How 49ers' Kyle Shanahan paved way for 'historic' Ravens offense

How 49ers' Kyle Shanahan paved way for 'historic' Ravens offense

The read-option has been one of the most dynamic offensive schemes in college football for many years. Many a Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback over the past 25 seasons has used it to dice up opposing defenses, from Vince Young at Texas, or Tim Tebow at Florida, to Robert Griffin III at Baylor.

Despite that tremendous success at the college level, the elite speed of NFL defenses kept just about every team in the league from using the scheme.

That is, until then-Washington offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan was given Griffin III and told to build an offense around the dynamic signal-caller, whom the team had selected No. 2 overall in the 2012 NFL Draft.

“Mine was a little different. There wasn’t a lot of tape on it, and I had seen it a lot in college, especially studying Robert at Baylor,” Shanahan told NBC Sports Bay Area's Matt Maiocco on “49ers Game Plan.” “Once we got him, I knew that was the direction we were gonna need to go.

“I didn’t want to study it too much in college, because it’s more about studying the defenses and how they’re going to play it.”

Griffin threw for 20 touchdowns and ran for over 800 yards as a rookie, as Washington finished 10-6 and won the NFC East, with Shanahan’s offense emphasizing the zone-read scheme.

Despite being the architect of one of the NFL’s first truly successful option offenses, Shanahan isn’t attempting to take credit for what quarterback Lamar Jackson and the Ravens have been able to do in 2019.

“They’ve taken it to the next level because it’s not just zone read,” Shanahan said. “They’re doing quarterback power, quarterback counter, running the quarterback up the middle, they’re doing a ton of things off of it, which truly makes it a Wildcat offense.

“The issue is, it’s a Wildcat offense with a quarterback playing the Wildcat, which is what’s making it pretty historic, what they’re doing.”

[RELATED: Tartt among five 49ers players to watch Sunday vs. Ravens]

Shanahan will get a chance to try and slow down the high-powered Baltimore offense on Sunday when his 49ers visit Jackson and the Ravens, whose QB room now also includes the coach's former understudy, Griffin.

You can see the full episode of “49ers Game Plan” on Saturday at 7 p.m. on NBC Sports Bay Area.

Emmanuel Sanders offers advice to 49ers playing in first Super Bowl

Emmanuel Sanders offers advice to 49ers playing in first Super Bowl

While Emmanuel Sanders is heading to his third career Super Bowl, many of his teammates on the 49ers will be playing in their first when they take on the Chiefs on Feb. 2 in Miami.

In an interview with ESPN's Josina Anderson moments after the 49ers beat the Packers in the NFC Championship Game on Sunday, the veteran wide receiver explained how his mindset changed from his first Super Bowl appearance to his second, and how that will impact how he approaches Super Bowl LIV.

"It's a blessing. It's a blessing," Sanders told Anderson in the 49ers' locker room. "Truthfully, I'm going to enjoy this one, but at the same time, only thing is, we gotta go out and win it. So Miami is gonna be fun, but we gotta go and handle business.

"I remember in 2010 when I went to the Super Bowl, I said I want to make it to the Super Bowl and then we went out there and lost. And then in '15, I said I want to win the Super Bowl and we ended up winning it. Right now, my mentality is we gotta go win the Super Bowl. It's good to make it, but we gotta go win it. That's the only thing on my mind."

Sanders' first Super Bowl appearance came in his rookie season, and he caught two passes for 17 yards in the Pittsburgh Steelers' loss to the Packers in Super Bowl XLV.

Five years later, Sanders caught six passes for 83 yards to help the Denver Broncos beat the Carolina Panthers in Super Bowl 50 at Levi's Stadium.

Now, he will try to help the team that calls Levi's home win its sixth Super Bowl in franchise history.

[RELATED: 49ers installing Super Bowl gameplan this week]

So what advice would Sanders give to all the first-time Super Bowl participants on the 49ers?

"Lock in," Sanders told Anderson. "Obviously, this week is going to be big because when we get to Miami, it's going to be a frenzy, so this week, we've got to practice like it is Super Bowl week just so we can stay focused.

"Then next week still have that same mentality, but we know it's going to be crazy out there. All the times that I've been, that first week was the most important week, so that's my message to the guys, just like Kyle [Shanahan] said."

Programming note: NBC Sports Bay Area feeds your hunger for 49ers Super Bowl coverage with special editions of “49ers Central” all week (5:30 p.m. Monday and Wednesday; 8:00 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday; 6:00 p.m. Friday).

How Falcons' Super Bowl loss will help 49ers' Kyle Shanahan vs. Chiefs

How Falcons' Super Bowl loss will help 49ers' Kyle Shanahan vs. Chiefs

SANTA CLARA — As the Falcons’ offensive coordinator three years ago, Kyle Shanahan came away from his first trip to a Super Bowl having learned a few lessons. The biggest one was not that he didn’t call a run play on that fateful second-and-11 situation in the fourth quarter against the Patriots. 

Shanahan will be making his second Super Bowl appearance in less than two weeks and his previous experience has shaped the way he approaches a game forever. While there are always plays that he would like to have back, it’s a bigger lesson that left an imprint on the 49ers play caller. 

“Losing a Super Bowl is extremely tough for everybody especially when you lose when you had a 28-3 lead going into the fourth,” Shanahan said. “The learning moments are — never feel good.

“I mean that’s why I promise you when we we're way up in the fourth quarter on Green Bay and stuff, I know what 28 minus three is. And I know a 25-point lead in the fourth quarter isn’t enough.” 

While 28-3 is the score everyone remembers, the Falcons actually led 28-9 entering the fourth quarter of Super Bowl LI.

That mentality hits home for Shanahan during every game, and obviously reoccurred in the 49ers' 37-20 win over the Packers in the NFC Championship Game. 

“So when we have a 14-point lead with eight minutes to go against Green Bay, I can promise you that I feel, from experience, like the game is tied and that we don’t have a two-score lead.” 

Shanahan will forever feel like a team has the ability to mount a comeback but he knows that one play call towards the end of the game was not the reason Atlanta lost. In the first half of Super Bowl LI, Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman ran the ball nine times for 86 yards, averaging 9.6 yards per carry. 

In the second half, the Patriots shut down the run game and the two backs ran the ball nine times for 18 yards, averaging only two yards per carry.

[RELATED: 49ers will install gameplan this week]

Shanahan admits he will never call a perfect game, because that is an impossible feat, but he vows to never take his foot off the gas. 

“I think that’s the stuff that helps you because I think sometimes people can tend to relax,” Shanahan said. "That’s something that I, I won’t say that I ever relaxed in that Super Bowl especially with Tom Brady having the ball. But that’s something that keeps you humble every single moment until the game is over.”