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Jerry Rice speaks about 49ers, Kyle Shanahan

The GOAT thinks Kyle Shanahan might be letting his players become too comfortable.

Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

San Francisco 49ers legend Jerry Rice — who is also one of the team’s most prominent supporters — joined 95.7 The Game’s The Morning Roast show after the Niners suffered yet another loss.

Rice was asked to share his thoughts on what is going on with the defending NFC champions after the Niners fell to 5-9 following a 41-33 defeat against the Dallas Cowboys.

The GOAT spent his first four seasons in the NFL being coach by the legendary Bill Walsh, who traded up to get Rice at the 1985 NFL Draft. Rice wasn’t happy with the effort he saw from San Francisco in the loss to the Cowboys and touched on what it was like playing under Walsh.

“It was almost like that fear factor, just a little bit, and there was no way you wanted to let that guy down. I don’t know if the players have gotten really comfortable with Kyle Shanahan. They might not have that fear factor there anymore, I think [motivates] players to always go out and give 100 percent.

I’m not saying that’s happening with Kyle Shanahan and the 49ers right now, but Bill always kept us on edge. He really wanted to let you know that you’re replaceable, so you were accountable every time you stepped on that football field.”

The 49ers will miss the playoffs for the third time in four years with Shanahan at the helm. This year’s squad has dealt with an unprecedented amount of injuries just one season after getting to the Super Bowl, and that doesn’t fall on the head coach.

Being on the players’ media availabilities, I don’t get the feeling that they don’t fear or respect Shanahan. The 41-year-old has done a tremendous job of building a culture in the locker room that seems to be much better than what we saw from the Niners during the 2015 and 2016 seasons.

San Francisco has had a season from hell in 2020. The team has lost the likes of Nick Bosa, George Kittle, Richard Sherman, Dee Ford, Jimmy Garoppolo and Deebo Samuel for extended periods and was forced to move its operations to Arizona following the tightening of COVID-19 protocols by Santa Clara County.

Still, the 49ers have said all the right things. None of the coaches and players have publicly made excuses for the squad’s performance, but you could see some of their frustrations beginning to show after the Dallas game.

Shanahan looked defeated during his postgame media session. He usually doesn’t show much emotion, but this time he looked drained. Rice picked up on that well and touched on his thoughts during the interview.

“I was listening to Kyle Shanahan [Sunday] and you could tell he was really deflated because he said, ‘I expected this team to play better.’”

We haven’t heard rumblings about players losing confidence in the coaching staff, which is usually indicative that the guys in the locker room trust their head coach, especially during a losing-season like this one been for the Niners.

It’s entirely valid to question why Shanahan has stuck with quarterback Nick Mullens this long, but the fact that he has shows his lack of belief in third-stringer C.J. Beathard. One look around the NFL and it’s easy to see how difficult it is to have one good quarterback on the roster, never mind having two.

Shanahan deserves a mulligan for this season due to all of the injuries. Losing your starting quarterback, two best pass rushers, a Hall of Fame cornerback, and your best receivers for multiple games will negatively impact any team in the league.

Not directly comparing the players, but where would the Green Bay Packers be in the standings if they lost Aaron Rodgers, Devante Adams and the Smith Brothers for more than seven games each? You might not agree with his play-calling or personnel decisions at times, but there’s no way this year’s struggles should be pinned on Shanahan.

When Shanahan took over following the dreadful 2016 campaign when Chip Kelly was running the sidelines, the franchise was hopeless. Former general manager Trent Baalke left the cupboards completely bare in terms of talent, and it looked like it would take three-to-four years before we could even begin talking playoffs.

San Francisco became a championship contender in year three and would have been again in 2020 if not for the devastating injuries. The team is well-prepared almost every week and if Garoppolo, Kittle and Samuel were fully healthy, it’s safe to assume the Niners would have two-or-three more wins and still be in playoff contention.

Do you think the players might be lacking a “fear factor” when it comes to Shanahan?