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What does the season finale mean for Kyle Shanahan's legacy?

Kyle Shanahan has been sheltered from expectations year after year.

NFL: Minnesota Vikings at San Francisco 49ers Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

The 49ers have their tallest task of the season Sunday as they try to earn their sixth win in a row over the Los Angeles Rams to lock themselves into the playoffs.

Niners head coach and offensive play-caller Kyle Shanahan is aiming to start an injured Jimmy Garoppolo after rookie Trey Lance threw for the most yards on 10+ air yards passes (205) by any 49ers QB in a game over the last three seasons.

The pressure has been on the offense all season, and Shanahan may need his highest scoring output of the season to fan off Los Angeles. Lance provides more unpredictability, but Shanahan is relying on Garoppolo’s understanding of the offense. Shanahan has continued to put his trust in Garoppolo, who’s been up and down through his 47 games as a 49er.

San Francisco’s playoff hopes are in Garoppolo’s hands with the story of the five-game winning streak (against the Rams) has relied on the Niners winning the turnover battle.

Rams head coach Sean McVay stressed playing a cleaner game when he talked about preparing for the Niners to come to Sofi stadium.

“We need to play better in that three-hour window. I need to coach better. We need to execute better.”

Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford has had seven turnovers in his last three games. I would expect McVay to echo the need for Los Angeles to take care of the ball at practice all week.

This week’s practice has had a dark cloud over it from several players landing on the Reserve/Covid-19 list. Notably, it’s four cornerbacks, which just so happens to be San Francisco’s second weakest link on the team.

Hopefully, these players will clear as K’Waun Williams is a vital member of the defense and the most important player to return. Williams upgrades DeMeco Ryans’ ability to be aggressive, and his impact in the run game cannot go unnoticed. However, that still leaves a few secondary members on the list, including two players who saw a hefty amount of snaps last week.

I use the word legacy because this could be a wasted year if San Francisco falls short of the playoffs. Shanahan has continued to be protected from expectations after being crowned as a “remarkable play-caller”.

Last year the revenge tour failed as injuries sheltered the idea of the 49ers winning many games. However, San Francisco has had enough talent on the field week in and week out to be in the playoffs this year. Despite the hobbled running back room, this offense could be argued as Shanahan’s most talented through his Niner tenure.

There are no excuses to miss the playoffs this season which means they have to get the job done Sunday against the Rams. Personally, it almost feels impossible as Los Angeles has the superior quarterback and plenty of offensive weapons.

Do you remember when Jim Harbaugh took a 6-10 team and proceeded to go to the NFC championship game three years in a row? It feels like simpler times, San Francisco was a steady team, and Shanahan has to scratch and claw to get into the playoffs. Harbaugh is now emerging as a candidate to be an NFL head coach.

Harbaugh was run out of town after San Francisco was one of the most dominant teams in the league. A win Sunday is monumental for Shanahan’s legacy. He has secured his (second) winning season as the head coach of the Niners. Although this may be true, the fans want more than a winning season, and Shanahan has a chance to make it more than with a win over Los Angeles,


Would you be satisfied with San Francisco’s 2021-22 season if they miss the playoffs?

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