After watching the 49ers practice during organized team activities and training camp this year, Rob Mendez was confident his favorite team would return to the playoffs after a five-year drought.
Mendez shared his story and his views of Kyle Shanahan’s team on the latest episode of the 49ers Insider Podcast.
Mendez, 31, was born without arms or legs. That has not stopped him from pursuing his passion as a football coach, living by the mantra, “Who says I can’t?” A native of Gilroy, Mendez is the head JV football coach at Prospect High of Saratoga and attends every 49ers home game at Levi’s Stadium.
He not only is a lifelong fan of the franchise, but he also is a fan of the team’s innovative offensive approach.
“You can attack a defense, whether it’s using multiple formations with not a lot of plays or you can use a lot of plays with minimal formations,” Mendez said. “And I think the Niners do a great job at doing both.
“They can get creative one week or they can keep it very simple the next week. They do a great job of preparing their players to do whatever their opponent is going to look at.”
The 49ers’ defense has gotten most of the acclaim as the club has rolled to an 8-0 record while outscoring their opposition 235-102. Mendez is encouraged because of the many directions he believes the offense can go over the final half of the regular season behind Shanahan, passing game coordinator Mike LaFleur and run game coordinator Mike McDaniel.
“Coach LaFleur and Mike McDaniel, with those two guys and coach Shanahan calling the plays, I think they make a team and they know how to use their players,” Mendez said. “They get the most out of their players.”
Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo had the best game of his 18-start NFL career Thursday in a 28-25 victory over the Arizona Cardinals. Garoppolo threw for 317 yards and four touchdowns. The 49ers’ offense has more room to grow and improve because of the many options surrounding Garoppolo, Mendez said.
“They can get to the edge with the fly sweep if they want to,” he said. “I think Deebo Samuel is a great asset if we have (George) Kittle covered and Emmanuel Sanders covered. I feel like Deebo Samuel can step up. We are so well-balanced on the offensive side of the ball. If we need to go (Ross) Dwelley, he’s even accountable as a tight end, as well too.
“We can stretch the field with Sanders. We can run the ball with (Tevin) Coleman or (Matt) Breida. We can get Coleman in the slot and use him as a receiver, because Shanahan used to do that in Atlanta. But I see nothing but success for the 49ers with their fullback (Kyle Juszczyk) coming back, Joe Staley, our left tackle coming back.”
Prospect football also is on solid footing after Mendez feared he would have to cut players from the JV team because the program lacked funding for equipment. After learning of the challenge facing the school, 49ers CEO Jed York reached out and made a sizable donation to enable the program to double in size to approximately 90 athletes when the season began, Mendez said.