SANTA CLARA — 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan had high expectations for Dante Pettis after a solid rookie season in 2018.
The University of Washington product caught 27 of his 45 targets for 467 yards and five touchdowns. That gave Pettis a whopping 17.3 yards per reception. Shanahan believed drafting Pettis in the second round of the 2018 draft was going to pay off.
Pettis’ sophomore campaign, however, did not live up to expectations. The receiver only managed 11 receptions for 109 yards and two touchdowns. Frustrated with his performances, Shanahan designated Pettis as one of the seven inactive players for Super Bowl LIV.
On Friday, Pettis admitted that taking Shanahan’s criticism personally had a negative effect on him. Now that the two have cleared the air, the head coach believes they will have a better relationship moving forward.
“Dante and I had a pretty good talk when he came back,” Shanahan said. “Our goal in everything is to get a guy better and there's thousands of ways we can do that. You better not do the same thing with each person.
“I knew Dante came in a little bit behind last year and I tried everything I could to try to get that fire and I didn't get that done last year with him. I do see that as a two-way street.”
The plan for Pettis in 2019 was for him to be heavily involved in the offense as well as in the kick return game. His NCAA record for most punt returns for touchdowns (9) was definitely part of his appeal coming out of college. Unfortunately for Pettis and the 49ers, neither happened.
Shanahan’s intentions are always to get the best from his players. In the case of Pettis, he hopes to successfully move forward, and their open conversation likely got the ball rolling.
“I love how Dante came back and accepted his part in it, but I also accept mine,” Shanahan said. “I’ve got to find a better way to get it out of him. What's cool is, I think he's found a way to get it out of himself right now.
“I don't like having to worry about whether I'm going too hard or how I'm saying it. I just want to say it as good as I can. Usually if guys trust you in that way, you can get that across to them. I think both of us are getting better at that right now.”