Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports



The decision by San Francisco 49ers owner Jed York to offer Kyle Shanahan the head coaching job was the most significant decision he's made in his football life. You see, whether he knew it or not, York faced what amounted to a legacy defining moment for him, as he had to make a hire that would begin to heal his fractured fan base. York seemed to understand the significance of the moment and was meticulous in his search, although there were still some red flags along the way.

The interest in Tom Cable, which many reported being real, was both perplexing and disappointing. Forget about his 17-27 record as a head coach, Cable had been accused of domestic violence by three different women and admitted to striking his ex-wife. Also, while he was the head coach of the Oakland Raiders, Cable was allegedly involved in an incident where he apparently broke another coaches jaw. Clearly, Cable is someone with a history of violence and the fact that York would even consider making someone like that the face of his franchise is a little disturbing.

Beyond Cable, though, York deserves credit for exploring some solid candidates which included Sean McVay, Anthony Lynn, and Sean McDermott, all of whom were hired as head coaches by other teams. The other wild card in the search was New England Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, who appeared to be running neck and neck with Shanahan until the former withdrew his name from the race.

Whether McDaniels decided to bow out on his own or did so because the 49ers were focused on Shanahan remains to be seen, but it's possible York and company caught a break. While McDaniels offers upside, he also comes with red flags and could have been a real boom or bust hire. McDaniels first stint as a head coach with the Denver Broncos was a disaster, as he went 11-17 and alienated many along the way. His one-year stint as offensive coordinator for the Los Angeles Rams was just as dreadful, as the unit finished last in offense that year and scored 13 points or less in 12 games. In reality, the only success he's ever had has been with Tom Brady and Bill Belichick, and working with those two can paint a picture that doesn't look the same in a different environment.

So in the end, York go it right by extending an offer to Shanahan, who may be the best offensive coordinator and play caller in the NFL right now. Under his direction in 2016, the Atlanta Falcons finished first in points, second in yards (third in passing, fifth in rushing) and broke the 30 point mark 11 times during the regular season. The 49ers haven't scored 30 points in 33 games.

While Atlanta does have some serious talent on offense with the likes of Matt Ryan and Julio Jones, you can still point to Shanahan's coaching as a big reason why the offense took off this year. Shanahan is excellent at play design, which has been evident all season as role players like Taylor Gabriel, Tevin Coleman, and Aldrick Robinson have made a significant impact for the Falcons.

Shanahan is also excellent with developing and getting the best out of his quarterbacks, with Ryan, Matt Schaub, Robert Griffin III, and Brian Hoyer all having played some of their best football under him. In San Francisco, he'll get to pick and groom his quarterback, which will go a long way considering the 49ers haven't had a signal caller throw for more than 3,500 yards or 21 touchdown passes since 2001.

Along with Shanahan, another sign that the tide is turning in San Francisco would be the names of the finalists for the general manager who will be paired with the incoming coach. Whether it's Brian Gutekunst of the Green Bay Packers, George Paton of the Minnesota Vikings or Terry McDonough of the Arizona Cardinals, the 49ers will be in good hand as all of the men mentioned above are all top-flight candidates.

While it remains to be seen how Shanahan's staff will play out, who the team will target in free agency and what transpires in the draft, whatever is decided will be met with more optimism than many have seen in the bay in quite some time. Football is exciting again in San Francisco, and Shanahan is the main reason for that.

Al Sacco has been covering the 49ers since 2013 and has had his work used by national outlets such as ESPN and USA TODAY. If you'd like to reach Al with a media request, please contact him via Twitter @AlSacco49