SANTA CLARA -- The rest of the football world might just be taking notice of the 49ers now that they are 5-0, but coach Kyle Shanahan said they have had the same confidence and expectations since the preseason.
The 49ers have only won 17 games over the past four seasons and only 10 since Shanahan and general manager John Lynch arrived two years ago. Doubt from people outside of headquarters in Santa Clara is nothing new to the organization.
Shanahan and Lynch have been playing the long game, avoiding personnel that would be deemed a quick fix. Now, after two full seasons of building their own roster and staff, Shanahan is not surprised by where they stand.
“We sensed it going into the season,” Shanahan said. “I think we felt that in preseason. I think we felt we knew we had a better team in the preseason by the way that practices went, by the way we were in games.”
Each 49ers' win has continued to build the team’s confidence. Not all of the victories have been pretty and Shanahan knows San Francisco still has a lot to improve upon.
“I think we were very confident going into the Tampa Bay game. By no means did we play perfect, but we found a way to win which gave us more confidence. And then the Cincinnati game gave us a lot.
“Found a way to win a hard game versus Pittsburgh and we continued to do it, but our guys believe that they can win. I think we’ve done that so far. But by no means do we feel we have arrived.”
After the 20-7 win over the Rams, several players spoke about being unbothered by what outside voices are saying about them. They prefer their underdog status and just want to keep the momentum going.
Shanahan sees the growing confidence and swagger of the team as a positive, knowing who they have in the building and how they work to take advantage of every possible aspect. He wants his players and staff to always believe they have a chance.
“I want them to know that they can win every game that they go into no matter who is in front of them,” Shanahan said. “And I think that our team does believe that. We have the people. We can put the schemes together. We have the talent to do it and we have the people who work at that no matter what type of game we are in. I think we really do believe that we can win any game.
“That’s where it starts with a good team. I don’t care how good you are, it’s very tough to do that but when you have that mindset from the work you put in, from how talented you can see some of the guys are next to you, then it becomes real and then the more you can win, the stronger it gets.
Shanahan has said after games that he enjoys victories in which there are still a lot of things he can be hard on players about. He seems to like the balance that constructive criticism provides after a win, and knows that each game ahead will be its own challenge.
“I mean, there’s lots of things we can do better,” Shanahan said. “We know teams are going to get better as we keep going. The main thing is that we do, too.”