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How Kyle Shanahan trusted Mike McDaniel more than any offensive assistant

McDaniel had a lot on his plate during the week

Atlanta Falcons v San Francisco 49ers Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images

Changes along the 49ers' coaching staff continue to happen as the Miami Dolphins hired Niners’ offensive coordinator Mike McDaniel as their new head coach over the weekend.

Richard Hightower is the new special teams' coordinator with the Chicago Bears, too. Former tight ends coach and assistant head coach Jon Embree could be on his way to the Broncos. He’s interviewing with Denver this week.

Now, when you go to the 49ers team page and look at their coaching staff, three of the first five coaches won’t be with the team in 2022. The sixth one, Butch Barry, assistant offensive line coach, joined the Broncos staff.

Head coach Kyle Shanahan can promote from within to a degree, but he won’t have a choice to go outside of the building to add coaches to the roster based on the losses so far this offseason.

Offensive passing game specialist Bobby Slowik figures to be the most straightforward in-house replacement for McDaniel as offensive coordinator. Slowik has been in the NFL for eight years and also worked in Washington.

I mention Slowik over quarterbacks coach Rich Scangarello as I don’t know if he’s a good fit for what the 49ers want to do. Also, Scangarello hasn’t exactly had success wherever he’s gone. So it may be time to start over at the quarterback coach position.

The challenge replacing McDaniel

Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer wrote a piece that highlighted the duties McDaniel had leading up to the game:

McDaniel was the only one he took to work under him at all five of his NFL stops as a coordinator or head coach (Texans, Washington, Browns, Falcons, 49ers). And in each of those places, Shanahan had no issue delegating to McDaniel, which is a good a sign of his trust in a guy he first got to know as a ball boy for his dad’s Broncos teams.

In San Francisco over the last few years, Shanahan would spend Mondays and Tuesdays almost exclusively on the passing game, going to work with top lieutenants like former pass-game coordinator Mike LaFleur, while McDaniel was left to draw up the team’s run game for the week.

By the time Wednesday rolled around, what McDaniel would draw up could be so inventive that it’d take a couple of days for the other guys on the staff to wrap their heads around what he was thinking. But Shanahan had so much trust in McDaniel that he gave him great latitude to roll with those sorts of ideas—and they paid off with one of the NFL’s best run games.

The offense is Shanahan’s baby. So, for him to give McDaniel the keys to the running game, the staple of the 49ers offense, and walk away, knowing McDaniel would get the job done, speaks volumes to the caliber of coach McDaniel is.

Of course, that trust has been earned through a decade-plus of working with each other. Shanahan has his work cut out for him. We’ll see what Anthony Lynn brings to the table. I’m curious if Shanahan will take on a bigger role in offensive meetings and preparation now that McDaniel is gone.

Time will tell. We’ll also have a better idea based on which coaches Shanahan decides to hire. There hasn’t been an announcement about a press conference for Shanahan or John Lynch. When asked about the potential of replacing McDaniel last Monday during their exit interviews, both Shanahan and Lynch ignored the question.