Why Andy Reid won't overlook 49ers' passing game before Super Bowl 54

Why Andy Reid won't overlook 49ers' passing game before Super Bowl 54

MIAMI, Fla. -- The 49ers running game is humming. They steamrolled the NFC with a diverse, aggressive rushing attack that seems to expand by the week and is increasingly difficult for defenses to decipher.

San Francisco coach/offensive play-caller Kyle Shanahan is doing new and innovative things that has made the ground game so efficient that the 49ers have barely had to pass in the playoffs.

Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo only passed eight times in the NFC Championship Game against the Green Bay Packers, and the air attack essentially shut down halfway through a divisional-round victory over the Minnesota Vikings.

That run-heavy trend isn’t fooling Kansas City Chiefs coach/offensive play-caller Andy Reid. He has great respect for Shanahan’s run design, but he also has great respect for 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. Discount him, Reid says, at your own peril.

“Kyle does a great job with his blend of runs," Reid said Tuesday at Miami’s J.W. Marriott Turnberry hotel. "That said, I wouldn’t slight Jimmy. Jimmy can throw the ball well when needed. If you look at his percentages and passer rating over the last few years, it’s up there in every situation. As well as they run the football and as well as they make you honor every gap and zone on the field, you can’t slight the pass game. Our defense is working hard on that, trying to make it right.”

Reid isn’t wrong about Garoppolo performing well in crucial situations. He has a 101.9 passer rating on third down, and an impressive 117.9 rating on third down with seven-to-nine yards to go. He has a 97.8 rating on third and 10 or more, without an interception in those situations.

The Faithful knows Garoppolo can put the ball in harm’s way at times, but he’s aggressive working the ball downfield and giving skill players a chance to gain yards after the catch. His 8.4 yards per attempt ranks third in the NFL, even better than Kansas City quarterback Patrick Mahomes and his track team of receivers.

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Chiefs defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo considers it difficult to tell what the 49ers will do pre-snap, and they can do so many things well that every offensive aspect must be respected.

As an offensive innovator in his own right, Reid believes Shanahan is pushing the game forward in his own way by giving retro concepts a modern twist.

“He does one heck of a job,” Reid said. “He does a lot of two-back stuff that was popular back in the day and will be coming back because of his success. Football’s a big circle. What’s good today won’t be good tomorrow and will be cool again down the road. He has done a really nice job. He’s really, really sharp.”

49ers hopeful receiver Jalen Hurd will be cleared for offseason program

49ers hopeful receiver Jalen Hurd will be cleared for offseason program

INDIANAPOLIS -- Even before the 49ers have the opportunity to select a wide receiver in the draft, the club expects to add the services of a young pass-catcher.

Jalen Hurd, a third-round draft pick from a year ago, appears to be on schedule to receive clearance to rejoin the 49ers when the offseason program begins in April. Hurd spent his rookie season on injured reserve due to a stress fracture in his lower back.

“For it to completely heal, it happens on different timelines,” 49ers general manager John Lynch said. “We found that his has been stubborn. We think he’s been nearing towards a much better place where he’ll be cleared for all activities.

“(We) don’t want to officially give that word, but there have been some recent scans and things that give us a lot of hope that that’ll be the case, come April 1, he’ll be a full-go.”

Hurd was not around the team too much during his rookie season. He did not travel to Miami for Super Bowl LIV due to concerns about aggravating his back condition.

“I think there’s a little anxiety on his part that the long plane rides had set him off before and he worked so hard to try to get right, and kind of didn’t want that to enter the equation,” Lynch said.

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In order for Hurd's back to heal, the 49ers and Hurd felt it was best to keep him off his feet.  

“With his back stuff, he didn’t want to travel, didn’t want to be in the meetings and everything," head coach Kyle Shanahan said. "There wasn’t much to do. He had a stress fracture and it’s taking a long time to heal, so we wanted him to be as immobile as possible.”

Hurd (6-foot-4, 227 pounds) caught 69 passes for 946 yards and four touchdowns in his senior season at Baylor in 2018. He played his first three college seasons at Tennessee, where he rushed for 2,635 yards and 20 touchdowns as a running back.

Hurd appeared in the 49ers’ preseason opener last summer and caught two touchdown passes against the Dallas Cowboys before experiencing the back condition that sidelined him for the rest of the season.

George Kittle's secret to Kyle Shanahan's wife gets back to 49ers coach

George Kittle's secret to Kyle Shanahan's wife gets back to 49ers coach

INDIANAPOLIS -- Coach Kyle Shanahan escaped to Cabo San Lucas shortly after the 49ers’ Super Bowl loss to get away from it all.

Shanahan ended up “randomly” spending time with 49ers players George Kittle, Nick Mullens, Trent Taylor and Levine Toilolo, who also went to Mexico for a vacation and some golf.

"I think we broke a record," Shanahan said Tuesday at the NFL Scouting Combine. "We played like nine holes in five hours."

Kittle, an All-Pro tight end, is in line for a massive contract extension this offseason. This is the first time he can renegotiate a new contract after coming to the 49ers as a fifth-round draft pick in 2017.

The next time Kittle steps on the field with the 49ers, he is expected to have a new deal that will make him the highest-paid tight end in the league.

He might have given away some of his negotiating power while confiding in Mandy Shanahan, Kyle’s wife.

“He told my wife how much he liked it here (with the 49ers),” Shanahan said. “He even told my wife to promise not to tell me until after he signs. She told me. She’s my wife.”

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Kittle made base salaries of $465,000, $555,000 and $645,000 in his first three NFL seasons. His salary is scheduled to increase to $2.144 million in 2020 with a performance bonus. His next contract is expected to worth more than $12 million per season.

Kittle was selected to the Pro Bowl for the second time last season. He caught 85 passes for 1,053 yards and five touchdowns. In 2018, Kittle set the NFL single-season record for a tight end with 1,377 receiving yards.