Despite not having won a Super Bowl yet, 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan is still in the top four of Pro Football Focus' head-coaching rankings for 2023.
Few critics of San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan will say he's a bad, unimaginative or ineffective offensive play-designer. And most will say his play-calling abilities are up there toward the top, too.
The criticisms typically flow in when discussing Shanahan's ability (or inability) to identify talent via the NFL Draft, particularly at quarterback, and that's led to some question marks about his ability to influence the roster. Slow starts to the season, Shanahan's own ego and a number of other elements have all led to criticisms, both deserved and not.
Then, of course, there's the fact Shanahan has had three golden opportunities (2019, 2021 and 2022) to win the Niners their sixth Super Bowl, except his teams have fallen short in each of those seasons, including back-to-back NFC Championship game losses the last two years.
With that all as a backdrop, should Shanahan still be considered a top-four head coach entering 2023?
Pro Football Focus thinks so.
Kyle Shanahan lands at No. 4 on Pro Football Focus' head coach rankings
PFF's Trevor Sikkema, the same analyst who got All-Pro and Defensive Player of the Year Nick Bosa's ranking wholly wrong when looking at edge defenders, just broke down his list of the 32 head coaches and where they stack up in comparison to each other entering 2023.
Shanahan, interestingly enough, ranked fourth. And that might help Sikkema earn some points back from San Francisco fans after the Bosa thing.
It's impossible to put Shanahan ahead of anyone within the top three, as they all have Super Bowl rings under their belt. And some would say the New England Patriots' Bill Belichick still deserves to be above the Kansas City Chiefs' Andy Reid, but that's not a debate that would interest 49ers fans too much.
Shanahan is still above other Super Bowl-winning head coaches, though, namely the Baltimore Ravens' John Harbaugh (let's not talk about that one) and the Los Angeles Rams' Sean McVay (another one we shouldn't discuss).
Not winning a Super Bowl is something Sikkema joked about briefly, though, in his Shanahan analysis:
"“LOL, SHANAHAN CAN’T WIN THE BIG ONE.”
All right, now that that's out of the way, the truth of the matter is Shanahan has been one of the best offensive minds in the league for more than half a decade — and continues to be. Since 2019, the Niners have the second-highest cumulative offensive grade (91.9), behind only the Kansas City Chiefs. They also rank seventh in the league in EPA per play over that span.
The reason for Shanahan being this high on the list comes down to how easy he makes offense look in the NFL. Nothing demonstrates that more than what he was able to do with Brock Purdy last season, succeeding at a playoff-caliber level with a rookie QB3."
Even if Shanahan was to win a Super Bowl soon, it's hard to see him passing up any of the remaining top three coaches. Reid wouldn't drop. Neither would Belichick. And considering Tomlin's lengthy track record of never finishing with a sub-.500 record with plenty of playoff appearances to boot, especially from teams that weren't expected to be there, he won't drop down out of the top three either.
So, regardless of Super Bowl victories or playoff losses, Shanahan is right where he's at and probably won't move from there anytime soon.