Coach Kyle Shanahan reminded his team Friday of the excitement that roared inside Levi’s Stadium last season.
Then, he crushed the team with a reminder that no fans will be allowed Sunday when the 49ers open the season against the Arizona Cardinals in Santa Clara.
Finally, Shanahan set out to inspire.
Shanahan, speaking with Greg Papa on "49ers Game Plan," recalled how he felt badly for 49ers fans in 2017 and ’18 because the product on the field was so bad. The 49ers went 10-22 in Shanahan’s first two seasons as head coach.
“When I first got here, that stadium wasn’t that great,” Shanahan said. “It didn’t have much of a reason to be. The football wasn’t that great. We started out here 0-9. I felt bad for the fans. They didn’t have much to cheer about.”
All those thoughts were swirling around Shanahan’s head when he recently watched a TV replay of the 49ers’ victory over the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship Game.
Shanahan rarely watches the TV copy of games. The coaches film he relentlessly studies consists of two angles and no sound.
But watching that game for the first time with sound, it struck him how the 49ers and their fans turned Levi’s Stadium into a decided home-field advantage last season.
“You could see how big the crowd was and how much it fired our players up and how much our players fired the crowd up,” Shanahan said.
“I want them to remember. I want them to know how cool that place is and that our guys earned that.”
So why would Shanahan bring this up now? The 49ers will not enjoy those same benefits from 72,211 fans packed into Levi’s Stadium during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The 49ers worked hard to turn their home stadium from a place of unintended social distancing to a rollicking house party. And Shanahan wanted to remind his team how they achieved that change.
“I want the guys to be proud of it,” Shanahan said. “That doesn’t just happen. It’s because of who those guys are. And I want them to feel that. And they’re still going into the game and they’re the same people.”
In speaking to his team on Friday, Shanahan broke down the TV copy of the 49ers’ last home game as if he were dissecting game film. He showed the team examples of them firing up the crowd – and of the crowd’s energy impacting the players.
The players saw cutaways to fans in the stands hugging each other as the 49ers rolled to a 37-20 victory.
Ultimately, Shanahan’s point was that those same fans are still with them – even if they do not see them or hear them on Sunday.
“I want to inspire people. I want our players to inspire people. I think we did last year, and I think it’s needed more right now,” Shanahan said. “Even though you won’t feel it in the stands because they’re not there, I think reminding the players how much you do inspire people will hopefully inspire them to have that same type of energy.”