team to which they traded Hall of Fame quarterback Joe Montana the year prior. The 49ers lost 24-17. Three weeks later, they would face the Philadelphia Eagles in a blowout 40-8 loss at Candlestick Park that ended with Steve Young getting benched, and seen visibly screaming at Seifert. Young later stated he was, “looking for a fight” after getting benched.
Five weeks in and the super team the 49ers were trying to assemble seemed somewhat ordinary. Fortunately, they didn’t lose another game until Week 17 on the road against the Minnesota Vikings.
Given all that was done, it makes sense that someone would go down with the ship had the season not ended the way it did. It’s interesting to think what would have happened though. If Seifert was gone, it would mean the 49ers didn’t win Super Bowl XXIX. But it probably meant Shanahan would have been there instead of Steve Mariucci in the later years. Young would have had further consistency with offensive coordinators, and maybe the 49ers come out winning more Super Bowls in the end. Maybe fans don’t hate the Green Bay Packers as much as they do because Shanahan finds a way to beat them.
Of course all this is speculation. It’s interesting knowing there was more on the line with the 1994 season, and thinking of what the future held for the 49ers if Shanahan took over.