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.

49ers' Ben Garland details hiking Mt. Kilimanjaro after Super Bowl loss

49ers' Ben Garland details hiking Mt. Kilimanjaro after Super Bowl loss

It’s a 20,000-foot hike to the top, but Mt. Kilimanjaro has been a place for climbers to knock an adventure off their bucket list since the first record of such a feat occurred in 1889. For 49ers offensive lineman Ben Garland, he not only made the trek, but made history in the process.

Back in February, Garland became the first active NFL player and military reservist to reach the peak in Africa.

He also did it for a good cause and detailed his trip in a diary. 

Working with the Waterboys was originated by the Chris Long Foundation which brings clean water to communities in need, ESPN’s Nick Wagoner wrote. It raised more than $205,000 which went toward the trip itself and putting two clean water wells in Tanzania with a population of about 57 million not having access to clean water. 

[RELATED: Jed York explains why 49ers are donating $1M to social change organizations]

The group that included NFL defensive end Lamarr Houston, water advocates, ESPN radio host Mike Golic Jr. and military veterans, all began their trip in the Serengeti where they saw plenty of African wildlife and got to experience an authentic well ceremony and school visit.

Garland called it a life-changing experience and would be happy to return to Africa to hit his ultimate goal of providing more than 1 million people with clean water.

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

Trent Williams explains why 49ers were his ideal trade destination

Trent Williams explains why 49ers were his ideal trade destination

Seven-time Pro Bowl selection Trent Williams had a lengthy feud with his former team in Washington for how they handled treatment of what ended up being a cancerous growth on Williams’ head. He refused to report to the team in training camp and demanded a trade in March before eventually finding his way to the 49ers in a deal made on the final day of the 2020 NFL Draft.

Williams now says the 49ers always were high on his list of potential trade destinations, as he was made aware during the season that longtime Niners left tackle Joe Staley might be hanging up his cleats after the 2019 season.

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

“I knew there was a possibility, but it was just kinda on the back burner until that situation kind of played out,” Williams told NFL Media’s Ian Rapoport. “I kinda just kept close tabs on it, because obviously that was my No. 1 destination.

“That’s where I wanted to be, so once it started to play out and the rumblings started to grow that he might not return, that’s when all the focus started to shift back to the 49ers."

Staley announced his retirement on Day 3 of the draft, with the Niners acquiring Williams for a pair of draft picks from Washington just hours later.

[RELATED: How Deebo Samuel, Kendrick Bourne enhanced 49ers' offense last season]

Williams easily can slide in and take Staley’s spot at left tackle, with young right tackle Mike McGlinchey now entering his third season in the NFL on the other side.

Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo likely had some concern about losing Staley’s leadership and expertise at the tackle spot, but the Niners might have gotten him an even better left tackle if Williams can return to his previous form.

[SPORTS UNCOVERED: Listen to the latest episode]