49ers cornerback Richard Sherman appreciates the differences between Kyle Shanahan and the Seahawks’ Pete Carroll.
For a head coach who is only a few years older than his most veteran players, the 40-year-old Shanahan has done plenty to ensure the Niners’ turnaround from a two-win team in 2016 all the way to a conference champion three seasons later.
Shanahan’s knowledge of Xs and Os, paired with the ability to create one of the most ingenious offenses in the league today, has given him the reputation of being one of the NFL’s best minds.
But head coaching goes far beyond dialing up plays and schemes, and veteran cornerback Richard Sherman can attest to that when comparing Shanahan to one of the oldest head coaches in the league today, the Seattle Seahawks’ Pete Carroll, under whom Sherman played from 2011 through 2017.
“Kyle is similar in that he has a philosophy of the best man plays. He doesn’t care about your draft position or any of that. He’s more of a straight shooter than Pete.” — Richard Sherman
Sherman talked with NFL.com’s Jim Trotter about the traits both Carroll and Shanahan possess and what sets the two coaches apart:
"I’ve only had two NFL head coaches, and one thing I’ve seen as a common thread is, Pete has his compete, compete, compete philosophy. He has a whole psychological aspect that he goes through with it and he has a routine that he goes through and puts his players through. He has a way of coaching, a way of talking to his coaches, a way of having his coaches talk to his players. They don’t do the whole rah-rah, curse-you-out style. He would never hire a coach like that. It’s all about positive feedback and positive reinforcement and getting the best out of your players."
In contrast, Sherman noted about the differences Shanahan brings to the table:
"Kyle is similar in that he has a philosophy of the best man plays. He doesn’t care about your draft position or any of that. He’s more of a straight shooter than Pete. Pete has a way of making sure everybody feels good, making sure he pushes buttons with certain players and not pushing buttons on other players. Kyle is different. He’s one size fits all. I’m going to cut it to you as straight as I can, as best as I can, and I’m going to explain every single detail of what I understand about the game that either makes this a good play or a bad play or makes us a good team or a bad team. That honesty is something that I think is valuable in a head coach because there’s no gray area."
Shanahan’s honesty has been well documented up to this point. A number of players in postgame pressers have made the point Shanahan doesn’t mince his words or leave any room for misunderstandings.
And from a veteran like Sherman’s perspective, it’s a valuable tool. Each player knows where he stands and why.
It also could help explain why the cohesiveness within the 49ers locker room has been so much better than it was during the final years under former head coach Jim Harbaugh or even the two-year stretch of one-and-done head coaches, Jim Tomsula and Chip Kelly.
Richard Sherman on why Kyle Shanahan makes the 49ers successful
Sherman didn’t stop with merely comparing the coaching styles of Shanahan and Carroll. In addition, Sherman elaborated on the kind of offensive ingenuity Shanahan has brought to the team, comparing it to the kind of defensive mindset Carroll engineered during the perennial Pro Bowler’s time in Seattle:
"Kyle is one of the best offensive minds we’ve ever had in this game. That comes into it. With Pete, it’s the Cover 3 he brought to the league. It seems so simple, but nobody can run it like we ran it. The way both of them implement what they do — they talk to others on a personal level, then have the great coaches around them who believe in their philosophy."
One of the numerous aspects Shanahan has helped engineer is a “positionless” offense. Case in point, then-rookie wide receiver Deebo Samuel managed a total of 961 yards from scrimmage with 159 of those coming as a runner, not as a receiver. Shanahan’s offensive formations are meant to deceive and confuse, and it’s not uncommon to see nine or 10 plays drawn up from a basic 21-personnel formation.
Not coincidentally, Shanahan’s 49ers managed the No. 2 scoring offense in the league last season.
And players like Sherman certainly appreciate it, too.