After a disastrous 2016 season, the San Francisco 49ers were looking for a new head coach for a third consecutive year.
Chip Kelly went 2-14 in his lone season as head coach, and the organization was among the bottom-feeders of the NFL.
One year earlier, the 49ers were in a similar position. After owner Jed York let Jim Harbaugh go following an 8-8 finish in 2014, he promoted Jim Tomsula to man the sidelines.
Tomsula’s reign only lasted one season as well. The 49ers went 5-11 in 2015, which prompted York and then general manager Trent Baalke to hire Kelly.
The 49ers were a mess for the 2015 and 2016 campaigns. They had little-to-no talent on the roster, and it seemed like no reputable coach would want to work for the organization.
But something changed for York after the 2016 season. He relieved Baalke of his duties and searched for the right candidates who would help turn the franchise around. York was able to nab one of the hottest names on the coaching market when he hired Kyle Shanahan, who had spent the previous two seasons as the offensive coordinator for the Atlanta Falcons.
“And I almost canceled one just because I was so exhausted, and I almost canceled San Francisco,” Shanahan said. “The reason being — it had nothing to do with San Francisco — it was just my whole goal in life was to be a head coach and stay a head coach. It wasn’t just to become one and say I got there.”
The 49ers had no answer at quarterback and were near the bottom of the league in several statistical categories on both sides of the ball.
“So when I looked at San Francisco, I was nervous because they didn’t have that setup, and they had changed coaches three years in a row,” Shanahan said. “Their offense was ranked 31st. Their defensed was ranked 32nd. It wasn’t the best situation.”
Shanahan said he addressed some of the issues he found wrong with the organization during his interview with York and team president Paraag Marathe. The trio spoke about how they would rectify the issues, and the conversation left Shanahan feeling good about the situation.
“My wife asked me which [team] I liked the most,” Shanahan said. “I’m like, ‘Actually, the Niners is the only one I really feel good about,’ and it shocked her because she knew how I talked the morning before.”
Shanahan had a say in who the team would hire as general manager, and he developed a rapport with John Lynch, which led to his hiring. York gave the duo six-year deals, something not seen often in the NFL.
Shanahan is 29-35 over his four seasons at the helm. He and Lynch had to rebuild the roster from the ground up because Ballke left the cupboards bare. The 49ers went 5-11 in Shanahan’s first year and 4-12 in 2018, a season that took a turn for the worse when starting QB Jimmy Garoppolo tore his ACL in Week 3.
We saw what Shanahan could do when he had some playmakers on the roster in 2019. He led the team to a 13-3 finish and was just minutes away from winning the Super Bowl. The expectation was that the 49ers would contend for a title in 2020, but the team suffered a ridiculous amount of injuries, which led to a 6-10 finish.
The 49ers are among the favorites to win it all next season. They’re loaded with talent on both sides of the ball, and if the Niners can stay healthy, they should find themselves back in the playoff picture.
Shanahan will be under pressure to deliver in 2021. The 49ers made a bold move to acquire the No. 3 pick in this year’s draft, which they used on Shanahan’s hand-picked QB, Trey Lance. If the 49ers falter in the coming seasons, the blame will likely be placed on Shanahan’s shoulders.
It’s interesting to think about where the franchise would be Shanahan did indeed cancel his interview with the 49ers. His and Lynch’s arrival gave some credibility to the team, and San Francisco has once again become a destination franchise under the pair’s watch.
Unlike the Baalke years, we rarely hear of any leaks coming out of the building. The 49ers have operated quietly and did a masterful job of keeping who they would take with the third pick under wraps.
There is an excitement around the team that definitely wasn’t there in 2015 and 2016. The Faithful are glad that Shanahan is in his position and hope he can lead the 49ers to their sixth Lombardi Trophy.