49ers news: Kyle Shanahan describes why Christian McCaffrey is so special

San Francisco 49ers running back Christian McCaffrey
San Francisco 49ers running back Christian McCaffrey / Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

The 49ers offense blossomed when Christian McCaffrey was added last year at the NFL trade deadline, and Kyle Shanahan recently explained why.

The San Francisco 49ers offense was stuck in a proverbial rut for the first half of the 2022 season. Granted, the team lost its starting quarterback, Trey Lance, in Week 2 to a season-ending ankle injury, but having Jimmy Garoppolo still available on the roster helped mitigate that to an extent.

However, in the blockbuster NFL trade deadline deal the Niners engineered with the Carolina Panthers, one that brought All-Pro running back Christian McCaffrey to the Bay Area, it's not hard to see how things ultimately changed.

For the better.

McCaffrey wasn't the only reason why head coach Kyle Shanahan's offense improved in the second half of last season, of course. The emergence of then-rookie Brock Purdy under center helped matters, too, as did a resurgent tight end in George Kittle, who finished the year with a career-best 11 touchdowns.

But McCaffrey helped a lot, although he doesn't want to take a lot of the credit, as spoken via Cam Inman of the San Jose Mercury News during the team's annual Dwight Clark Legacy Series event:

"It takes everybody. This is the biggest team game in the world that gets so much individual attention. You’ve got guys named the G.O.A.T., and this and that. It’s true and it’s great. But no one is anybody without their teammates in this game. That’s what makes it so special. That’s why people watch. That’s why we love to play it."

To some, though, players like McCaffrey make just a little bit more of a difference than others.

Just ask Shanahan.

Kyle Shanahan describes how Christian McCaffrey unlocks 49ers offense

McCaffrey rushed for 746 yards and averaged 4.7 yards per attempt while adding another 464 yards on 52 receptions with a combined 10 touchdowns through the air and on the ground, all over just 11 games played with San Francisco after the trade.

While impressive, those stats and figures aren't what help make McCaffrey so special in the 49ers offense.

No, it's what McCaffrey does to boost everyone else around him. That's what Shanahan spoke on during the same event, via Inman:

"Everyone is, "Oh you got him now. How creative are you going to be?" It’s like, um, you don’t have to be as creative.

The defense has got to help the guy guarding him. That’s where it gets cool. That’s what I love so much about Christian."

For a 49ers offense that is loaded with weaponry, such as Kittle and fellow All-Pro wide receiver Deebo Samuel,

Read More: Deebo Samuel cussed at Kyle Shanahan? Yup, it happened

For those opposing defenses, however, McCaffrey's skill set ultimately makes things more challenging and confusing, something Shanahan also pointed out:

"It just spaces everything out. He really makes it easier to get the ball to get to Kittle, to Deebo, to [Brandon] Aiyuk, to Jauan [Jennings]. As a play caller, I’m not as stressed, because you just let it happen. I don’t care what (the defenses) do, you guys pick your poison, go ahead and double him"

Heading into the 2023 season, one in which the Niners are viewed as serious Super Bowl contenders, a full year of a McCaffrey-infused offense can only help matters to the biggest degree, especially when Shanahan's offense still has question marks at quarterback between Lance and Purdy.

Whoever starts out of those two (or three, if you add in Sam Darnold) will have the bonus of knowing McCaffrey will unlock so much of the offense and make things easier all around.

Next. 49ers 2023 full schedule, game-by-game predictions. dark