Shanahan believes 49ers must lead by example, not just words


SANTA CLARA — Many championship teams have a LeBron James or Tom Brady-type of leader who can be seen vocally demanding more of their teammates. 

The 49ers have underperformed through eight games of the 2021 NFL season. The level of disappointment at team headquarters and amongst the fan base is at a fever pitch. Coach Kyle Shanahan doesn’t believe player leadership needs to be the vocal type, but they all need to perform better on game day. 

“It's not just, we don't have the right guy yelling at guys and saying, ‘This can't be tolerated.’ " Shanahan said on Thursday. “I mean, that sounds good and all for everyone, but those are just words. It's got to be with actions and not just wanting to do it, but performing at a high level. 

“So when you have those guys that can hold people accountable, they also better be doing their job at a high level too.” 

During 49ers' games, there are no shots of players getting in each other’s face, or boisterous yelling on the sidelines. The team’s captains, while being encouraging and energetic, have a “lead by example” approach. 

One reason the 49ers have been underperforming might be that many the team’s top players, who are also leaders, have not been on the field the entire first half of the season. Tight end George Kittle and left tackle Trent Williams have been out due to injury, while running back Raheem Mostert missed all but four snaps of the 2021 season. 


On the defensive side, cornerback Jason Verrett, linebacker Dre Greenlaw, , defensive lineman Javon Kinlaw and safety Jimmie Ward have all missed time to name a few. Still Shanahan won’t make any excuses for his team and neither will his players.  

Shanahan, however, holds himself responsible for getting more out the players he does have available on gameday. Shanahan’s star players need to lift the level of play on the field to a higher standard than what has been seen through eight games. 

“I say this to our team a lot,” Shanahan said. “Your A players got to play like A players every week. What I used to hear when I was younger is any coach can get a C player to play like a B player, I believe. But really good coaches get A players to play like A players every week. And that's how you push guys.”

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Shanahan believes his team has the potential to be better than their 3-5 record which leaves them at the bottom of the NFC West. He knows turning the season around can not be done by one or two players, but it does start with those in leadership roles. 

“You push everyone as a team, your team pushes each other and then your whole team rises together,” Shanahan said. “I think it's very rare that you have one guy in that way. It's a guy playing the right way, leading by example, doing it the right way, performing. And then we can all hold accountability and try to get a certain standard for every single player.

“I think our A players can play more like A players. I think we need to get them to, and that starts with me.”


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