SF 49ers: Debunking 3 myths about Kyle Shanahan
By Peter Panacy
No. 3: It’s impossible for an SF 49ers player to get out of Kyle Shanahan’s ‘doghouse’
There are certainly case examples of former Niners players who fall into this category.
Perhaps the two best examples are two former San Francisco players, running back Matt Breida and wide receiver Dante Pettis. While Breida’s fall from grace in 2019 was something of a mystery, perhaps stemming from some small-but-noticeable fumbling issues, Pettis’ placement in Kyle Shanahan’s “doghouse” after an impressive finish to 2018 was well-documented.
Shanahan, after all, publically called out Pettis early in 2019, then limited the former second-round draft pick to a mere four starts and 11 games that year, which included being a healthy scratch for Super Bowl LIV.
And while Shanahan was hopeful Pettis could bounce back in 2020, the former Washington receiver was ultimately waived before joining the New York Giants.
Yet another player, easily identified as in Shanahan’s doghouse, was cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon, who was also benched late in 2019 and surrendered his starting job.
Then-NBC Sports Northwest’s Joe Fann described:
"Witherspoon was a third-round pick in the 2017 NFL Draft and started 33 games over four seasons. He posted four interceptions and 117 tackles during that span. His play was egregiously inconsistent as he was benched on multiple occasions, including the 49ers Super Bowl run in 2019. Confidence was regularly an issue with Witherspoon in San Francisco as he was often in Kyle Shanahan’s doghouse."
Yet Witherspoon found himself back in the starting lineup late in 2020. And while injuries certainly had a lot to do with that, Shanahan once again trusted the inconsistent corner to start the final three games of the year, and Witherspoon performed remarkably well, eventually earning a free-agent deal with the Seattle Seahawks in 2021.
While Witherspoon might not have emerged as one of Shanahan’s favorites at the end of 2020, he certainly bucked the trend of not getting out of that doghouse.