49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan is deservingly experiencing scrutiny in 2021, unlike previous years, which highlights these glaring mistakes made this year.
It’s Year 5 of the San Francisco 49ers‘ “brick by brick” rebuild, and general manager John Lynch and head coach Kyle Shanahan have successfully constructed the fourth-best roster within the NFC West and are tied with the Arizona Cardinals for fewest wins (32) in the division dating back to the start of Shanahan and Lynch’s tenure through Week 9 of the 2021 season.
At 3-5, there’s plenty of blame to go around. Especially in light of what could easily turn into Shanahan’s fourth 10-plus loss campaign in five years, the lone outlier being the Niners’ 2019 Super Bowl run.
Previously, there was blame to be deflected elsewhere. 2017 was a rebuild, quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo suffered an ACL tear early in 2018 and then nearly everyone was hurt bad in 2020.
Now, “the Teflon Head Coach,” as the 49ers Webzone No Huddle Podcast‘s Al Sacco phrases Shanahan, is receiving an unprecedented amount of scrutiny amid what’s been a disjointed and hard-to-watch 2021 campaign for San Francisco.
Shanahan has made plenty of mistakes during his coaching tenure. But his mistakes this year are much more glaring, and there are few deflection points to suggest the problems reside elsewhere.
Here are Shanahan’s five biggest mistakes so far this season.
No. 5: Kyle Shanahan, 49ers relying heavily on injury-prone players
On paper, Lynch and assistant general manager Adam Peters are responsible for creating the 90-man roster, while Shanahan is responsible for the 53-man roster and game-day decisions.
Again, on paper.
But if Shanahan has an influence on the general formation of the roster, he bears a good deal of the blame for the 49ers opting to rely on frequently injured players to fill key roles entering the regular season.
Three of these — running back Raheem Mostert, cornerback Jason Verrett and defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw — were supposed to play massive roles this season. All three are out for the year. And, particularly at cornerback, the Niners failed to develop contingency plans to guard against the likelihood Verrett would be out a significant length of time.
After all, Verrett played just six regular-season games between 2016 and 2019 before having a relatively healthy year in 2020.
San Francisco should have seen that coming.
Shanahan and the 49ers also knew of Mostert’s lengthy injury history, and they knew Kinlaw’s knee issues were chronic. Nevertheless, they took the gamble anyway and are getting burned as a result.