One of the continued points of emphasis for the new 49ers’ regime has been to connect the franchise’s storied history with the current team in order to foster a winning culture from the get go. From decorating Levi’s Stadium with banners from the past to having former 49ers’ legends speak to the players, general manager John Lynch and head coach Kyle Shanahan have made a valiant effort to mend broken ties between the former and current players.
The result of their conscious attempts? Approval from one of the greatest 49ers’ running backs, Roger Craig. The three-time Super Bowl champion sat down with The 49ers’ Hub’s Evan Sowards in a podcast interview, where he gave his thoughts on Shanahan, his connection to Bill Walsh, and his former head coach’s lasting legacy in the NFL.
“Oh definitely, I would’ve loved to play for [Kyle] Shanahan, cause he understands the whole system, you know he understands that culture of systems that bring you success,” Craig said at the 11:50 mark of the interview when asked about the current 49ers’ head coach.
My favorite line from the interview came right after this bit, when Craig began to show his respect for one of the greatest coaches of all time, Bill Walsh.
“Bill Walsh was the innovator and all these other coaches kind of emulate after that. It’s like the West Coast Offense is breeding championships to other teams. Look at [Patriots’ quarterback Tom] Brady, [Packers’ quarterback] Aaron Rodgers, I mean these guys, [Saints’ quarterback] Drew Brees, they are running our system.”
Craig, 58, spent the first eight years of his career in the red and gold, rushed for over 7,000 yards as a member of the 49ers. His best seasons came in 1985, when he rushed for 1,050 yards and caught 92 passes for 1,016 yards, and 1988, when he ran for over 1,500 yards and caught 76 passes out of the backfield.
That got me thinking, what would Craig look like in 2018, in a Shanahan-led, run-centric offense? I would imagine that the ex-Nebraska running back would easily beat the numbers he put up in 1988 and would instantly become one of the best players that Shanahan has ever coached.