NFL Network’s Jim Trotter reached out to eight players (he said “star” in the title, but Jared Goff answered) to find the most valuable traits of an NFL head coach. Your natural reaction would be a coach that is experienced and proven. I’d want someone unconventional and aggressive, but also is a great listener and communicator. If a coach thinks he knows all, he’s not the right man for the job.
Frank Gore has been in the NFL since 1993, give or take, and Trotter reached out to Gore for an answer:
1) Honesty: A coach being straight up with a player is critical. We’re all men at the end of the day, and I hate when a coach isn’t 100 percent real with you. I might not like what you have to stay, but I respect that you’re straight up with me.
2) Steadiness: When things aren’t going good, he has to stay the same. They can’t be up and down. When you do that, you’re showing weakness, and you lose respect. How are you going to be a leader to a bunch of men, and as soon as something doesn’t go right — say, we lose back-to-back games — you’re in the tank. I don’t respect that.
3) Flexibility: Every player is different, so you shouldn’t try to treat every player the same. Some guys might need you to talk to them more, some not as much. Some guys might need you to be hard on them, but other guys might not need that as much.
Honesty is huge. One area where Kyle Shanahan excels is being honest, almost to a fault. He’s a straight-shooter and a terrible liar. It’s not in Kyle’s DNA, so he doesn’t try. As for flexibility, I’ve heard stories of him screaming at the top players on the team, both when the Niners were winning last year, and losing the previous two. I’ve also seen him handle players more delicately. Any coach that has the approach where he thinks it’s best to treat every player the same needs to turn on the TV, go outside, and get an idea of the real world.
Sherm’s answer was 49ers specific and in-depth as always:
1) Philosophy/honesty: A lot of it starts with a good philosophy. I’ve only had two NFL head coaches, and one thing I’ve seen as a common thread is, Pete (Carroll, in Seattle) has his compete, compete, compete philosophy. He has a whole psychological aspect that he goes through with it, and he has a routine that he goes through and puts his players through. He has a way of coaching, a way of talking to his coaches, a way of having his coaches talk to his players. They don’t do the whole rah-rah, curse-you-out style. He would never hire a coach like that. It’s all about positive feedback and positive reinforcement and getting the best out of your players. Kyle (Shanahan, in San Francisco) is similar in that he has a philosophy of the best man plays. He doesn’t care about your draft position or any of that. He’s more of a straight shooter than Pete. Pete has a way of making sure everybody feels good, making sure he pushes buttons with certain players and not pushing buttons on other players. Kyle is different. He’s one size fits all. I’m going to cut it to you as straight as I can, as best as I can, and I’m going to explain every single detail of what I understand about the game that either makes this a good play or a bad play or makes us a good team or a bad team. That honesty is something that I think is valuable in a head coach because there’s no gray area. You know where you stand at all times, almost to a point where you’re like, “Damn! That’s how you really feel?” But you can respect that as a player because what he’s saying is objective: Did we win or lose the down? Why did we win or lose the down? If you can give him a fair point back to him, he can take that. He’s flexible in that way.
2) Knowledge of the game: Kyle is one of the best offensive minds we’ve ever had in this game. That comes into it. With Pete, it’s the Cover 3 he brought to the league. It seems so simple, but nobody can run it like we ran it. The way both of them implement what they do — they talk to others on a personal level, then have the great coaches around them who believe in their philosophy.
3) Staff assembly: Kyle’s guys have been with him since he’s been an assistant or a graduate assistant. How you pick the staff is a big part of their success. That’s what makes the team great. It’s not just the head coach; the head coach gets all the credit, but it’s the pieces he puts around him because they still have to deliver his message, and they deliver it on a day-to-day basis. We might sit in a meeting with the head coach for 30 minutes a day, but I sit in meetings with the assistants for five to six hours a day. So the staff is critical.
Staff assembly is everything in the NFL. Kyle has surrounded himself with a star-studded staff. Mike McDaniel will be calling plays for an NFL team next year, and Mike LaFleur isn’t far behind. If the 49ers defense is anywhere near as dominant as they were in 2019, kiss Robert Saleh goodbye next year as well. The Niners already lost Joe Woods to Cleveland. The coaches are hands-on, great teachers, and, most importantly, personable. After a week of training camp it was painfully obvious how good linebackers coach DeMeco Ryans was at his job:
DeMeco Ryans=future DC. I don’t think he’ll be a position coach for long.— Kyle Posey (@KP_Show) August 14, 2019
Kris Kocurek is already thought of as one of the best defensive line coaches in the NFL. You can go down the staff, and it’s equally as impressive as the roster. That is why the 49ers made the Super Bowl last year and why many expect them to be in contention for years to come: Kyle, his staff, and how they relate to them. Having a slew of talented players helps.