Kyle Shanahan is no stranger to adversity. His tenure with the 49ers began with nine straight losses before winning six of the last seven games thanks in large part to the acquisition of now franchise quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo.
The 2018 season, following Garoppolo’s season-ending torn ACL suffered in Week 3, has felt a lot like the start of 2017. Backup C.J. Beathard lost all five of his starts after taking over for Garoppolo and is now 1-9 under center for the 49ers. It wasn’t until Thursday’s debut of backup Nick Mullens, who replaced the injured Beathard, that the 49ers were given a reason to celebrate following their primetime beatdown of the Oakland Raiders.
After the 49ers’ 34-3 win, veteran cornerback Richard Sherman was first to praise Shanahan for his leadership through what’s been a trying time for the entire organization.
“I think at the end of the day Kyle’s doing a phenomenal job keeping the ship steady, Sherman said. “That’s why there’s no drama. There’s no controversy. There’s no guys throwing another guy under the bus or anything. Guys are just playing for each other, caring about one another and playing for their coach.”
It’s high praise from an elite player who’s been through the ups and downs of life in the NFL. Sherman, drafted by the Seattle Seahawks in the fifth-round of the 2011 draft, experienced everything from winning the Super Bowl in 2014, a heartbreaking loss in 2015 and his release after suffering a season-ending torn Achilles in 2017.
Kyle Shanahan had this to say Friday when asked about Sherman’s praise, and how important the locker room is to fostering success:
“I think it’s very important. You work on Xs and Os and things like that, but Xs and Os are only so much. You’re not going to change a ton week-to-week. It has to do with the people in the building. I appreciate Richard giving coaches credit for that, but you only can do that if you’ve got the right players in the building, too.”
Despite losing six straight, Shanahan’s control over the locker room and ability to keep moral high has never been more obvious than Week 9, in the difference between the two one-win teams on the field at Levi’s Stadium. Shanahan’s 49ers were energetic, executing on both sides of the ball. In contrast, Gruden’s Raiders essentially gave up on the veteran head coach as the game wore on.
“I think we’ve got a special group of guys who work hard, that don’t point the finger,” Shanahan said Friday. “That allows us to overcome some of the situations we’ve been in. We don’t want to be in this. We want to get out of it. I think you’ve got a chance to get out of it when you have the right type of guys.”
The 49ers were back at practice Tuesday to prepare for their second consecutive primetime game, this one against the New York Giants on Monday Night Football. Mullens informed the media during Tuesday’s post-practice availability that Shanahan named him the starting quarterback for the team’s Week 10 matchup.