San Francisco 49ers: 3 goals for Kyle Shanahan in 2020

Head coach Kyle Shanahan of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
Head coach Kyle Shanahan of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images) /
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San Francisco 49ers
Raheem Mostert #31 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images) /

No. 2: 49ers Must Find Improvement in the Red Zone

San Francisco boasted the league’s No. 2 overall scoring offense in 2019, yet for whatever the reasons, Kyle Shanahan’s offense was still less than stellar inside the red zone.

Last year, the Niners managed touchdowns only 55.6 percent of the time, which ranked 20th best in the league during the regular season. The year before, the 49ers were dead last in this category with a red-zone touchdown percentage of 41.2 percent.

This February 2019 article from KNBR 680’s Brad Almquist helps explain one possible reason:

"Kyle Shanahan has had trouble finding the right formula. Despite his reputation as one of the NFL’s most talented play-callers, he has historically struggled in the red zone. His two 49ers teams have finished No. 27 and No. 32 in red-zone offense. In 11 years calling NFL offenses, Shanahan’s units have twice finished in the top-10 in red-zone efficiency. His best team, the 2012 Washington Redskins, finished fourth with a 61.8 percent success rate. One year later, they sunk to No. 21. Perhaps it’s a product of preference. Shanahan would rather outsmart you than overpower you. He emphasizes finesse and versatility, which is easily seen with the players he has drafted and signed in free agency throughout the past two years."

The latter part should speak to some fundamental shifts in San Francisco’s NFL Draft efforts the past two years, first by grabbing 6-foot-4 wide receiver Jalen Hurd in Round 3 back in 2019, then landing 6-foot-3 powerhouse wide receiver Jauan Jennings in Round 7 this year.

Neither Hurd nor Jennings have breakout speed, rather they’re known for physicality and breaking tackles. This is a shift from Shanahan’s previous philosophy of separation, route running and finesse, potentially suggesting the head coach is learning.

The 49ers don’t have to be a top-five team in this area, no. But getting at least within the top 15 would be a massive boost, increasing their chances to get back to the Super Bowl.

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