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.

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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' Nick Bosa fined by NFL for blindside block on Vikings lineman

49ers' Nick Bosa fined by NFL for blindside block on Vikings lineman

The NFL on Saturday fined 49ers defensive end Nick Bosa $28,075 for his blindside block on Minnesota Vikings offensive tackle Brian O'Neill in the NFC divisional-round game.

Bosa was penalized 15 yards for unnecessary roughness on the play, which came on Richard Sherman’s interception return in the third quarter of the 49ers’ 27-10 victory over the Vikings.

Afterward, Minnesota coach Mike Zimmer said he believed the block on O’Neill was a “cheap shot.”

Coach Kyle Shanahan defended Bosa, saying that he did not have any intent to injury O’Neill.

“I think people say ‘cheap shot’ when somebody gets hit violently and to me ‘cheap shot’ means your intent is to try to hurt someone,” Shanahan said Monday. “And I don’t think he’s thinking about that at all.

"That’s a normal block in football for a long time. The guy wasn’t completely out of the play. It was a guy who could’ve made the tackle, and Bosa went and hit him. That’s a rule. You can’t do that right now. You can’t hit a guy in that position.”

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In the spring, the NFL adopted a rule making it illegal for a blocker to initiate forcible contact with his head, shoulder or forearm when his path is toward or parallel to his own end line.

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 Mailbag: Dante Pettis awaits next opportunity to make difference

49ers Mailbag: Dante Pettis awaits next opportunity to make difference

Who will it be next?

Who will be the unexpected player who ends up in a significant role for the 49ers on Sunday in the NFC Championship Game?

The 49ers play the Green Bay Packers on Sunday at Levi’s Stadium with a trip to Super Bowl LIV on the line. And on the eve of the big game before the big game, we have another edition of the 49ers Mailbag.

Here we go. 

San Francisco receiver Dante Pettis sits at his locker every day during the time when the doors are open to the media around the lunch hour.

It had been a while since I wandered over to chat with Pettis. But on Friday, I wanted to check in with him to gauge how he was holding up during a stretch in which he has not gotten into a game since playing seven snaps against the Green Bay Packers in Week 12.

Pettis has suited up for the past four games, but he has not gotten off the sideline. He has not caught a pass since he had a 21-yard reception on Oct. 31 against the Arizona Cardinals. 

“I’m ready whenever that time comes,” Pettis told me. “Just waiting for that time now.”

Pettis, a second-round draft pick in 2018, was expected to be a starter and the team's top receiver after last season. Other than a game-winning touchdown catch with 1:15 remaining in a Week 3 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers, Pettis has been quiet.

But Pettis knows at any moment he might be needed to go into a game for Emmanuel Sanders or Deebo Samuel. it has been one of the hallmarks of the 49ers this season. A seldom-used player is called up, and he takes advantage of the situation.

That’s the nature of this year’s team. Guys have stayed ready and routinely taken advantage of their opportunities.

“You know that’s the reality when you have one play or whatever, you just have that in your mind,” Pettis said. “This is the play I have, I have to make the most of it. A lot of people have done a good job of that.

“We have a lot of depth on our team, and everybody can see that. The guys are backing up, they feel like they are good enough to play. When I get my shot, I’m going to be ready because I know I’m good enough to be out there to compete with these guys.”

Pettis said he has worked a lot with assistant receivers coach Miles Austin, who has emphasized to him that he does not have to do “fancy stuff” on every route. Just take the leverage you have, Austin has told him, be quick and decisive.

After speaking with Pettis, I went over to see running back Jeff Wilson. He provided one of the big moments of the season on Nov. 17 against the Arizona Cardinals. Wilson played one snap in that game. In the final minute, he ran a great route of the backfield, caught a pass from quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo and turned it into a game-winning 25-yard touchdown.

But with Tevin Coleman, Raheem Mostert and Matt Breida ahead of him on the depth chart, Wilson has been inactive for four of the past five games.

Still, he remains ready with a great attitude.

“I just go out there and play like my life and my career depends on it because it actually does,” Wilson said. “I have a lot of stuff I’m trying to do, and I want to play this game for as long as I possibly can. And I know to do that, you have to make those plays whenever you’re called upon. Whether it’s one play or two plays, or if you go in to block, you have to do whatever it takes.”

Pettis and Wilson both said they feel energy and get inspiration from their teammates. Pettis said it’s exciting for him to see his friends in the receivers room experience individual success. Wilson said the other running backs treat him as an equal and he, in turn, feels an obligation to work hard and support them, too.

Oh, man, what a good question.

Ward is such an important part of the defense, so he gets the nod. He probably will not cost as much to retain, either.

But the 49ers have to feel pretty good about their options at both spots. There will be a time when Tarvarius Moore is a starting safety in the NFL. And at wide receiver, the 49ers hope to get Trent Taylor and Jalen Hurd at full strength next season.

But let’s not for a second downplay Sanders’ importance to the 49ers. He has been so good in so many different ways since arriving in an October trade from the Denver Broncos. But Sanders will be 33 next season, and difficult decisions must be made.

From the beginning of the offseason program, the 49ers have thoroughly impressed me with their approach. They are focused on business while also maintaining balance, being loose and having a lot of fun. I saw absolutely nothing different in their approach this week. It starts at the top, and I feel as if coach Kyle Shanahan was built for this.

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My guess is that TVs in the locker room will have the AFC Championship Game on, but there will be nobody pulling up a stool to watch. Dee Ford will be interested, for sure. The former member of the Kansas City Chiefs will check the score from time to time, but all the focus will be on the game that kicks off at 3:40 p.m.

Shanahan was not saying this week who will start at right cornerback. One would think Emmanuel Moseley will get the call, but Ahkello Witherspoon has to be ready to go. At the very least, he’ll play special teams, where he can make an impact in that area.

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