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49ers Mailbag: Should Shanahan give up play-calling?

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49ers Mailbag: Should Shanahan give up play-calling?

Believe it or not, the 49ers’ offense is improved from last season.

The 49ers ranked 31st in the NFL in 2016, averaging 308.1 yards per game. Although the offense is producing just a little better (325.9 yards per game), their ranking this season has shot up to 21st in the league.

The 49ers have had a different head coach and different person running the offense in each of the past four seasons, so their continuity has been severely lacking.

Next season, the 49ers should finally have carryover from one season to the next.

The direction of the offense is one of the topics addressed on this edition of 49ers Mailbag (questions were submitted via Facebook):

Now that we have Jimmy G do you see 49ers getting an offensive coordinator or will it still be Kyle calling the plays? (Julio Orozco)
I'm not sure why the arrival of Jimmy Garoppolo would have any impact on the 49ers’ offensive structure, but in any event, the answer is a resounding, “No.”

Kyle Shanahan has been hailed as one of the best offensive coordinators in the NFL. The reason he was hired as 49ers head coach was, in large part, because of the success he achieved while designing offenses and calling plays.

Why would he give that up? It makes no sense.

Rob Demovsky of ESPN this week identified the 32 primary play-callers. There are 18 NFL head coaches with offensive backgrounds. Twelve of those coaches call their own plays.

Shanahan has a staff of assistant coaches on whom he leans. Passing game specialist Mike LaFleur and quarterbacks coach Rich Scangarello are closely involved in working with Shanahan on the passing game, while running game specialist Mike McDaniel, offensive line coach John Benton and running backs coach Bobby Turner spearhead the involvement in the ground game.

But, make no mistake, it is Shanahan who calls the shots. And that's the way it should be. If Shanahan stepped aside as his own offensive coordinator, he would be diminishing his biggest strength as a coach.

What do you see happing with the Hyde situation? We drafted Joe Williams and Breida seems to be a bright spot. There’s a lot of talk about Barkley from Penn State with that high 1st rounder. (Manny Hinojos)
There does not seem to be any movement toward a long-term extension for Hyde. It is getting to the point in the season where it makes a lot more sense for Hyde to play out his contract and hit the open market.

There is no question in my mind the 49ers like Hyde a lot. He has scored some major points with the organization for his performance on the field and how he has responded off the field.

GM John Lynch loved it when Hyde came to the defense of quarterback C.J. Beathard, tussled with Arizona lineman Frostee Rucker and got ejected from the game.

That said, the 49ers are not going to break the bank for Hyde. A multi-year agreement has to come at the right price. My personal feeling is that running backs are luxury pieces when the remainder of a team’s roster -- especially the offensive line -- is set.

Shanahan and his father, Mike Shanahan, and Turner (the assistant coach who served on both of their staffs) have achieved a lot of success without investing heavily in running backs. That’s why I think the 49ers would be best-served by investing elsewhere and using another mid-round draft pick on a running back.

With Joshua Garnett coming back next season how aggressive will Lynch and Shanahan be in trying to get guards this offseason? (David Hartless)
Garnett is not a particularly good fit for this offensive scheme. The presence of Garnett can help increase the competition next offseason, but I do not believe he is being penciled in as a starter.

The 49ers will certainly be aggressive in an attempt to upgrade the guard positions. Currently, Laken Tomlinson and Brandon Fusco are the starters. Neither will be assured a starting job when the offseason begins.

The 49ers did not see enough from Garnett to determine he has a future with the organization, but he will be given the opportunity to come back healthy and prove himself.

Is Eric Reid in long-term plans? (Grant Rasmussen)
I do not believe so. I think the 49ers would like their starting safeties next season to be Jimmie Ward and Jaquiski Tartt – with Adrian Colbert as the front-runner for the No. 3 job.

The 49ers can also be expected to add a player or two in free agency, as well as the draft, to provide a competitive environment in the offseason. The 49ers seemed to telegraph their intention with Reid when they moved him to linebacker with Ward and Tartt remaining as the starting safeties.

That position change lasted about a week, as Ward’s injury prompted the team to move Reid back to safety. Reid is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season. It's entirely possible there will not be a big market for him, but I do not believe the 49ers are going to be ultra-competitive in retaining him on the open market.

49ers notes: Practices heat up with Texans in Houston

49ers notes: Practices heat up with Texans in Houston

The 49ers arrived Monday evening in Houston, where temperatures in the mid-90s – and more than a bit of humidity -- await the team’s two practices this week against the Texans.

After 14 practices at the team’s facility in Santa Clara, the 49ers figure to learn a lot more about their roster while facing a different opponent during two-hour practice sessions scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday.

“We’re very sick of going against the same scheme every day,” 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said. “It’ll be nice to go against something else, you know? Offensively and defensively, and it gives you two practices where you can go against different stuff, which prepares all your players for what they’re going to see during the year.

“And just for the monotony of camp, it’s good to change it up.”

The 49ers will be a bit short-handed for the practices. Eleven players sat out the team’s practice Monday due to injuries. Running back Joe Williams is scheduled to rejoin the team. The 49ers also plan to sign veteran running back Alfred Morris. The 49ers’ top two running backs, Jerick McKinnon and Matt Breida, are out for the remainder of the preseason with injuries.

The injuries across the board have impacted how the 49ers practice. Because of thinning depth, the 49ers do not have enough healthy bodies to form a full No. 3 unit.

“Once you start losing those guys, it adds a lot on another person,” Shanahan said. “Once you see a guy having to take reps with the twos and with the threes, it’s just a matter of time before that guy gets hurt. Those are the things you’ve got to pay attention to. You can get away with it for a little bit and you know you’re going to put a lot on a guy, but eventually once you see it’s too much you’ve got to stop the drill and just move on. It’s not worth it.”

After two practices against the Texans, the 49ers will have a day off on Friday before facing Houston on Saturday in the second preseason game for both teams.

McGlinchey Readies for Work vs. Watt

After being satisfied with his performance during his 23 snaps in the exhibition opener against the Dallas Cowboys, 49ers rookie right tackle Mike McGlinchey is bracing for what figures to be his best learning experience since being the No. 9 overall draft pick.

McGlinchey is likely to go up against Texans perennial All-Pro defensive lineman J.J. Watt in two practices. The reports out of Houston is that Watts has looked close to his former self after two injury-plagued seasons. He did not play in the Texans’ exhibition opener, though. McGlinchey could see practice time against Watt and Jadeveon Clowney.

“It’s definitely going to be fun,” McGlinchey said. “It’s why you play in the NFL, to play against the biggest and baddest dudes.”

Morris Steps in to Compete

Part of the reason the 49ers are bringing in Morris to join the team is because he already is familiar with Shanahan’s system. But Morris will also get an opportunity to compete for a spot on the 53-man roster. Morris spent two seasons with Shanahan in Washington, and Shanahan said he should have no problem picking up the 49ers playbook.

“There’s not big changes and it’s not that tough for a back,” Shanahan said. “They’ve got to set their track the right way and you hand it off to them and go run. We have a way that we coach guys and stuff, but everyone, when you’re away from something, it’s going to take some time. He is going to be rusty with that stuff, but he’ll get the hang of it.”

Undrafted rookie OL Alan Knott was waived to make room for Morris. 

This ‘N’ That

Shanahan bristled when asked if the injuries of training camp could have been avoided. “Soft tissue injuries, yeah, they can be prevented by having them not doing anything and sit there and just not get hurt and then it will happen in Week 1,” Shanahan said. “It’s just part of it. I think we are pretty smart with what we do. There’s a fine line, a very fine line. If a player is complaining about being tight, we can sit there and shut him down and then every single person who ever complains about being tight, you can shut down and then ask a group of 90 people in training camp to raise their hands on who’s tight. Ninety people will raise their hand.” . . . McKinnon grabbed behind his right knee after sustaining an injury in practice on Sunday. The fears were alleviated when an MRI revealed a calf strain, which will keep him sidelined for the remainder of the exhibition season. “No one realizes your calf goes that high,” Shanahan said. “So I think he was worried about it just where it was and then once he got the assurance that it was his calf, it made sense that he didn’t have that much pain. I think he felt much better. But at least he feels good that he’ll be ready for Week 1.”

Tony Romo: Jimmy Garoppolo 'cannot be in a better situation'

Tony Romo: Jimmy Garoppolo 'cannot be in a better situation'

Sure, Jimmy Garoppolo would have liked to have played more during his first four and a half seasons with the Patriots. But learning under Tom Brady and Bill Belichick isn't all that bad.

What he learned in New England set him up for success with Kyle Shanahan and the 49ers.

At least that's how former Cowboys quarterback and current CBS analyst Tony Romo looks at it.

“You cannot be in a better situation early on than Jimmy,” Romo said. “He’s been with some of the best minds you could ever be around in the National Football League. He got the foundation of Bill Belichick, who probably set his routine for success for the rest of his career. He was around Tom Brady for three-plus years, learning through osmosis if nothing else. Tom’s ability at the line of scrimmage to do something, and then for Jimmy to go back and study the how and why … I am sure Jimmy saw so much subtlety that took Brady years to learn through experience. Jimmy could just see it in practice and he’s like, Oh, now I see why he did that.You get that ability to improve at a much faster rate than you otherwise would have on your own. It’s really a priceless thing for young quarterbacks to be behind a great quarterback," Romo told Peter King for his Football Morning in America column.

As for Shanahan and his abilities as a play-caller, Romo had high praise for the second-year head coach.

“And now with Kyle Shanahan, he’s getting an offensive genius. I don’t throw that term around lightly—Kyle really is. I would argue there’s three or four guys in the league who really separate themselves as head coaches or offensive coordinators getting chunk plays. You’re dropping back and you’re having a guy come open 20, 25 yards downfield. That’s a huge load off a quarterback’s shoulders for always having to produce on third down to move the chains. That’s where Kyle really separates himself," Romo told King.