“It’s definitely different with Aaron not there,” Shanahan said. “I think it looks a little bit more similar to how I know Matt and his offense. That was always mixed in with Aaron, too. Anytime you have a quarterback who’s played a long time, you’re always going to just mix all that stuff in. But it looks a little more consistent with what he’s done earlier in his career and just how they’re balancing it out.”
If LaFleur is enjoying Love’s buy-in, Shanahan can relate. Purdy recently discussed the importance of doing “what Kyle is asking of me” and playing “within the offense and the scheme.”
Garoppolo played within Shanahan’s system, but sometimes grudgingly, creating some of the friction in their relationship. Last year, Garoppolo lamented his inability to play with the freewheeling style he displayed in 2017 when he had a loose grasp of Shanahan’s offense after being acquired in a mid-season trade. He said the “more freedom” a QB receives, “obviously you play better.”
“As the 49ers begin another playoff run, one can trace their current success — they’ve played in three of the past four NFC Championship Games — to the stream of football consciousness that flowed from Lynch and Shanahan during those marathon film sessions.
“I’m over here at the Marriott and I’m like, ‘God, we’ve got to capture these beliefs,’” Lynch said recently in his office.
The GM would remain restless until the 49ers could harness his and Shanahan’s confluence of knowledge in an efficient, usable way.
Then, the light came on. Lynch remembered Burke Robinson, a lecturer at nearby Stanford who’d been his instructor in a spring 2014 course called “The Art and Science of Decision Making.”
“I’m trying to think of how, and boom, I remember in Burke’s class on decision analysis, we did this deal on vision statements,” Lynch said. “I knew this is what we’ve got to do. Because that’s how you capture it all.
“Who better to go to than Burke?”
“Everybody has experience, and we all feed off each other and see what we can learn from the next guy,” Brown said. “We just try to be the best group we can be just by helping each other.”
Brown tried to use his two games on the sideline as a learning experience. Ryan, a two-time Super Bowl champion with the New England Patriots, started and played well.
“I picked up a lot of things from Logan, just watching him play,” Brown said. “I know the defense. He knows the defense. So just seeing how he approaches certain plays, certain sets that he gets, the way he disguises, I sat back and watched and I learned.
“And I continue to learn from Logan. I’m always picking his brain, not just on football stuff but stuff outside of football, too. He’s been a great addition to this room.”
“On Wednesday, Williams made it clear there would be no retirement talk after this season when discussing his latest milestone: Williams earned his 11th Pro Bowl berth earlier this month, joining Hall of Famers Anthony Muñoz, Jonathan Ogden and Willie Roaf for the most among offensive tackles in NFL history.
Earning his 12th straight Pro Bowl honor is on his career to-do list.
“I want to break the record for tackles,” Williams said. “That’s a big thing for me.”
Star edge rusher Nick Bosa, quoting linebackers coach Johnny Holland, put it this way: “When you’re swarming and you’re cutting off angles, you want to miss tackles, ’cause that means you’re shooting your guns and you’re cutting (the play) back inside.”
That approach works — as long as help arrives quickly. If the missed tackler isn’t the only out-of-position defender, however, things can get ugly.
“The thing we’ve always hung our hat on is the way that we swarm to the football, and with that, when you’re playing so hard, there are bound to be missed tackles,” Warner said. “The problem lies when guys are not all playing hard as a unit — then somebody misses a tackle and the guy kind of squirts out, rather than a guy missing a tackle and another guy being right there to finish him off.”
Added Ryan: “That comes with being the hardest-playing defense. You can’t be afraid to miss a tackle.”
At the same time, 49ers defenders need to avoid the temptation to play hero ball in the postseason. When that compulsion overcomes a unit, in Gipson’s words, “the linebackers and safeties start getting ‘dirty eyes,’ and it’s a trickle-down effect.”
“When you focus on things that aren’t your job,” Gipson explained. “And now you’re breaking through the hole trying to make game-saving tackles instead of just doing your job — that’s when you get gashed.”