In a league filled with uncertainty and disaster at the head coaching position, 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan shouldn’t be concerned about his name in the mix.
Thanks to an overtime loss by the Seattle Seahawks during the 49ers bye week, San Francisco now sits third in the NFC West with a 2-3 record under head coach Kyle Shanahan this season. Even a shot at a Wild Card slot is quickly slipping out of grasp, and something has to change starting in Week 7 if the 49ers want to make a postseason run.
Many fans are calling for that change to be with the head coach. The slow start to 2021 is just one among many valid reasons to point to when justifying a replacement for Shanahan.
Shanahan calls questionable plays on fourth-and-1. Shanahan has a stagnant offense. Shanahan can’t juggle his quarterbacks effectively. Shanahan has 31-38 career head coaching record.
The list goes on for Shanahan’s detractors, and justifiably so. But none of these flaws are enough to bring an end to his reign as head coach. Shanahan isn’t going anywhere.
If we put a wider lens on to look at Shanahan’s future at San Francisco, the bullet points in the “pros” column paint a picture with him at the forefront of the 49ers for years to come. Let’s dig into why that is.
Head Coach Kyle Shanahan isn’t departing from the 49ers any time soon
For one, money. The 49ers are a business, and their investment in Shanahan would be a botched deal if they force him into an early exit.
A contract that size through 2025 means San Francisco will let Shanahan’s run with the team pan out through at least 2023. Especially after paying previous coaches millions to watch the game from home when their appointments didn’t work out, the money is doing a lot of talking on Shanahan’s behalf.
Let’s take that bit to lead right into the next point. 49ers CEO Jed York has made some messy mistakes at the head coaching spot in the last decade, and he can’t afford another flop. Not only would wasting away Shanahan’s hefty contract be a financial blow, but after consecutive failures with head coaches Jim Tomsula and Chip Kelly in 2015 and 2016, respectively, giving up on Shanahan would strip York of any credibility he has in avoiding coaching catastrophe. What head coach wants to walk into that situation? Splitting from Shanahan too soon would set up a long-term struggle to find a worthy successor.
Beyond York’s reputation, coaching instability could be disastrous for rookie quarterback Trey Lance. Perhaps one of the most important things for proper young QB development is consistency. Shanahan needs time to cultivate Lance’s talent and grow him into a franchise quarterback. Ripping the rug out from beneath their head coach could stunt Lance’s growth and lead to a domino effect of wasted potential for the organization.
Ultimately, the signs point to an extended stay for Shanahan. That doesn’t mean his performance should be void of criticism and accountability, just that the stacks of complaints on his desk aren’t going up in smoke anytime soon.