SANTA CLARA – 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan and Packers defensive coordinator Mike Pettine will line up on opposite sidelines during Sunday’s NFC Championship Game at Levi’s Stadium.
They paced the same one back in 2014 as members of the Cleveland Browns. That might be fresh in your mind after an old video went viral recently showing Shanahan disagreeing with Pettine on an offensive play call.
Pettine wanted a run. Shanahan wanted to throw it and wasn't amused about a suggestion otherwise.
There was a moment of clear, yet unspoken conflict between Pettine, the Browns head coach at the time, and his offensive play caller.
I hope Kyle Shanahan used this moment as motivation to hang up 40 on Mike Pettine tonight 😂 pic.twitter.com/L2TbKM5DLu— Adam Lefkoe (@AdamLefkoe) October 16, 2018
Pettine finally relented, in the clip you’ve seen above, issuing a terse vote of confidence after Shanahan’s look of disdain after a suggested run.
“It was the most nervous play call I've ever made,” Shanahan said on Friday, two days before the 49ers and Packers clash with a trip to Super Bowl LIV on the line.
Shanahan said the exchange was representative of his relationship with Pettine during his only season as Cleveland offensive coordinator, after which he submitted his resignation. And no, there hasn’t been tension between the two, and there isn’t any now.
“I think that shows how cool of a guy Mike was and is,” Shanahan said. “A head coach is going to always pop in here and there and tell a coordinator to do something. And I promise you, I know what my role is, and I don’t always do what they tell you to do.”
Shanahan likened his relationship with Pettine to what he has with 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh, only with him in the captain’s chair.
“I am not involved with the defense a lot, and I get in to see a couple things when I want to do something,” Shanahan said. “And I really hope that when I tell Saleh something, if he strongly disagrees, I really hope that he tells me that back. And then I have the decision to say, I don't care what you're saying, do it anyways or I listen. And that's how Mike and I were. Mike could see probably by my facial expression I thought we should pass. And we had, and he trusted me. If he didn't, he would have said no, and I would have called a run.”
Those exchanges happen more that fans think, but simply aren’t caught on camera. That’s a healthy dialogue between a head coach and someone running the one side of the ball with great autonomy. Most of the time at least.
Shanahan says it was in the Browns instance making rounds on social media and what happens with him and Saleh regularly.
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“I think it's very important for a play caller, whether you’re on offense or defense, to have that relationship with the head coach, because I'm very nervous sometimes to just hop in and tell Saleh to do something,” Shanahan said. “[That’s the case] because, unless you're in it all week and you're looking at it down in and down out, and your mind is coming from that point of view, when you just jump in something real fast, sometimes it can be the right answer.
“But I want to make sure I have confident enough people that when it's not someone tells me they don't believe it is, especially someone that should have more expertise than me in that area. And if you do have that confidence then you're not afraid to tell people that because you know if you're wrong, you hope they'll tell you back.”
Programming note: NBC Sports Bay Area feeds your hunger for 49ers playoff coverage with special editions of “49ers Central” all week (6 p.m. Thursday and 8 p.m. Friday)
Also tune in at 2:30 p.m. Sunday for “49ers Pregame Live,” with Laura Britt, Jeff Garcia, Donte Whitner, Ian Williams and Grant Liffmann previewing the NFC Championship Game against the Packers. That same crew will have all the postgame reaction on “49ers Postgame Live,” starting at approximately 6:30 p.m.