NFL Network’s Terrell Davis pegged San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan to be the next version of the New England Patriots’ Bill Belichick. Crazy, perhaps. But here’s how it could happen.
Sounds a bit crazy, doesn’t it. After all, Belichick has squarely taken away the moniker of best head coach in NFL history from other Hall of Fame legends, such as Bill Parcells and the Niners’ own Bill Walsh.
Guess you have to be named Bill to be a part of that discussion. So Shanahan doesn’t have that going for him.
Names aside, Davis has a rationale for tabbing Shanahan, even though he admits San Francisco’s young head coach likely won’t reach the lofty Super Bowl aspirations Belichick has now established:
"There won’t be another six (Super Bowl) winning coach. But I think the guy that will be closest to that is Kyle Shanahan, the Niners coach right now. I know he’s 10-22 as a coach right now, but he’s been doing a lot with less than any coach in the league.He’s young. He’s innovative. He’s a leader. He’ll be there for a long time, and he’ll get that team turned around. And he’ll win some rings. It won’t be six, and it won’t be eight, but he’s the next Bill Belichick."
OK. So, how?
Shanahan’s first two years as head coach have been turbulent. In 2017, he dealt with a roster going through only the initial stages of a massive rebuild. Last year, Shanahan’s roster dealt with a swarm of serious injuries, namely to quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo and running back Jerick McKinnon, who both dealt with torn ACLs and saw their 2018 campaigns come to a premature close.
That said, Shanahan does deserve some of the blame for his relatively lackluster start. Case in point, some clock-management issues back in Week 4 against the Los Angeles Chargers certainly influenced the 29-27 loss. Yet those are teaching points. Even Belichick had to go through some massive learning curves before he became who he is now.
Shanahan’s offense, when it’s firing on all cylinders, can run circles around the vast majority of defenses in the league. Sure, the 49ers have a number of defensive deficiencies. Yet there’s little doubting those are in line to be addressed this offseason.
After all, the Niners have nearly $65 million in available cap space and own the No. 2 overall pick in what’s shaping up to be a defensively deep 2019 NFL Draft class.
Shanahan’s X-factors, of course, are going to be continuing a smart cap situation — made easier by one of the league’s best in contract construction, Executive Vice President of Football Operations Paraag Marathe — as well as getting the most out roster additions.
The latter has been problematic for San Francisco, at times, but roughly along the lines of what many other teams experience on a year-to-year basis.
Yet the biggest X-factor for Shanahan will be making that adjustment from solely an offensive genius to an effective head coach. Based off the number of player interactions Niner Noise has had, along with other reports out there, at no point in Shanahan’s tenure has the team “given up” or turned on him or each other.
That speaks volumes.
Of course, for Shanahan to emerge as the next Belichick, it would mean San Francisco re-establishing a dynasty, of sorts. There’s a lot that will have to go into such a thing taking place. But Shanahan already appears to be well on his way to getting there, possessing the necessary tools and context to make it happen.
Heck, just getting a sixth Super Bowl in San Francisco would do wonders. Any more would be a pure blessing.