Sitting at 3-5 with the remanned Los Angeles Rams for Monday Night Football next week is harsh. But, unfortunately, bad luck has been the theme for head coach Kyle Shanahan’s 49er tenure. The excuses have run dry in year five, and now he had nine games to make something shake.
The NFL is about wins and losses, and outside of 2019—there aren’t many wins. Excluding 2019, Shanahan has 19 total wins in three and a half seasons. Shanahan had 15 wins alone in 2019 (playoff wins included).
Shanahan was asked how this team is different from the 2017 team below:
How is the mood in the locker room right now? Is it different than 2017 when you were going through a rough patch where you had so many losses, but there was that kind of like an indescribable hunger to win? Do you feel like you still have that same sense of urgency and still the fun in the locker room?
“Yeah, I definitely think there’s a big hunger to win. I think there’s a huge sense of urgency. I think our guys have been through more than that group of guys and they’ve had more success, so there’s a different type of disappointment, a different type of frustration. But the hunger, the energy, that’s all still there.”
This team should be frustrated. San Francisco’s roster has enough talent to be a competent football team. Instead, the 49ers lost all of their games by one score or less during their three-game losing streak before the bye.
Those losses stung, but you saw a competitive football team that made you think this team could get it together.
That all changed when they were booed at home against the Indianapolis Colts. The 49ers had an extra week to prepare for the Colts and ended up looking like they were unprepared. However, Jimmy Garoppolo’s homecoming heroics changed the mood of this team. The offense looked to be a high-caliber offense again. Similar to the 2019 season—as they were able to move the ball efficiently all game.
Garoppolo and the offense will have to play lights out to compete with the Rams Monday — especially if Odell Beckham Jr. plays.
Los Angeles added a future Hall of Famer in Von Miller before the trade deadline. The Rams’ defense was already imposing with the names of Aaron Donald, Jalen Ramsey, and Leonard Floyd. Miller may not be the same player he has been in recent memory, but he can still provide a spark to a defense.
Shanahan spoke on where the leadership is and where it comes from below.
When you lose five of six, everything comes into question, so there’s been some talk about what leadership and you guys have a lot of established guys who are kind of more quiet leaders, lead by example types. So, the conversation is well; you need someone to rattle some cages. Do you think you have enough guys or a guy who has the stature and personality to maybe say this, ‘what’s happening here can’t be tolerated anymore?’
“Yeah, I believe so. But I think all those guys got to play better too. It’s not just, we don’t have the right guy yelling at guys and saying, ‘this can’t be tolerated.’ I mean, that sounds good and all for everyone, but those are just words. It’s got to be with actions and not just wanting to do it, but performing at a high level. So when you have those guys that can hold people accountable, they also better be doing their job at a high level too. And I look less about who’s going to get all these guys going to play their best. That’s our job as coaches, as players, to try their best, to work their hardest, to get as healthy as they can for practice all the way up to Sunday and perform as good as you possibly can. And that’s what you have to do as individuals. And you push everyone as a team, your team pushes each other and then your whole team rises together. I think it’s very rare that you have one guy in that way. I get what you’re saying, but that’s usually not what answers it. It’s a guy playing the right way, leading by example, doing it the right way, performing. And then we can all hold accountability and try to get a certain standard for every single player.”
This response is pretty telling as to why the 49ers are currently 3-5. Yes, players should lead by example, but they also need to hold each other accountable.
Shanahan has never been a vocal motivator. In fact, lately, he has constantly called players out instead of motivating them. Losing Robert Saleh looks to hinder more than the defense. Saleh was a passionate and vocal coach and could be looked at as a “rah-rah guy.”
Kyle Juszczyk said the 49ers don’t have a leader that will call players out. Is this a bad thing? I would say yes. No one is there to show the “49er way” without a vocal leader.
There are nine games left, and they need all of their players to step up. Garoppolo can’t be blamed for the 49ers' collapse last week. San Francisco has imposed plenty of self-scrutiny dating back to training camp. The fact that San Francisco has not gotten results after calling itself out week after week is shameful.
This is a talented team with a few grey spots. Player development, not addressing team needs, and Shanahan not putting his pride to the side have hindered this team. With that being said, this team is still on the bubble to make the playoffs. The Monday Night Football showdown against Shanahan’s former protege in Rams head coach Sean McVay will truly show their playoff chances.