49ers

How Kyle Shanahan matched Bill Walsh in first three seasons with 49ers

How Kyle Shanahan matched Bill Walsh in first three seasons with 49ers

SANTA CLARA -- Kyle Shanahan inherited a dilapidated roster when he agreed to lead the rebuilding effort as 49ers head coach in 2017.

Comparisons were immediately drawn to Hall of Fame coach Bill Walsh, who entered into the same challenge with the 49ers in 1979.

It took Walsh only three years to reach the pinnacle of the NFL world. And here is Shanahan in Year 3 keeping pace with Walsh’s amazing achievement.

Walsh compiled a 24-27 record in his first three seasons as head coach of the 49ers. After winning just eight games in his first two seasons at the helm, Walsh’s team went 13-3 in the regular season and 3-0 in the postseason to win Super Bowl XVI.

After the 49ers’ 27-10 victory over the Minnesota Vikings in the divisional round of the NFC playoffs on Saturday, Shanahan’s overall record now stands at 24-25, as discussed on The 49ers Insiders Podcast.

The 49ers will play the Green Bay Packers on Sunday in the NFC Championship Game at Levi’s Stadium with a trip to Miami for Super Bowl 54 on the line.

Like in Walsh’s third season, the 49ers under Shanahan went 13-3 in the regular season, won the NFC West and earned homefield advantage throughout the playoffs.

“We knew coming into the season that we were going to have a chance to compete in every game,” Shanahan said. “(I) didn't really look at it much past that. Even when we were 8-0, that's all you look at. We thought we could compete in every game and we had won them up to that. We were like that all the way to the end.”

The Shanahan tenure could not have started in more agonizing fashion.

The 49ers began the 2017 season with nine consecutive losses, including a record five consecutive defeats by three points or fewer to the Seattle Seahawks, the L.A. Rams, Arizona Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts and Washington.

Joe Montana, a third-round draft pick in 1979, started a combined eight games in 1979 and ’80 before playing in every game in 1981.

Jimmy Garoppolo, acquired in a midseason trade in 2017, started eight games in ’17 and ’18. Garoppolo has started every game for the 49ers this season.

[RELATEDKey 49ers-Packers matchups in NFC Championship Game]

Shanahan and the 49ers are not finished this season, so he is reluctant to reflect on how far the 49ers have come in such a relatively short period of time. But he said he granted himself some a short period of time two weeks ago for reflection.

“Once we got into the playoffs and got that bye week, I did personally sit back for a day and think about the season,” Shanahan said. “It was great how we got home-field advantage. Once you get that, that is completely over. All you think about is this game. We just got that done. Not trying to go celebrate anything.

"We celebrated winning the division in the bye week, which was nice.”

 

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

Also tune in 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 5:30 p.m.

Why Colin Cowherd would hire 49ers' Kyle Shanahan to coach his NFL team

Why Colin Cowherd would hire 49ers' Kyle Shanahan to coach his NFL team

There currently are 32 NFL franchises, and for the vast majority of us, at no point during our lives will we have any chance of owning one of them.

But, forget reality. What if you were able to purchase a team? Who would you hire as head coach?

Fox Sports' Colin Cowherd gave his answer to that question Wednesday, but first established the five criteria by which he would form his list of the top 10 coaches he'd want to lead his franchise. They were:

1. Age does not matter 
2. Easy to work with 
3. The less controversy, the better 
4. Innovative thinker 
5. Relates to players

Based on those criteria, Cowherd landed on 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan as his top choice (h/t 49ers Web Zone).

"I know he has had a couple of Super Bowl moments you don't love," Cowherd explained Wednesday on "The Herd," "but I think San Francisco was right. I think he's intense. I think he has got the lineage from his dad (Mike Shanahan). I think he has a system, but he is nimble enough to manipulate the system and listen to (general manager) John Lynch and others. I think he's obsessively driven, which is probably most of these guys.

"But if I start my franchise today, I get the (experience from his) dad, I get him, I get playoff experience, and I also think he has got a chip on his shoulder because he thinks he should have won that Super Bowl last year. And he thinks he should have won that Atlanta Super Bowl against New England when he was the [offensive coordinator]."

Though the 49ers don't have new owners, they clearly share similar feelings about Shanahan, having just recently signed him to a six-year contract extension. He led San Francisco to a nine-win improvement this past season, and already has made it clear the expectation is to get back to the Super Bowl for a second straight year.

[RELATED: Bryant Young knows 49ers in good hands with Shanahan, Lynch]

Should the 49ers accomplish that goal -- and prove victorious in Super Bowl LV -- what few criticisms there are of Shanahan no longer would be valid.

For reference, here is Cowherd's full list:

1. Kyle Shanahan, San Francisco 49ers
2. Sean McDermott, Buffalo Bills 
3. Doug Pederson, Philadelphia Eagles 
4. Sean McVay, Los Angeles Rams 
5. John Harbaugh, Baltimore Ravens 
6. Matt Nagy, Chicago Bears 
7. Brian Flores, Miami Dolphins 
8. Lincoln Riley, Oklahoma Sooners 
9. Urban Meyer, formerly Ohio State Buckeyes 
10. Mike Tomlin, Pittsburgh Steelers

[49ERS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

NFL rumors: George Kittle's 49ers contract could land around $13M annually

NFL rumors: George Kittle's 49ers contract could land around $13M annually

The elephant in the room at this point of the 49ers' offseason is the absence of a contract extension for standout tight end George Kittle. He is entering the final year of his rookie deal which will pay him $2.1 million, and is due to be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the upcoming season.

After cementing himself as the best tight end in all of football over the last two seasons, Kittle's inevitable extension has long been expected to reset the market at the position. Austin Hooper currently averages the highest annual salary of any tight end after signing a four-year, $42 million contract with the Cleveland Browns in free agency earlier this offseason.

Estimates for what Kittle could average on his next contract have ranged as high as $20 million per season, but the real number likely is somewhere between there and Hooper's annual rate due to the expected drop in league revenue due to the coronavirus pandemic. The Athletic's Matt Barrows reported Wednesday that someone "in the know" told him that Kittle ultimately would get a contract extension averaging $13 million per season.

That's a far cry from $20 million, but as Barrows noted, it still would make Kittle the highest-paid tight end by a fairly wide margin. Though Kittle probably is worth more than that, the salary-cap uncertainty caused by COVID-19 likely will rule out the possibility of a market-shattering contract. The unprecedented situation could result in a creative deal.

[RELATED: Report: NFL preseason halved; 49ers-Raiders game remains]

The Athletic's David Lombardi recently suggested that it might make sense for Kittle and the 49ers to come to an agreement on a contract that is partially tied to the size of the salary cap moving forward. 

"The 49ers can offer Kittle a guaranteed base annual salary or signing bonus before using a percentage-of-the-cap scale on top of that to pay him commensurate to cap increases in future years, when the NFL’s revenue outlook should be rosier," Lombardi wrote. "That's just an idea. But since this is uncharted territory, creative contract structures cannot be ruled out -- especially if they help break a potentially problematic impasse."

Creativity aside, if an agreement can't be reached on a contract extension, the 49ers would still have the ability to apply the franchise tag to Kittle -- which would pay him the average of the top five tight-end salaries -- for the 2021 and 2022 seasons. That option obviously wouldn't provide Kittle with the long-term security he likely desires, but there's ample motivation on both sides to get a deal done for San Francisco's most indispensable offensive player.

[49ERS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]