The San Francisco 49ers decision to hire Kyle Shanahan as their head coach put them behind the 8-ball to a certain extent when it came to hiring a coaching staff. Shanahan likely was talking to guys before he was formally hired, but the Atlanta Falcons Super Bowl appearance meant nothing official could happen until well after everyone else had started their hiring processes.
At one point, Shanahan tried to bring on a veteran presence at defensive coordinator, pitching Gus Bradley. The recently fired Jacksonville Jaguars head coach eventually decided to join the Los Angeles Chargers, and Shanahan ended up hiring his former linebackers coach, Robert Saleh. At times people here and on Twitter have talked about Saleh as a short-term option, but the 49ers defense has the kind of talent in place that a proper scheme could result in some long-term stability for Saleh.
Shanahan was on KNBR Friday morning, and after plenty of offensive-related questions, host Brian Murphy asked him how things were going with Robert Saleh and the defense. Shanahan is an offensive-minded coach, but as head coach he has to have at least some knowledge of how things are going on defense. Saleh likely gets relatively free reign, but Shanahan is keeping himself appraised of what’s going on. And he is excited about how his relationship is developing with Saleh.
“I love Saleh’s scheme because it’s a very sound scheme. We play out of an 8-man front the majority of the time. That’s the best way to stop the run, so it starts from that standpoint. And then you want to look at your coverages and how sound they are. We have a base foundation of our scheme which originated from the whole Seattle scheme of cover 3 and everything.
“But what I love about Saleh — just me as an offensive coach, we’re always trying to attack things and change things, and have things play off of each other — what I like about Saleh is you can talk about all that stuff. He’s not just set in his ways and gonna do the same playbook that someone taught him eight years ago. He’s always trying to challenge it, he’s always trying to expand it, and he does have some knowledge of offense.
“When we can communicate to each other, and I can kinda help him understand how the offense sees it, he’s always adjusting and trying to stay a step ahead — which you know, just going against him in training camp and stuff, just little tweaks here and there, where I think I understand all their rules inside and out, just going against it over the years, and then they do one little thing and it throws me off, that’ll throw our quarterback off. He’s always adjusting and I like it. He’s always learning and trying to make it better.”
Saleh has some great vocabulary when it comes to describing football. His most notable turn of phrase was talking about how he wants to see his defense play with “extreme violence.” Shanahan agreed with the need for that, and in discussing it, managed another humorous incident of very modest swearing on air.
“Well yea, if you’re not violent in this game, it’s tough to be successful. It is a violent game — we don’t want to get penalties, we want to do things the right way, but people need to feel it. And offenses feel it, when those safeties and linebackers, when those guys fly around and defensive line’s running to the ball, and they’re rushing the quarterback and chasing guys — we call them stack monsters, they’re running out of the stack, and if anyone’s trying to cut back across the field, they’re gonna have some big ass … some big dude coming behind them.”
There was laughter after that, with Shanahan a little sheepish giving his press conference self-deprecating, “Sorry if I’m being a dick” line. It happened late in the radio interview and cracked me up yet again. The random public swearing by people who are usually trying to avoid it amuses me to no end.