Brandon Aiyuk and Kyle Shanahan appeared on KNBR yesterday, and shed a little more light on the whole “Aiyuk is in the dog house” situation from last year.
We’ll start with Aiyuk explaining how their relationship has evolved.
“[Shanahan] tells me now he just felt like I was never really coached the way that I should have been coached as a receiver. Everybody tells you, ‘You’re just the best thing thing ever’ your whole life. Getting recruited and this and that. So you never fully understand what it is to be coached by a professional. So I guess you can call it being hard on [me], the dog house, or whatever you want to call it.”
History suggests Aiyuk likely wasn’t being told he was the best thing ever early in his football career. Coming out of McQueen High School he was a two star recruit who had to spend two years of JUCO at Sierra College. When he left Sierra, he was the 137th ranked junior-college prospect in the nation. Part of the reason he committed to Arizona State is because they wanted to play him at receiver rather than exclusively have him return kicks, or even switch to defense.
Shanahan’s ability to communicate with players has been praised by many around the NFL world, and this is another great example of why we hear about it so often. In this particular case, the message that Shanahan is sending is a negative one. Essentially, he’s saying that Aiyuk isn’t working as hard as he needs to work to be a top receiver in the NFL. Rather than put it that way, however, and risk potentially alienating a first round draft pick, Kyle shifted the criticism to former coaches rather than the player himself. Expressing things that way prevents the player from getting defensive and allows the heart of the message, work harder, to get through.
Shanahan himself elaborated on KNBR after Brandon’s interview.
“Everybody made such a big deal about him being in the dog house and all this stuff, and I hear all that, but it’s actually just coaching. People need to be coached. A lot of these guys, sometimes, they haven’t been coached that much. It doesn’t make them a bad guy or anything like that, they just, sometimes they get offended by it..Some of these guys, it’s really hard to really get into them and coach them really hard because they’re not used to it.
BA, we did that hard at first and we worked through a lot of it. He’s been great. He’s risen to the challenge of everything. Even last year when it wasn’t going great at the beginning and you’ve got to hear it through the media and stuff that you’re in the dog house. People respond two ways. They either get more offended and shut down or they turn it up and start doing what you’re asking and working hard. BA worked through all that and it made him so much better last year. It helped us so much go on that run. He came back this season and you could tell we didn’t have to do anything. He learned from experiences last year and came this year ready to go.”
Aiyuk is once again on a tear for the 49ers. He has at least six catches and 80 yards in each of his last three games, and has also caught three touchdown passes in that span. Whether that production is a direct result of Shanahan’s tough love is up for debate. Aiyuk has had similar stretches of production in his 49ers career before. Regardless, if he can keep up his stellar play, the only house he’ll have to worry about is which penthouse he’ll buy with all the money from his new contract.
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