How 49ers' unique locker room culture starts at top with Kyle Shanahan

How 49ers' unique locker room culture starts at top with Kyle Shanahan

SANTA CLARA -- The 49ers have something special brewing in their locker room, but it really starts at the top with the way coach Kyle Shanahan holds himself accountable. 

When watching 49ers games, you won’t see frustrated players yelling at each other, or throwing helmets on the sidelines after coming off the field following a bad play or drive. The coaches don't chew their players out in front of the crowd and television cameras, either.

Instead, players and coaches alike show plenty of positivity on the 49ers' sideline, pumping each other up after both huge plays and mistakes. 

It’s not that there isn’t tough love, because there is plenty. Just ask wide receiver Kendrick Bourne. Fellow wideout Deebo Samuel noted players are harder on themselves than a coach would ever be, and that's because Shanahan is so hard on himself. 

Shanahan can vividly recall the calls he wanted back from the Atlanta Falcons' Super Bowl LI loss to the New England Patriots. The missteps ate at him in the aftermath of that defeat, and he sees the same mentality from his players. 

“Yeah, I mean you’ve got to diffuse guys,” Shanahan said Monday. “Everyone’s sensitive and everyone’s trying to do their best, but also everyone makes mistakes. I don’t care who you are. Hall of Fame quarterbacks, Hall of Fame coaches, it doesn’t matter. No one has gone perfect in this league, and everyone’s going to make huge mistakes in front of a lot of people.”

The 49ers are one of two teams left standing, and the audience will only get bigger for Super Bowl LIV. The scrutiny has become even more intense, but Shanahan said managing it is all part of the process.  

“That’s what sports is about,” Shanahan said. “I think athletes go through that. Athletes have a great life. They work hard, they get paid very well and they get to play in a cool game, but they’re also going to get judged by everybody in what they do and that’s just part of it.” 

[RELATED: Watch how 49ers have unleashed Deebo with this run play]

Shanahan sets a very high standard for himself and his players alike. He won't hold back from criticism in film sessions, especially if a player misses a block. But, he'll also praise players whose efforts contribute to an explosive play. Those methods have helped offensive stars like Emmanuel Sanders embrace blocking in the running game. 

“You’ve got to have thick skin,” Shanahan said. “You’ve got to mind not being judged because you’re out here, you’re good at what you do and you’re going to have times that are bad. The more you can call yourself out, the more you can call each other out, the more people take their sensitivity away and say ‘Alright, he’s right we all mess up sometimes let’s just sit in here and work on getting better.’”

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).

Old 49ers-Odell Beckham trade idea shows NFL draft was better route


Old 49ers-Odell Beckham trade idea shows NFL draft was better route

NFL draft season prompts plenty of outlandish trade scenarios to fill airtime and word counts, many of which never come to fruition.

Dallas Morning News reporter Joseph Hoyt dug up one such scenario Thursday, and it's a (hypothetical) trade the 49ers are (hypothetically) glad they didn't (hypothetically) make.

The 49ers would've had to pay a pretty penny for then-New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. in the proposal put forth in a "Good Morning Football" segment nearly two years ago. Beckham was months away from signing a contract extension, so San Francisco would've traded a lot of draft capital for a star entering the final year of his contract. The picks the 49ers made in those slots formed the backbone of the 2019 NFC Champions.

Beckham's arrival would've changed things, though. The 49ers would've entered the season with arguably the best receiver in football as well as George Kittle, who'd emerge as arguably the best tight end. Kittle might not have set an NFL record for receiving yards by a tight end playing alongside Beckham, but he surely would've benefitted from the extra attention opposing defenses paid the receiver rather than him.

Do they still go 4-12 that year? The 49ers were 3-5 in games decided by six points or fewer in 2018, and Jimmy Garoppolo (torn ACL) missed all but one of those games. Beckham crossed the 1,000-yard threshold in just 12 games catching passes from Eli Manning in 2018, so it's -- at the very least -- conceivable he could've moved the needle in at least one of the 49ers' close losses.

[RELATED: Why 49ers should trade down from both first-round picks]

The 49ers would've picked no higher than No. 4 overall with a 5-11 record in 2018, and any additional wins would've dropped them further down the draft order. Acquiring Beckham under the parameters "Good Morning Football" put forth likely would've prevented the Niners from selecting all of Mike McGlinchey, Nick Bosa and Deebo Samuel, but not all three of them would necessarily be Giants, either.

San Francisco would've been a better team in 2018, thus pushing the 49ers out of the slots they used to draft Bosa and Samuel. That's a different opportunity cost to consider than trading all of those players straight-up for one of the game's best receivers, but it's one the 49ers probably are glad they didn't have to pay.

2020 NFL Draft: Why 49ers should trade down both first-round picks

2020 NFL Draft: Why 49ers should trade down both first-round picks

The 49ers had only six picks in the 2020 NFL Draft before trading Pro Bowl defensive tackle DeForest Buckner to the Indianapolis Colts. San Francisco owned the No. 31 pick, and no others until the fifth round.

That trade brought in the No. 13 pick, but the 49ers probably aren't done dealing. Trading down to acquire more, much-needed draft capital is the likeliest scenario.

While much of the 49ers Faithful drool over what the top wide receivers in the draft would look like in coach Kyle Shanahan’s system, it's far from a given that the team will use that first pick on a receiver. For one, the 49ers still don't own any picks in the second, third and fourth rounds. For another, receiver is one of the deepest positions in the draft and the 49ers arguably have a bigger need.

Joe Staley is under contract through the 2021 season, but the veteran left tackle was understandably emotional after the 49ers' loss in Super Bowl LIV. Right tackle Mike McGlinchey indirectly indicated that Staley’s decision to return for the 2020 season was not set in stone.

The 49ers would be best served in hedging their bet that Staley returns and using one of their first-round picks on a left tackle. Even if Staley returns, the 49ers will need a replacement for him in the not-so-distant future. 

The draft's top tackles likely will be taken before the 49ers' first pick, but there still should be quality options available in the 20s or later. The 49ers could trade down, while Houston's Josh Jones or USC's Austin Jackson is still available, and then acquire another pick.

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Let's say trading the No. 13 pick nets the 49ers a first- and early second-round pick. Dealing the No. 31 pick would also come into play.

The 49ers drafted Deebo Samuel No. 36 overall in 2019. Samuel proved to be very productive in Shanahan’s system, catching 57 of his 81 targets for 802 yards. He ranked second on the team in receiving yards only behind First Team All-Pro tight end George Kittle. 

Shanahan's staff had an advantage in getting to know Samuel while at the Senior Bowl, but they have shown that a second-round receiver can become a key contributor. 

[RELATED: Buckner's exit could influence 49ers to trade down in draft]

Hall of Fame coach Jimmy Johnson's draft trade value chart lists the No. 31 pick as worth a mid-second-round pick and a high third-round pick or a high second-round pick and a mid-fourth-round pick, among other permutations. Trading both first-round picks could give the 49ers three additional picks in rounds where they currently have none.

The 49ers would end draft weekend with nine selections in this scenario, as opposed to their original six. They'd also have fresh, valuable talent at important positions on their roster.