49ers

Why Kyle Shanahan once was determined to coach for Dan Quinn's Falcons

Why Kyle Shanahan once was determined to coach for Dan Quinn's Falcons

SANTA CLARA -- Kyle Shanahan convinced then-Cleveland Browns coach Mike Pettine with a 32-point presentation to let him out of the final two years of his contract as offensive coordinator following the 2014 season.

Then, Shanahan was unemployed and getting increasingly anxious about where he was going to be heading next on his football coaching odyssey.

His plan was to join Dan Quinn’s staff.

But Quinn, then the defensive coordinator of the Seattle Seahawks, did not yet have a head-coaching job. And he could not become a head coach until the Seahawks’ season concluded. Seattle advanced to the Super Bowl that season.

“I was specifically hoping to go to Atlanta, but Dan still had another five weeks going through their playoff run, their bye week and the Super Bowl,” Shanahan recalled on Wednesday. “I knew that talking to him that it would be a chance if he did end up taking a job and stuff, but he turned one down (head-coaching offer) the year before.

“Sitting there without a job, it wasn’t like I was just totally set and confident that it was going to happen. But I was definitely hoping it would.”

Shanahan was determined to join Quinn’s staff, despite never before meeting Quinn. He knew of Quinn’s reputation, and the two men had spoken on the phone. But it was not until the Monday after Seattle’s loss to the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl that they first met face-to-face.

“I was already sitting there in the office, so I met him that Monday in person,” Shanahan said. “I always thought he was going to be a great guy on the phone, and then after being able to spend two years there with him, learned a lot from him. It was good to be in a good place like that and really enjoyed the players, too.”

Shanahan was Quinn’s offensive coordinator for two seasons before the 49ers hired him as head coach the day after the Falcons’ crushing Super Bowl loss to the Patriots in February 2017.

[RELATED: Falcons coach Quinn defends Shanahan's Super Bowl play-calling]

The 49ers will face the Falcons on Sunday at Levi’s Stadium. Shanahan's 49ers are 11-2 and atop the NFC, while Quinn’s job appears to be in jeopardy as Atlanta is 4-9 in his fifth season as coach.

Shanahan said he specifically targeted joining Quinn’s staff to join because he found Seattle’s style of defense to be particularly vexing as an offensive coordinator. He wanted to get close to that kind of defense to learn more about it.

He freely admits that part of his purpose was to study the Falcons' defense to help him down the road when facing teams that play the three-deep zone concepts. He also had an eye to the future -- if or when he became an NFL head coach.

“That’s why I wanted to go to a place like that as a coordinator and that’s why when I became a head coach I was hoping to get someone who knew that type of defense and also knew how to expand it,” Shanahan said.

Shanahan eventually hired Robert Saleh to become defensive coordinator. Saleh spent the 2013 on the Seahawks’ defensive staff when Quinn was defensive coordinator.

49ers' Raheem Mostert explains how life changed since NFC championship

49ers' Raheem Mostert explains how life changed since NFC championship

SANTA CLARA -- Running back Raheem Mostert remained under the radar for most of the season even as he led the 49ers in rushing yards during the regular season.

But Mostert is unknown no longer.

Mostert rushed for a 49ers record 220 yards and four touchdowns in the team’s 37-20 victory over the Green Bay Packers on Sunday in the NFC Championship Game at Levi's Stadium.

Mostert’s NFL resume has consisted of being cut by Philadelphia, Miami, Baltimore, Cleveland, the New York Jets and Chicago before finally signing with the 49ers in 2016 . . . and sticking.

So how has Mostert’s life changed since his performance Sunday helped lift the 49ers to Super Bowl LIV against the Kansas City Chiefs on Feb. 2 in Miami?

“Just more interviews, that’s about it,” Mostert said on Thursday. “More interviews and I don’t have that much free time to play video games like I did before. But, hey, that’s what comes with it.”

Mostert’s game of choice is Call of Duty, which he plays with George Kittle and some others in the 49ers locker room. But with so many other responsibilities as the 49ers prepare to leave Sunday for Miami, Mostert said he has not had much free time since Sunday.

[RELATEDFive 49ers moments that defined journey to Super Bowl LIV]

And that is just fine with him because of what it means he can share about his life to inspire others.

“I used to be shy about my upbringing and how I was raised and all the stuff I went through, but now I have a platform to where I can spread the word and give a message to everyone, and it’s all positive,” Mostert said.

 

Programming note: NBC Sports Bay Area feeds your hunger for 49ers Super Bowl coverage with special editions of “49ers Central” all week (5:30 p.m. Monday and Wednesday; 8:00 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday; 6:00 p.m. Friday).

Chiefs know George Kittle, 49ers' run game pose huge Super Bowl challenge

Chiefs know George Kittle, 49ers' run game pose huge Super Bowl challenge

Last week, the Kansas City Chiefs faced a tough task in trying to slow down Derrick Henry and the Tennessee Titans running attack in the AFC Championship Game.

Coming into the game, Henry had carried the ball at least 30 times and racked up 182 yards or more in each of the Titans' last three games dating back to Week 17. The Chiefs were able to slow down the powerful running back, holding him to 69 yards in a 35-24 win that sent them to their first Super Bowl in 50 years.

After halting Henry, the Chiefs now must face a different kind of rushing attack when they meet the 49ers in Super Bowl LIV on Feb. 2. The 49ers rushed for 287 yards in their 37-20 NFC Championship Game win over the Green Bay Packers, with Raheem Mostert going wild on the ground for 220 yards and four touchdowns.

While both the Titans and 49ers love to run the ball, the Chiefs know they face a much different task in two weeks than the hurdle they cleared against Tennessee.

"The one thing is, San Francisco's got a bunch of guys they can put back there and hand the ball off too," defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo said Thursday. "Last week, we really concentrated on one number -- 22. I think [49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan] does a good job with changing -- it appears to us that he'll look at the defense he is playing and attack with those particular runs. It may not be what they ran against Green Bay last week or Minnesota the week before. I think he's really good at that. So we'll have to figure that out early and try to find a way to control it.

"What they are really good at is getting you to run East-West and then cutting it back," Spagnuolo continued. "They have the speed guys who can do that. One of the things we tried to do last week was try to get there before the running back got started. With these guys, that's a challenge ... More than anything cut back to me is huge. We talk about tracking the hips when the run goes away from you, and that's something we've got to put in the forefront of our thinking when they run the football."

Mostert, Tevin Coleman (who's status for the Super Bowl is in doubt) and Matt Breida are dangerous backs, but the 49ers' running game is so potent because of the blocking they get from the line, the receivers and tight end George Kittle.

"We were really impressed with how good of a run blocker he is," Spagnuolo said of Kittle. "We know what he can [in the passing game.] There are many games we come in and say, 'Our D-ends, there's no way they can lose a blocking battle with a tight end.' There are just teams that have tight ends that are more receivers. But this guy, he's as all-around a tight end as we've seen this year. I give him tremendous credit for the emphasis he puts on run blocking. He looks like he enjoys doing it."

For the Chiefs' defense to have success stopping the Niners in South Beach, safety Tyrann Mathieu will have to play a big part both in diagnosing the run game and in pass coverage against the likes of Kittle. He's aware of the challenge that awaits the Chiefs' D.

"When I watch him, I see a team that can obviously run the ball really well, but I think he adds a different element to their offense, a physicality," Mathieu said Thursday. "More so an attitude that he plays with. He seems like he's having a ball every ballgame. It will be important for me, guys like [safety Daniel Sorensen], to match that energy and just compete. Just treat this like any other ballgame and whoever lines up in front of you it's about man on man."

Shanahan's offensive schemes have allowed the 49ers to quickly diagnose the weak points in defenses all year and exploit them. Mathieu has been studying the tape and sees how the Niners try to confuse defenses with motion and different formations.

"I think the offensive coordinator, head coach does a good job of making a lot of plays look the same," Mathieu said. "They run a lot of different formations out of a lot of different personnel groups. I think at the end of the day, they like certain concepts. For me, I've been trusting myself all year. It's about believing in what I see and that has really allowed me to really play at a high level."

[RELATED: Five moments that defined 49ers' run to Super Bowl]

The Chiefs had the 29th ranked rushing defense by DVOA during the regular season, but they were able to bottle up Henry and hold him to just 7 second-half yards in the AFC Championship Game.

The 49ers, however, are a whole different animal.

Programming note: NBC Sports Bay Area feeds your hunger for 49ers Super Bowl coverage with special editions of “49ers Central” all week (5:30 p.m. Monday and Wednesday; 8:00 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday; 6:00 p.m. Friday).