San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan joined his buddy Chris Simms’ Unbuttoned podcast. Simms starts by giving Shanahan a hard time for the “Shanahat” look, saying Kyle is shooting for the surfer/skater look. Shanahan said the reason he kept wearing the hat last year was because his wife told him, “that’s the reason we are winning.” The wife always knows what’s best. The real story here is that Shanahan said the hat wouldn’t be a routine look for this upcoming season.
It was refreshing to hear Shanahan speak about topics we all talk about like quarantine, the housing market in silicon valley, and finding out the hard way that you’re old. Simms and Shanahan touched on when Shanahan knew he wanted to be a head coach. Shanahan opened up about his climb in the coaching rankings and how it started in Tampa Bay, where Kyle spent most of his time on the defensive side. The two get into the difference in coaching styles from Jon Gruden to Kyle’s dad to Bill Belichick.
Shanahan talked about the importance of defense and how hard it is to get and sustain a pass rush. “We went through some tough years to get one,” we said. He also talked about having a plan B on defense where you don’t have a healthy pass rush, citing how dominant the 49ers were at the beginning of the season compared to by the time the Saints game came around. “Pass rush isn’t going to last all year, you have to have other stuff, whether it’s blitzing or your running game on offense.”
Shanahan said he knew the Niners were “there” on defense based on how successful they were during training camp. He said he could tell this was the best defense he’d ever coached or been a part of except for his first year in Tampa. I’ll transcribe the pod because I felt like everything Shanahan said was good info:
We felt special. Any time you have a defense like that you feel like you’re a playoff contender. Our offense wasn’t there yet when we started. Jimmy had just came off an ACL surgery. He had some good practices. He had one very bad practice. It’s crazy how documented a practice is, but it was a bad one. We also weren’t sure on our receivers. No one had established a spot. We were depending on a lot of rookies that hadn’t played. We were also counting on a lot of guys to play that were hurt at the time that we didn’t end up getting.
We also didn’t know exactly where our o-line or running game was, either. We thought that would be good. We knew we had a bunch of backs that we liked. We didn’t know how it was going to play out because we saw them equally as good. Then we went into that Tampa game and our defense played like we expected. Our offense played like we expected, too. Just very inconsistent. It was very cool for me to be in a situation, I’ve never been in before, to call a game to help our defense. I’ve always felt like if we didn’t score we were going to lose. I’ve never really had that. So I was thinking all offseason that I have to change that mentality and you’ll have to learn that it’s different. So to go through those first few games where we weren’t clicking as much, especially the Pittsburgh game, where we had five turnovers in the first half and we still came back and won. We did it by running the ball and playing good defense. We lost some guys in that game.
Then you go to the Rams, and our defense is still playing great. I think by the end of the game 8 of our 11 guys were backups or hadn’t played before. To still be able to dominant the game the way our defense was playing I was like, “alright, I feel pretty special with this team.” Then the offense kept getting better each week, and we made that move to bring Emmanuel [Sanders] in, because we knew we needed a veteran receiver to come in and bring some consistency. He did everything that I hoped for, and even more. Just the guy he was, the pro he was, we really took off. That’s when our offense started to grow up a little bit. I thought our offense carried us when our defense went through some bad streaks.
Shanahan said last year was the most special year that he’s been a part of, and still voiced his frustration for coming up short at the end, but acknowledged that is the NFL. You could feel Kyle’s sense of urgency and how bad he wants to get back to playing football.