After the Saints game, I read some of the comments around here and there were multiple (alleged) fans who felt that the game (which the 9ers won, in a shutout) had exposed Kyle Shanahan as a subpar head coach in the National Football League, because the vaunted offensive genius couldn't put up 20 points on a sub .500 team with a statistically lousy defense.
Now, I don't want to make the mistake of representing a few loud, disgruntled voices as a meaningful slice of the fanbase - I don't think someone with eyes can say that based on his body of work, that Kyle Shanahan is anything worse than an average coach suited for the National Football league. True, he pnly just became a historically winning his year, but anyone here knows what happened in those losing seasons that opened his career in SF. Instead, I think that reasonable debate on NN circulate around whether Shanahan is a great coach or merely a good one.
Having read these discussions, and even when the subject of Kyle comes up in sports media, this conversation revolves too often on the question of Kyle's supposed "Offensive Genius" and whether or not it is real. This ignores too many other aspects of being a head coach that I think it's hard to say that Kyle isn't good at. So I got a burr in my britches about it and decided writing an epically long fan post that relatively few people will read was the best way to make myself feel better about the wrongs being done to our coach.
Now, let me list the ways I think Kyle Shanahan has unquestionably performed at a high level, which should have us all thanking our lucky stars he's in San Francisco as opposed to someone else, even if he hasn't brought home a trophy:
Do you think it's a coincidence that the 49ers coaching staff gets poached every year? Do you think that the fact the 49ers have an outstanding defense year after year, even when switching coordinators, can be attributed to someone other than the coach who assembles his staff? Have you noticed that despite having some of the most coveted assistants/coordinators in the NFL, relatively few of the coaches have ever served in their position before in the NFL? Someone gambled on these guys and won. Who was that someone?
The benefits of valuing character can be overstated. One of the criticisms leveled against Dave Gettleman in his dismal tenure with the Giants was that he overvalued high character players in the draft who didn't have the skills to go where he drafted them (see: Daniel Jones). The 49ers in Kyle Shanahan's tenure have maintained high character and high skill level. What character issues arose were dealt with swiftly, even when it seemed to be to the detriment of the team, at least at the time (see: Reuben Foster).
Coincidingly (and I tend to believe consequently) the team has maintained a positive locker room culture and winning attitude even when they weren't winning. Remember the playoffs last year, when Jimmy was playing despite belonging in a hospital bed and the analysts were still saying the 49ers were the team no one wants to play? It's because the 49ers' players are always hard to tackle and tackle hard. They play 4 quarters of football and almost never get blown out. They don't implode as divas on the team scream about not being used correctly or their teammates incompetence. They believe their coach and their teammates have their backs.
While I think there's reasonable debate around whether Kyle Shanahan is one of the better play callers in football, he was a breath of fresh air for a 49ers offense that seemed stagnant and unimaginative even in the successful Harbaugh/Mike Roman years. He's continued to be an innovator in the idea of "positionless" football and in success through deceptive blocking and route concepts. I'm not an Xs and Os expert, but I think it's hard to argue Shanahan doesn't come up with good, fun plays, even if they may not always get called when we want them.
I'll list this one last because there's an ongoing debate as far as how much Kyle does vs. John Lynch when it comes to assembling the team. Suffice it to say that a team has been assembled, and even though the 49ers continue to make high profile misses (the latest seemingly being Javon Kinlaw) they also continue to find surprising gems both in the draft and FA to make up for it. Most criticisms of the offense are some variation of "How are we not scoring more points with all this talent?" Well, at least we have the talent. The 49ers will need to continue to fish for great deals on under-utilized vets until their Trey Lance debt is paid off, but they (and they includes Kyle Shanahan) have given us reason for faith they can do so.
So, that's my case. Does Kyle Shanahan need to hire an Offensive Coordinator to overcome his worst tendencies as a play caller? Maybe. But even if the answer is yes, there are so many reasons to be thankful he's here that a myopic focus on that question when evaluating his performance as a head coach is crazy. If you read this sentence, thank you for your patience and have a lovely day.