How Kyle Shanahan, 49ers handled 2017's 0-9 start later led to success

How Kyle Shanahan, 49ers handled 2017's 0-9 start later led to success

SANTA CLARA -- He was young, brash and – some would say – arrogant.

That was the reputation of coach Kyle Shanahan when the 49ers hired him in 2017. In fact, the 49ers’ future general manager just weeks before they officially joined up for the massive rebuild said the exact same thing during a national TV broadcast.

“I want an arrogant coach," then-FOX analyst John Lynch said on an Atlanta Falcons playoff broadcast. "I want a confident coach. I’d be hiring that guy in a second.”

Shanahan went from being the Falcons’ offensive coordinator to the 49ers’ head coach a short time later. He brought Lynch with him to serve as general manager.

Then, they got off to one of the worst imaginable starts with the 49ers. Shanahan, not known for his patience, was tested when the club lost its first nine games in 2017.

“I learned that it was just another thing that I hadn’t gone through,” Shanahan told NBC Sports Bay Area on The 49ers Insider Podcast this week. “When it was over, I learned I could deal with it. It won’t kill you.

“If you’d told me that my first head coaching job was going to start out 0-9, I would’ve asked you, ‘Am I alive still?’ What have I done? I’m sure I’d be freaking out. I didn’t. I handled it.”

The 49ers play the Green Bay Packers on Sunday at 3:40 p.m. in the NFC Championship Game at Levi's Stadium. The winner punches a ticket to Super Bowl LIV in Miami on Sunday, Feb. 2, against the winner of the AFC Championship game featuring the Tennessee Titans and Kansas City Chiefs.

And, now, it is easy to see how the 49ers’ rough beginnings in 2017 played a vital role in the club getting to this spot -- just one victory away from the franchise’s seventh Super Bowl appearance.

“That was cool because you found out a lot about people, going 0-9,” Shanahan said. “It helped me and John make a lot of decisions leading into the next season on certain guys.”

Included in that nine-game losing streak were a record five consecutive losses by three points or fewer. Also, the best any team that started 0-9 had ever finished before that season was 3-13. The 49ers won six games in 2017, including five in a row to finish the season with Jimmy Garoppolo at quarterback.

“It was miserable, but it was necessary,” Shanahan said.

The 49ers had not been to the playoffs since 2013 in Jim Harbaugh’s next-to-last season as coach. But the 49ers did not seem out of place at all on the big stage last week in a 27-10 victory over the Minnesota Vikings in the divisional round of the NFC playoffs.

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Shanahan said he believes that all the experiences, beginning in 2017 and continuing with all of the close games the 49ers played this season, have prepared the 49ers for pressure-packed football games.

“We hadn’t been to the playoffs until last week, but I still feel like we’ve been through so much stuff,” Shanahan said. “Losing nine in a row to start [2017], the way our games have gone this year. I feel like every game’s come down to the last play.

“There have been a ton of situations our team has gone through, some good ones and some bad ones, that does kind of harden you and make you a little battle-tested which are very pressure-filled situations and our team has performed in them a lot. That’s what the playoffs are about."

Programming note: NBC Sports Bay Area feeds your hunger for 49ers playoff coverage 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.

49ers receiver Marquise Goodwin announces birth of his daughter Marae

49ers receiver Marquise Goodwin announces birth of his daughter Marae

February 19 was a day Marquise Goodwin and his wife, Morgan, never will forget.

After suffering two miscarriages since November 2017, the Goodwins welcomed their daughter, Marae, to the world. Marquise announced the birth via his social media channels Sunday.

The Goodwins first revealed their pregnancy struggles to the world on Nov. 13, 2017, when the 49ers wide receiver caught an 83-yard touchdown pass shortly after Morgan delivered their stillborn son.

Goodwin blew a kiss to the sky and dropped to his knees after the score. After the game, he posted to Instagram explaining the tragedy that had befallen his family hours before the game.

In 2018, Goodwin had to fly home the day before the 49ers played in Tampa Bay against the Buccaneers after Morgan had a miscarriage while carrying their twin boys. 

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Goodwin's future with the 49ers is uncertain, but for now, all that matters is he's a #GirlDad.

49ers roster analysis: Future secondary needs warrant action now

49ers roster analysis: Future secondary needs warrant action now

This is the eighth installment of a nine-part series that examines the 49ers’ roster coming out of the 2019 season, looks ahead to 2020, and outlines the offseason challenges facing general manager John Lynch and coach Kyle Shanahan on a position-by-position basis.

Today, a look at the 49ers’ defensive backs.

Under contract (signed through)

-CB Richard Sherman (2020)
-S Jaquiski Tartt (2020)
-CB K’Waun Williams (2020)
-CB Ahkello Witherspoon (2020)
-S Tarvarius Moore (2021)
-CB/S D.J. Reed (2021)
-S Marcell Harris (2020)
-CB Tim Harris (2022)
-CB Teez Tabor (2020)
-S Jacob Thieneman (2021)
-CB Jermaine Kelly (2021)
-S Chris Edwards (2021)
-S Derrick Kindred (2020)

Sherman enters the third year of the three-year, $27.15 million contract he negotiated with the 49ers after the Seattle Seahawks released him in March of 2018. Tartt and Williams also are on the final years of their contracts, so the 49ers could look to extend any of them during the offseason.

Expiring contracts

-S Jimmie Ward (UFA)
-CB Jason Verrett (UFA)
-CB Dontae Johnson (UFA)
-CB Emmanuel Moseley (EFA)

Ward is a priority to re-sign. It’s just a matter of how much attention he receives on the open market (if he gets that far) and how far the 49ers will go to re-sign him.

A year ago, Verrett signed a one-year, prove-it contract. He went on injured reserve early in the season.

Moseley will be back on the team. He has no outside negotiating power because of his status as an exclusive-rights free agent.

What needs to happen

The defensive backfield situation might be the most complex to figure out for the 49ers this offseason. Ward is scheduled to be a free agent, but the 49ers also have three of their other top-five defensive backs entering the final years of their contracts.

First things first, they have to figure out how to approach Ward. They would like to retain him, but there might also be some hesitancy because of his injury history. Ward finally played a 16-game season, but that was only after missing the first three games, then picking up three games in the postseason.

Sherman, who turns 32 next month, had an outstanding regular season. Do the 49ers open talks with him about extending his contract?

On the other side, Moseley ended up as the starter over Witherspoon, who enters the final year of his deal. After the demotion, Witherspoon asked to play more special teams. Moseley generally played well, but he was in the middle of the biggest play of Super Bowl LIV.

Tartt, the starting strong safety, also enters the final year of his contract. He and Ward were high-school teammates and work well together.

Williams, one of the top nickel backs in the league, also is entering the final year of his deal.

The 49ers have just one pick in the first four rounds of the draft. This is why it makes a lot of sense to trade back (and trade back and trade back) to acquire selections in the second, third and fourth rounds.

This is a good draft for defensive backs. And while drafting for need is not often advisable, it becomes a lot better of a plan when it is a need that is projected a year down the road.

[RELATED: Ascending linebackers should make group better in 2020]


The 49ers had the best pass defense in the league last season. Despite playing with a lead for most games, the 49ers allowed just 169.2 yards passing per game. That was the lowest average passing yards allowed in the NFL in more than a decade.

It will be nearly impossible to match that level of pass defense of a year ago. So much of the success the 49ers experienced against the pass was a product of the team’s pass rush. That will likely have to be the case again next season.

Teams generally shied away from Sherman’s side. But Sherman gave up a couple of big plays in the postseason, including one late in the Super Bowl. He likely will be challenged more in 2020, which will give him more opportunities to add to his career total of 39 interceptions (including postseason).

The 49ers must find more consistency on the other side. Moseley enters the offseason as the starter. Witherspoon is competing for a role. Tartt appears locked in as one starting safety, but the other spot is wide open at this point.

If Ward does not return to the team, Moore could be next in line to step in as a starter.

If the 49ers use an early draft pick on a safety or cornerback (or both), then competition could potentially lead to a rookie or two in the team’s starting defensive backfield.