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49ers in Five: Is Kyle Shanahan a top ten coach in the NFL?

Kevin Cole of Pro Football Focus says no

Everything you need to know in about five minutes

When the 49ers were 3-5 last season, the torches and pitchforks were out for Kyle Shanahan’s job. A second trip to the NFC Championship Game in three years has since tempered that anger for most people. Despite that, however, Kevin Cole of PFF still isn’t really sold on Kyle Shanahan as head coach.

Speaking on the “Blasphemous NFL Takes” episode of the Unexpected Points Podcast, Cole made his very lengthy argument:

“Kyle Shanahan is not a top ten NFL head coach. I would not pick him, if I had to pick an NFL head coach, he would not be in the top ten names that I would want. I feel like coaching is extremely difficult to judge. We hear a lot of things about the brilliance of certain coaches. Guys like Shanahan versus others, how they can affect things, how players love these certain things, but again, a lot of these takes that we have for what they’re doing, we don’t really have a great gauge on how to value those things. How they’re reflected on the field.

We have a much better way of gauging teams: If they’re going for it on fourth down a lot, maybe their pass/run ratios, how they’re doing things in free agency and the draft, and how they’re affecting the front office. I would say on all of those things that we can measure pretty well, he’s just bad. He’s borderline awful when it comes to the front office and what’s gone on there.

I don’t need to get into a laundry list of things here, but there have been various signings, there have been taking guys off the [draft] board and putting them back on the board, there have been trading up for guys that never end up getting used, and even in this last draft we saw this fiasco where I’m not really sure they actually wanted Trey Lance or not. Even when when they talked about the reason for trading these draft picks and then moving up, it sounded like it was more of an injury concern when it came to someone like Jimmy Garoppolo than necessarily needing to upgrade the play. Although a lot of people have said that Shanahan realized that. I don’t know if he really did. Who knows what would end up happening if he had those picks now.”

That’s only the first part of Cole’s argument, but there’s certainly a lot to unpack there. There’s no doubt that there have been some swings and misses personnel-wise. Some have been due to injuries, while others were just bad. Joe Williams will live in infamy, for sure.

That said, those things do happen to other teams as well. No one bats 1.000, and what matters more is what you’re able to accomplish in spite of those misses. A Super Bowl and another NFC title game appearance in the last three years is pretty damn good. I’d also point out that even with some blunders, the 49ers have a top ten roster in the entire sport. And, in case you forgot, this roster belongs almost entirely to Shanahan and Lynch. Things had to be totally torn down and rebuilt after the Dark Ages of Jim Tomsula and Chip Kelly.

The stuff about Trey Lance is so crazy to me that I don’t want to address it. Nobody talked the second-most powerful person in the organization out of drafting the quarterback he wanted.

On the field, Cole has issues with Shanahan as well. In addition to poor fourth-down decision-making, Kevin also pointed out the inconsistency of Kyle’s offenses throughout his coaching career.

“I’m not comfortable saying that he gives you such a certainty of offensive efficiency as a play-caller that I can look past the other clear negatives that I see for Shanahan. He’s not going to be a guy that I would lean into if I were building a team.”

I’ve had my issues with Kyle over the years and still do, for sure, but I don’t think Cole is giving Kyle enough credit for what he’s built during his time in San Francisco. I certainly wouldn’t make the argument that he’s a top-five head coach, but I think he clearly belongs in the top ten.

What do you think? Leave a comment below and let us know!

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