49ers

49ers' Kyle Shanahan laments lack of diversity among NFL coaches, GMs

49ers' Kyle Shanahan laments lack of diversity among NFL coaches, GMs

NFL football is predominantly played by African Americans and has been for decades, yet there are very few in positions of power within individual franchises. That's especially true among head coaches and general managers.

49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan believes the underlying, systemic racism that plagues American society has a heavy hand in that. The NFL has implemented requirements in the hiring process to promote minority interviews and opportunities in coaching and other staff positions that have obviously proven unsuccessful.

This belief flies in the face of sentiment expressed Wednesday by Denver head coach and former 49ers defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, who said the NFL is a true meritocracy that doesn’t see color. Those statements drew immediate ire and Fangio has walked them back, but they shine light on an issue that has prevented true progress in this area.

“They’re trying to address it. I think they’re talking about it,” Shanahan said Thursday in a video conference with 49ers reporters. “I saw what Vic said and I saw him apologize for it. It’s tough because white people don’t feel it. You’re not going to think someone’s racist but, you know what? How the heck are there only four [minority] head coaches out of 32? How are there only two GMs?

“We’re in a predominately -- the majority of our players are black. The fact that there are that few [African Americans in positions of power] is not debatable. I don’t think people openly think that they’re doing it, or that people assort to that, but that’s what the problem is. The number is not debatable, and that is an issue. I think we talk about it a lot and it is something that has to get better.”

The 49ers’ hierarchy has white people at the very top, including owner Jed York, general manager John Lynch and Shanahan.

Lynch has three African Americans in prominent positions in the 49ers personnel department.

The 49ers coaching staff also is diverse. Arab-American defensive coordinator Robert Saleh is in a group of NFL assistants considered more than worthy of a head-coaching gig and was a finalist for the Cleveland Browns job. Special teams coordinator Richard Hightower and assistant head coach/tight ends coach Jon Embree are among eight African-American coaches on staff. Offensive assistant Katie Sowers is one of a few full-time female coaches in the league. Sowers became the first woman and first openly gay coach to coach in the Super Bowl this past season.

“I can only speak for myself, and I try to hire people that I work with that are prepared for [the job],” Shanahan said. “Fortunately, that has worked out well for me. We have a Muslim coordinator. We have a black coordinator. We have a lesbian on our staff. … It’s not to show people that we’re trying to be diverse. It’s because I have been around these people and they are really good at what they do. We can’t win without these people. That’s just how it works out.”

[RELATED: 49ers' Shanahan believes Kaepernick deserves admiration]

Shanahan agrees that more must be done to create opportunities for minorities atop organizational hierarchies, considering how few currently occupy those posts.

“I don’t know why the numbers aren’t like that, but the numbers are [inadequate],” Shanahan said. “Those are things that, hell yeah, we want to fix. It’s not an easy answer. It’s about continuing to talk. It’s the same thing with society. It’s very similar on different levels. Those numbers don’t lie. That’s what makes it a fact. That’s what white people have to admit.”

[49ERS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

Watch 49ers' Javon Kinlaw replicate Aaron Donald knife training drill

Watch 49ers' Javon Kinlaw replicate Aaron Donald knife training drill

Javon Kinlaw isn't afraid of a few deadly weapons.

The 49ers rookie showed off a seemingly dangerous drill on social media Friday in a video posted by defensive line trainer Cam Spence.

You're correct, those are in fact a pair of knives being wielded and sent in Kinlaw's direction as he bats them away. We've seen a similar drill from two-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year Aaron Donald.

[RELATED: Richard Sherman calls out report on 2020 NFL season negotiations]

Kinlaw was the 49ers' first selection in the 2020 NFL Draft, going No. 14 overall. The South Carolina product plugged up the middle for the Gamecocks' defense, picking up six sacks and recovering two fumbles. He likely will have an immediate chance to contribute, as All-Pro DeForest Buckner's departure to Indianapolis leaves a void in the 49ers' defensive line.

The rookie, along with a few returning players looking to earn a contract, will be imperative to make sure that void is filled in order for the 49ers to replicate the dominance the team enjoyed in 2019.

[SPORTS UNCOVERED: Listen to the latest episode]

49ers' Brandon Aiyuk sixth-best rookie receiver in Madden 21 ratings

49ers' Brandon Aiyuk sixth-best rookie receiver in Madden 21 ratings

The Brandon Aiyuk hype among 49ers fans has grown exponentially ever since he was drafted 25th overall in April.

The sixth receiver to come off the board in the 2020 NFL Draft, Aiyuk is expected to make an immediate impact with his elite breakaway speed, which he showcased numerous times during his two seasons at Arizona State.

But based on the just-released Madden 21 ratings, Aiyuk isn't even among the fastest wide receivers in his rookie class. In fact, he's just the sixth-best rookie wideout according to the video game's new ratings, checking in at 72 overall.

[SPORTS UNCOVERED: Listen to the latest episode]

The rookie receivers' overall ratings were almost identical to their draft positions, with the Denver Broncos' Jerry Jeudy and the Dallas Cowboys' CeeDee Lamb swapping places being the only alteration.

When it comes to speed, however, Aiyuk checks in as the 10th-fastest rookie wide receiver, behind a handful of players drafted well behind him.

[RELATED: George Kittle 'really proud' of team's offseason work, effort]

Aiyuk's 40-yard dash time at the NFL Scouting Combine wasn't exactly elite (4.54 seconds), but during his senior season, he was tracked with a top in-game speed of 21.97 mph -- a mark bested by just three NFL players in 2019.

Game speed is different than track speed, and Aiyuk brings game speed in spades every time he takes the field.

Guessing those ratings might be adjusted once Aiyuk actually sees some on-field action in a 49ers uniform.