Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

49ers’ Kyle Shanahan among top 10 NFL coaches in NBC ranking

Jun 2, 2021 at 11:08 AM--

Patrick Daugherty of NBC Sports released his ranking of NFL head coaches heading into the 2021 season. Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots came in at No. 1, of course. He is followed by Andy Reid of the Kansas City Chiefs.

Where does Kyle Shanahan fall within the ranking? The San Francisco 49ers head coach comes in at No. 10, and is the third NFC West coach listed. Sean McVay of the Los Angeles Rams sits at No. 5, and Pete Carroll of the Seattle Seahawks is at No. 8.

"The widely held hypothesis that Kyle Shanahan is an elite young coach seemed proven when the 49ers advanced to Super Bowl LIV," wrote Daugherty. "Then he won six games again. Six is a number Shanahan has failed to clear in 3-of-4 seasons. Instead of serving as an indictment of his competence, it's more useful as a reminder that this NFL coaching business is really damn hard."

Of course, it's hard to fault Shanahan completely for last season's six-win campaign. The team endured a historic number of injuries, limping its way through the season. Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo was unavailable for 10 games, and defensive end Nick Bosa was lost for the season in Week 2. The injury list grew each week.

Shanahan owns a 29-35 career record as a head coach and has just one winning season on his resume since taking over the 49ers in 2017.

"Injuries were the culprit in 2020, cutting the heart out of Shanahan's defense and crippling an offense that already relied more on scheme than skill," Daugherty continued. "It would have been too much to overcome for any head coach. It was also a demonstration that not even Shanahan can will his team to victory on the strength of brainpower alone."

San Francisco was aggressive this offseason, looking to add depth behind Garoppolo by trading up to draft Trey Lance at No. 3 overall. At the same time, the team has improved its chances of sustained success by adding its quarterback of the future.

"He needed more talent and upside on offense, something that was accomplished by trading up for dual-threat quarterback Trey Lance," Daugherty added. "Conveniently, having a rookie signal caller will buy Shanahan eve[n] more benefit of the doubt if 2021 yet again fails to go his way, but it will still be earned. Even in this offensive golden age, few are designing attacks better than Shanahan. With a little luck and a lot better health, he will soon leave 6-10 behind for good."

It sounds like Daugherty assumes that Lance may see some significant playing time in 2021, which isn't necessarily going to be the case. Garoppolo is expected to be the starter when the 49ers face the Detroit Lions in Week 1. Unless an injury sidelines him again or his play proves to be problematic, Lance may not have an opportunity to supplant him until the rookie quarterback has fully absorbed and mastered Shanahan's playbook.

Garoppolo has missed 23 games over the past three seasons but was healthy in 2019, returning from an ACL injury. That 49ers team reached the Super Bowl.

Below are Daugherty's top 10 head coaches.

  1. Bill Belichick, Patriots
  2. Andy Reid, Chiefs
  3. Sean Payton, Saints
  4. John Harbaugh, Ravens
  5. Sean McVay, Rams
  6. Sean McDermott, Bills
  7. Mike Tomlin, Steelers
  8. Pete Carroll, Seahawks
  9. Bruce Arians, Buccaneers
  10. Kyle Shanahan, 49ers

H/t to Jas King of Niners Nation for the find.

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