Kyle Shanahan brought stability and culture to the San Francisco 49ers nearly seven years ago and now he’s tied for the fourth longest tenure.
With the 2024 coaching carousel reshuffles, many of the longer-tenured coaches in the NFL have mutually parted ways. Pete Carroll has moved on from Seattle and Bill Belichick has departed from the New England Patriots. This makes Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin the longest-tenured coach in the league at 17 seasons. Behind him are John Harbaugh (Baltimore Ravens) and Andy Reid (Kansas City Chiefs) with 16 and 11 seasons, respectively.
Before Shanahan, the 49ers were in the dregs of the league with an almost running gag of instability at head coach during the Yorks’ time as owners. The longest coach tenured before Shanahan under the York family was Steve Mariucci—and he was a holdover from the Eddie DeBartolo regime at five years. Next up was Jim Harbaugh who spent a full four seasons (even though he was told he wouldn’t be back midway through his fourth) under the Yorks and could also be considered “the longest” since there wasn’t overlap.
Harbaugh came following the failures of Dennis Erickson, Mike Nolan, and Mike Singletary. All of which couldn’t finish three full seasons. Following Harbaugh’s departure it was on this very site in the comments where you saw readers say, “Get ready for a revolving door of head coaches,” due to the aforementioned names above walking in and making a U-turn out the door.
The 49ers first hired Adam Gase, then changed their minds for Jim Tomsula. Tomsula lasted a single season and Chip Kelly was hired. Not unlike Tomsula, Kelly lasted one season also. This sort of background is damning for any splash hire as it gives any potential head coach the impression the organization is not going to allow them time to put their program together and get the roster shaped to their vision.
So in 2017, the 49ers hired Shanahan and gave him a six-year contract. A six year contract that had no offset language. That meant should the 49ers have show him the door like so many others and he received a coaching job elsewhere, he’d get paid in full for his six-year contract with the 49ers. That’s a commitment.
Shanahan took what was one of the absolute worst rosters of the league, purged it, and took it to a Super Bowl his third year (2019). After an off-year in 2020, the 49ers have been in the NFC Championship twice in a row and are headed to their third consecutive playoff appearance.
Seven years is a lot of time in the NFL, especially when coaches seem to get canned every two or three or even one year. Obviously, there’s Black Monday which is almost a ritual to see where the openings are every week. Given all of that and the fact Shanahan has kept the 49ers competitive, not to mention fighting for the playoffs rather than circling the drain by Week 7 should explain why he’s still around.
Oh and he John Lynch built that roster that is competing right now also. Almost from scratch. There’s that.