Kyle Shanahan

Kyle Shanahan's Super Bowl loss with 49ers lingers more than Falcons'

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Kyle Shanahan's Super Bowl loss with 49ers lingers more than Falcons'

INDIANAPOLIS -- Kyle Shanahan answered countless questions about losing to the New England Patriots with the Atlanta Falcons in Super Bowl LI during the week leading up to Super Bowl LIV.

The 49ers coach lost again after all the questions, this time to the Kansas City Chiefs. He's grieving all over again and having a more difficult time reconciling this time around. 

“I think this one was harder than the last one,” Shanahan said Tuesday from the NFL Scouting Combine. “The last one was a bigger loss, I mean at the end and stuff. I just thought we were a better team. The hardest thing for me is I thought we were the best team in the NFL.

“And when you really believe that, and I thought it for a while, it wasn’t just like the last couple weeks of the year. In Atlanta, we kind of got hot at the end of the year, so I felt pretty fortunate.”

Shanahan's 2016 Falcons and his 2019 49ers entered the playoffs with a first-round bye.  The difference is that the 49ers started the 2019 season with an 8-0 run, and finished with a 13-3 regular-season record, clinching the No. 1 seed.

The 2016 Falcons, however, had a 5-3 record at the halfway point. Atlanta won its last four straight games to clinch the No. 2 seed, but played two playoff home games only because the top-seeded Dallas Cowboys lost in the divisional round to the Green Bay Packers. 

[RELATED: 49ers want to bring everyone back, but know it will be tough]

The 49ers have come a long way under Shanahan. They had a fourth-quarter lead in the Super Bowl after winning the 10 games the previous two seasons, but it's difficult to focus on the journey following a painful ending. 

“This year I thought we had it,” Shanahan said. “We were the second-worst team in the league last year, and now we got to live with being the second-best, which I’m proud of. But that is harder, because I truly believe it was there for us.” 

49ers face offseason of difficult roster decisions with veteran players

49ers face offseason of difficult roster decisions with veteran players

INDIANAPOLIS -- Coming off a Super Bowl appearance, the 49ers would like a do-over this year with the same players who suited up for the club during the 2019 season.

But for the first time since taking over as the main decision-makers with the organization, general manager John Lynch and coach Kyle Shanahan will not be able to keep all of the players they would like to bring back.

The 49ers finally have enough talent on their team where they simply will not be able to afford to retain all of their players this offseason.

“This is the first time that I want every single person on our team back because I think we have a team that can win a Super Bowl,” Shanahan said at the NFL Scouting Combine. “I think we showed that last year. So, whenever you have that, it is really tough. When have you ever been able to bring back the exact same team no matter where you’ve been?

“So that is a lot harder, especially with our cap situation. So it is cool to know that that’s what we want and that’s what we’re trying to do.”

The 49ers have a projected $13.1 million salary cap space, according to OverTheCap.com.

The first three offseasons for Lynch and Shanahan consisted of determining the players who did not fit into the future, along with collecting individuals who could provide upgrades. After finding the right formula and experiencing success in 2019, it now becomes impossible to keep everybody around.

Defensive lineman Arik Armstead had a breakout season with a team-leading 10 sacks during the regular season, as well as two more in the postseason. He is scheduled for unrestricted free agency and a big payday. If the 49ers are unable to work out a multi-year deal with Armstead, they have the option of placing the franchise tag on him at the cost of approximately $19 million for one season.

“With respect to Arik, that is an option on the table,” Lynch said of the franchise tag. “We haven’t made that decision, yet. But it is an option at our disposal. We’ll see where that goes.”

The 49ers also would like to re-sign wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders and safety Jimmie Ward, but it might not be possible with big money deals being set aside in the near future for tight end George Kittle and defensive tackle DeForest Buckner.

“There are so many connecting parts on that with people who are up now and people who are up later,” Shanahan said. “Are you just trying to do it for one year -- just sell the farm for one year -- or have your best chances over a two- or three-year span?”

Shanahan said those are the questions that a club has to continually ask itself while constantly re-evaluating the plan based on the level of contracts it requires to retain or acquire players. The 49ers might not be active on the free-agent market, but Lynch said he believes the 49ers have gotten to the point where they are seen as a destination for veteran players.

“We have a lot of real talented players,” Lynch said. “I suspect in free agency, whether we’re big players or not, I think we’ve become a place that people want to be. So that’s a great thing. We’ve worked hard for that.”

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While Shanahan and his staff begin the process of poring over film and evaluating the entire season, the management team will attempt to work with agents to ensure there is as little turnover on the roster as possible. The unsettled collective bargaining agreement is also a complication in contract talks.

Running back Jerick McKinnon and wide receiver Marquise Goodwin face uncertain futures with the 49ers due to their sizable contracts. The 49ers also have to make decisions on restricted free agents, such as running back Matt Breida, wide receiver Kendrick Bourne and linebacker Elijah Lee. The 49ers have yet to finalize decisions on those playeers, Lynch said.

Why 49ers' wide receivers could significantly change for 2020 season

Why 49ers' wide receivers could significantly change for 2020 season

INDIANAPOLIS -- Marquise Goodwin and Dante Pettis did not see the field during the 49ers' final games of the 2019 season, which could be an indication of what is to come for the wide receiver group. 

Coach Kyle Shanahan spent most of the season using a rotation with the receivers, but Emmanuel Sanders, Deebo Samuel and Kendrick Bourne emerged as the primary targets during the playoffs.

In 2017, Goodwin had a breakout campaign in his first season with San Francisco, nearly hitting the 1,000-yard receiving mark (962). Pettis had a promising 2018 rookie season with an average of 17.3 yards per reception, catching 60 percent of his targets. 

Both Goodwin and Pettis saw a significant drop off in production in 2019. Several factors are in play regarding their futures.  

The wide receiver class in the upcoming 2020 NFL Draft could be one of the deepest and most talented groups the league has ever seen, which might influence what general manager John Lynch and his staff will do come April 23-25. 

The 49ers also hope to see both Trent Taylor and Jalen Hurd return to the line up after they missed the entire 2019 season with injuries. Shanahan and Lynch will need to make some tough decisions in the near future. 

San Francisco would prefer to gain some trade value for Goodwin, as opposed to releasing the receiver whose speed can take the top off a defense. 

“We don’t want to release Marquise,” Shanahan said on Tuesday. “He’s too valuable. I know he fell out of the rotation last year, then he had an injury that he wanted to go on IR so he could go get it cleaned up, and I think it is right now.

“But Quise is a guy who can play in this league and if he’s on our team, he is going to be competing with that group. And if not, I feel pretty confident that another team would want him.”

Similar to the 49ers' group of running backs, both Lynch and Shanahan would like to “keep the band together,” but they know they can’t keep everyone. Like everything, the roster must change. 

“We like our group, I think we like the core of our group,” Lynch said. “The draft class is incredibly strong, this is my fourth combine and it’s as good as I’ve ever seen. The depth of it, the top-end players, it’s a really good class.” 

[RELATED: 49ers should watch these five receivers during the combine]

Pettis has two remaining seasons on his four-year rookie contract and Shanahan is looking for an increased sense of urgency that was lacking in the receiver's sophomore year. He is hoping to see a significant difference in Pettis when the offseason program begins in April. 

“I just want to see when he comes back that while he has been away, he has been on a mission,” Shanahan said. “I think that’s what some guys go through. I think that Dante did that more his rookie year trying to make the league and stuff. I think he took a documented step back in his second year, which I’ve been around a lot of players who have done that.” 

Shanahan and Lynch would both like to see Sanders return for the 2020 season, but it's questionable if they'll be able to afford him with big extensions looming for George Kittle and DeForest Buckner.