The San Francisco 49ers hired Kyle Shanahan this offseason with hopes of ending what has been ugly slide the past three seasons. Shanahan is an offensive wizard, but he and John Lynch find themselves at the helm of an entire roster and culture overhaul.
Shanahan has brought optimism to the 49ers, and in Elliott Harrison’s recent head coach power rankings, Shanahan was highest of the new first-time head coaches. He was still relatively low, at No. 27, but he ranked ahead of the rest of the newbies, as well as New York Jets head coach Todd Bowles.
Shanahan ranks the highest of the first-time head coaches. His nine years as a coordinator leads the pack, while he set the pace for all offenses during the 2016 season. This is not to say that he will come anywhere close to matching the 540 points his Falcons offense put up last season. Although he's taken the brunt of the criticism for the Super Bowl LI loss, without Shanahan, Atlanta wouldn't have even been in the building. Moreover, the infamous sack Matt Ryan took in Patriots territory could have been avoided if running back Devonta Freeman had checked linebacker Dont'a Hightower, or if Ryan had unloaded the ball earlier. Point is, the debacle doesn't solely come down to a play call. Glad we cleared that up.
The 49ers offense has a whole lot of work in front of it, but Shanahan and Lynch brought in players with experience in the former’s system. They did not overhaul the offensive line, instead spending some bucks on short-term deals with veterans, along with the trade for Jeremy Zuttah.
On Tuesday, I asked folks where the 49ers will rank in points scored this year. 52 percent said between 17th and 24th. Six percent were particularly optimistic in voting first through eighth. However it ends up, there is at least optimism in the ranks for the team. Expectations are relatively this season in terms of wins and losses, but people are looking forward to the season a bit more than in recent years.
The five coaches just ahead of Shanahan include Doug Marrone (Jaguars), Doug Pederson (Eagles), Hue Jackson (Browns), Mike Mularkey (Titans), and Dirk Koetter (Bucs). I think Mularkey probably climbs higher on the strength of further improvement from the Titans, and the Bucs could give Koetter a boost, regardless of his own contributions. But I do think the 49ers and Kyle Shanahan could give some of the coaches a head of them a run for their money in power rankings a year from now.