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Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports

Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports


Kyle Shanahan explains why the ‘starter’ label isn’t important for the 49ers running backs

Jan 9, 2020 at 2:32 PM--


San Francisco 49ers running backs Tevin Coleman and Raheem Mostert each had 137 carries this season. Mostert's number of carries increased during the second half of the season, while Coleman's was reduced. Mostert had 228 more rushing yards than Coleman, yet it is the latter who is considered the starter.

Yes, Coleman is credited with 11 starts this season, including the final nine games of the year, while Mostert is credited with none. That's because Coleman, more often than not, is on the field for the first offensive snap of each game.

None of that matters to head coach Kyle Shanahan, who sees both running backs as valuable components of the NFL's No. 2 ranked rushing attack.

"Tevin beings a lot to our game," Shanahan told reporters on Thursday. "I know he hasn't had the same yards per carry as Raheem has done. I don't really care much who the starter is. All those guys play.

"Raheem's got the bulk of it (in the latter part of the season), so usually, in my opinion, the guy who gets the bulk of the carries is usually the guy we call the starter because we're treating him as the starter. If he's not out there the first play, I know no one else calls him the starter because that's what matters, I guess, to be called the starter.

"Tevin started out that way this year. I think he handles it very well. I think Raheem's very comfortable in his situation when he comes in, and doesn't have a problem with it."

Mostert leads the 49ers with 772 rushing yards and eight rushing touchdowns this season while averaging an impressive 5.6 yards per carry. He also has 14 receptions for 180 yards with two receiving scores.

Coleman has gained 544 yards on the ground with six rushing touchdowns, and has caught 21 passes for 180 yards and one trip to the end zone. His rushing total actually ranked third on the team behind Matt Breida, who has gained 623 rushing yards this season.

"There's a different element to all of them," Shanahan continued. "I do like having Tevin out there because the way he hits holes, he brings a little different physicality to the game. But I like what all our backs do."

The bottom line is the 49ers have a lot of talented running backs, and that could carry the team far in the playoffs. Starter? Backups? It doesn't matter to Shanahan.

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