The San Francisco 49ers had quite a turnaround over the last few years. This was when they started a nosedive in 2014 during Jim Harbaugh’s final year (due to all the front office drama) and then hit rock bottom with the back-to-back, one-and-done hirings of Jim Tomsula and Chip Kelly. After Kelly’s (and general manager Trent Baalke’s) firing there couldn’t be any more mistakes.
Joe Staley saw it all as the former left tackle for the 49ers. He saw the good of Harbaugh, both being on teams before and after Harbaugh was no longer a head coach. So in 2017 when Shanahan’s hat was in the hiring pool, Staley knew the 49ers needed him. Staley was recently on the Mojobreak Sports Card Podcast and talked about how he pushed for 49ers owner/CEO Jed York to do everything to land Shanahan. As we all know, the 49ers did do everything. By everything it was six-year contracts, hand picking a GM, stopping leaks, and having no offset language; meaning if Shanahan/Lynch were fired in those 6 years they still got their money even if they coached elsewhere.
I really encourage everyone to go listen to the entire podcast as there’s a lot of cool stories I want to break down in the coming days, but this was Joe’s long answer to how he talked to York about hiring Shanahan back in 2017.
I had a conversation, I was in Houston with Jed [49ers owner and CEO Jed York] in the Super Bowl and he was about to interview Shanahan, because Shanahan just had gone and he was getting ready for the Super Bowl against the Patriots that year. I believe it was then, I don’t know if he had interviewed him during that week or was waiting until after the game. I was like, ‘You have to make this happen. Everything I’ve heard about from a player’s side, management side, he is the next big thing . He is an unbelievable coach, the way that he sees the game. You need to — whatever you can do — try to make this happen.’
“He was telling me that was his plan and he was going to do everything he could. Then since then when he came in there. That’s why I was so behind Shanahan, because I saw the system, saw what he was trying to build; him and John. It was the first time in my career, since probably before Baalke and Harbaugh, that I felt a connect from the top level down — ownership, general manager, head coach, support staff — everything was on the same page, and I knew what they were going to build from that point on and we went what 2-14 his first year? I forget, we didn’t win our first game for like, 11 weeks. I was like so positive because I knew, I could see that vision and that path of what he was building. The second year was awful as well, but that 2019 season was a surprise to everybody but it wasn’t a surprise to anyone in the building. They’ll be good for as long as Shanahan is there, and John is there, and the whole entire system from the top-down is there, they’re gonna be unbelievable”
Staley’s point about the losses goes along with a phrase I said a lot during the Tomsula, Kelly, and Shanahan years: “It’s not that you lose, it’s how you lose.” Anyone who watched losses under Shanahan and compared them to when Tomsula or Kelly ran the show would see a completely different football team both in their play and mentality. It was obvious even when losing in 2018 that the team was going the right direction, even amidst many bonehead nights. Shanahan just needed to keep building out the roster. And when he did, whoa.
Anyone who follows the 49ers fanbase still sees rumblings of “Fire Shanahan” when entering a rough patch or things don’t go the 49ers’ way. For those uttering that, it seems like they forgot what they were before Shanahan and Lynch got there. For me in particular, not one part of me wants anything to do with going back to that.