49ers news: Sports Illustrated hypes Kyle Shanahan for 2021

San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan Mandatory Credit: Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports
San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan Mandatory Credit: Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports /

49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan ranked pretty high in Sports Illustrated’s recent ranking of all head coaches entering the 2021 season.

San Francisco 49ers fans probably feel pretty good about their head coach, Kyle Shanahan. At least those who aren’t too upset about what happened in the fourth quarter during Super Bowl LIV against the Kansas City Chiefs.

And while Shanahan has his fair share of gaffes since taking over duties in 2017, it’s probably safe to assume even the most skeptical Niners fan would take Shanahan over those two head coaches who preceded him, Jim Tomsula and Chip Kelly.

A good chunk of NFL head coach rankings probably list Shanahan in the lower half entering 2021, and there are key reasons why. That Super Bowl loss, in particular, has to cast some long shadows. So does the fact Shanahan boasts three losing seasons out of four since taking over San Francisco’s opening.

Yet Sports Illustrated’s Conor Orr is actually quite bullish about Shanahan heading into the upcoming season, placing him at No. 9 on his coach rankings for 2021:

"I understand the complaint that Shanahan, a coach with a losing career record who has been responsible for a pair of significant lost leads in Super Bowls, should not be this high. However, any reasonable person looking at his body of work, his teams’ history of injuries and available players at the time of major roster decisions shouldn’t be too eager to dismiss his one Super Bowl appearance as a head coach as a fluke. Future head coaches will be pouring out of his coaching room in the coming years. Robert Saleh took the Jets job and with him brought Mike LaFleur, a name that will start to pop up in head-coaching lists. Mike McDaniel, Shanahan’s offensive coordinator now, is another name that will be buzzing come coaching carousel season. The addition of Trey Lance only serves to deepen the mystery surrounding what this team will look like moving forward, but one thing is for sure: Shanahan has been ahead of the curve offensively for almost a decade now and shows no signs of slowing down."

In fairness to Shanahan, his 6-10 record in 2017 followed a near-70 percent teardown of the roster he inherited and winning his final five games that year after trading for quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo put the head coach on the upswing entering 2018.

Only to see Garoppolo suffer an ACL tear in Week 3 the following season, which ultimately resulted in the 49ers being a four-win team that year.

A healthy Garoppolo and relatively healthy squad in 2019? A Super Bowl appearance and near win.

The NFL’s most injured team in 2021? Another 6-10 finish, but some may argue Shanahan exceeded expectations last year, too, in light of all those injuries.

49ers, Kyle Shanahan still need to win despite Trey Lance addition

Garoppolo’s injuries were a primary reason why Shanahan and general manager John Lynch wanted to move on, prompting last spring’s trade up to the No. 3 overall spot in the NFL Draft for Lance.

While going with Lance shows the Niners are playing the long game, three losing seasons out of four (all with 10-plus losses) and a 29-35 overall regular-season record is enough to suggest Shanahan has to turn things around in 2021.

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San Francisco doesn’t necessarily have to be a Super Bowl team this year. No, a strong push into the playoffs would probably suffice. And with a seventh seed added in each conference, merely getting to nine wins might be enough.

Although the pressure will be on to exceed that number.

Not doing so probably won’t endanger Shanahan’s long-term future much, but it certainly would call into question whether or not he’s adequately getting the job done.

Next. 10 most painful playoff losses in 49ers history. dark