We already knew that Kyle Shanahan wouldn’t speak at the Scouting Combine in Indianapolis. Now we know why.
Shanahan, who had attended each combine since 2017, and the rest of the staff will have access to player interviews video of workouts etc. GM John Lynch and scouting staff will attend. https://t.co/slqZqWnQwl— Eric Branch (@Eric_Branch) March 1, 2022
The truth is that the Combine’s actual value to the league at this point is programming for the NFL Network. Between the widespread availability of film and the development of wearable tracking devices, teams have more information on players’ athletic abilities than ever before.
Other than the medical evaluations, the Combine isn’t essential anymore. If the incoming players ever united and demanded an appearance fee from the NFL, the league would most likely just shut it down.
In terms of the 49ers specifically, it’s not surprising to hear that “the rest of the coaching staff” will not attend because there really isn’t a “rest of the coaching staff.”
As of today, there are still vacancies at offensive coordinator, special teams coordinator, multiple offensive line positions, quarterback coach, and most recently, running backs coach. It’s kind of hard for the coaching staff to evaluate workouts when there isn’t really a full coaching staff.
In July of 2019, Tyler Dunne, then of Bleacher Report, wrote a long story about the team, and at least according to one former staffer, a growing discontent between the front office and the scouts:
The current scouting staff is feeling increasingly marginalized. Where Lynch sees “synergy,” others see an imbalance. With Shanahan wielding so much control, coaches are far, far more empowered on draft day. As the staffer puts it, it is literally the scouts’ jobs to study prospects two years at a time, so “to see your work not valued as highly is demoralizing.” He adds, “Voices are being heard, but they’re not the right voices.”
Fortunately, enough went right in 2019 that people forgot about this story, and there haven’t been any reports about friction with scouts since then. Is Shanahan skipping the Combine a sign of greater trust in the scouting staff? Or do the 49ers simply disregard everything that happens there other than the medical reports? It’s impossible to say for sure.
Regardless of the answer, the 49ers have had some success in the draft recently. In 2019, they hit two grand slams with Nick Bosa and Deebo Samuel in their first two picks. Jalen Hurd was a bust, but Dre Greenlaw has been a great value coming out of round five, and Mitch Wishnowsky, well...we don’t talk about Bruno.
In 2020, Brandon Aiyuk and Jauan Jennings came aboard. Aiyuk looks poised to take off in a big way, and Jennings emerged as a very reliable target down the stretch last season. Javon Kinlaw hasn’t progressed the way the team has hoped, but no one bats 1.000 in this business.
It might be a little too early to honestly evaluate last year’s class, especially with its crown jewel just 10 quarters into his NFL career - but I’ll do it anyway. Elijah Mitchell literally carried a huge load for this team when running backs were dropping like flies, Ambry Thomas came on strong after a rough start, and even Talanoa Hufanga had an impact in his rookie season.
Whether Shanahan, John Lynch, Adam Peters, and company are trusting the scouts more or not trusting them at all, the results seem to be good lately. Hopefully, the decision to skip the Combine this year won’t affect that.
You can hear more on this subject as well as the latest news about the 49ers’ coaching staff in today’s 49ers in Five podcast. It’s everything you need to know about what’s happening with the team in less time than it takes to drink your morning coffee. Available everywhere, podcasts are found.