Kyle Shanahan was dealt a difficult hand in his fourth season coaching the 49ers, as myriad injuries and sky-high expectations left just about every member of the organization and its fan base frustrated with a 6-10 finish after a run to the Super Bowl in 2019.
So much was out of Shanahan's control, and with the team forced to play multiple "home" games in another state due to COVID-19 restrictions in Santa Clara County, there's only so much he can control. The Ringer's Ryen Russillo was so impressed by Shanahan's coaching through all the adversity this season, that he vouched for him to be the NFL's Coach of the Year on his podcast.
"They had 28 players at one point on IR or another injury, COVID list, which was the most in the league," Russillo said. "They used the most IR slots, they lost the most games to injury in the NFL, and even with a losing record, my coach of the year is Kyle Shanahan. I can't believe how competitive they were all season."
Shanahan finished second behind Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh for the honor in 2019, after the 49ers went from 4-12 in 2018 to a 13-3 record, locking up the NFC's top seed in the playoffs and advancing all the way to Super Bowl LIV.
In the offseason, both Shanahan and general manager John Lynch received multi-year contract extensions, after coming in together before the 2017 season.
Although the organization's coaching and front office staff might be plundered by opposing teams this offseason, there are a lot of reasons to be optimistic about the 49ers' chances at returning to title contention in 2021.
You don't often see a team lose its top offensive skill player, quarterback and best defensive lineman for basically the entire season and remain competitive against some of the league's best teams.
In a year of unprecedented situations across the NFL, Shanahan kept a very thin roster motivated and fighting to the end, including spoiling the Arizona Cardinals' playoff hopes in Week 16.
He likely won't win the award, as it often goes to a coach of one of the top playoff seeds in either conference, but Shanahan absolutely deserves praise for how he navigated the 49ers through a year unlike any other.