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‘It wasn’t the best situation’: Kyle Shanahan nearly canceled his interview with the 49ers

Jul 7, 2021 at 9:09 AM

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San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan joined Sean McVay and Peter Schrager's podcast, Flying Coach. Yes, McVay and Schrager host a podcast together. The interview is filled with great stories from the two head coaches, who worked together in Washington and now lead division rivals.

Shanahan also discussed the process leading to him becoming the head coach in San Francisco. It turns out he nearly passed on the opportunity in 2017. The coach was the offensive coordinator of the Atlanta Falcons at the time, and his team was involved in a playoff run.

"It was an interesting time," Shanahan told McVay and Schrager. "I mean, San Francisco wasn't my first choice, on paper, like, before it. I had four interviews, and it was during the playoffs. You get two weeks to prepare, and then you get two days off as a coaching staff. And those two days are really to see your family and stuff because you're in this grind that's not going to end."

Shanahan added that there was a snowstorm in Atlanta at the time. So he spent his time off in an apartment, waiting to go through the interview process with the interested organizations.

"And I almost canceled one just because I was so exhausted, and I almost canceled San Francisco," Shanahan continued. "The reason being — it had nothing to do with San Francisco — it was just my whole goal in life was to be a head coach and stay a head coach. It wasn't just to become one and say I got there.

"So, watching my dad's career, watching stuff that I thought was important, I was never going to go anywhere without an established quarterback where we knew that was the plan. ... Because you never know how an organization is until you get in there, until you go through some tough times. And if you have a good quarterback, one of those top-5 guys, you can survive anything.

"So, that was always my goal, is to wait until I had a good enough year and got an opportunity with that. And so, I didn't want to be tempted on anything wrong. I mean, you get so excited for the chance to be a head coach that a lot of guys will accept anything, which I just had learned, and I had watched my dad (go through it) the hard way, that's not what my goal was."

The 49ers had Colin Kaepernick at the time, which clearly wasn't the direction Shanahan wanted to go. There weren't a whole lot of other options on the roster.

"So when I looked at San Francisco, I was nervous because they didn't have that setup, and they had changed coaches three years in a row," Shanahan shared. "Their offense was ranked 31st. Their defensed was ranked 32nd. It wasn't the best situation. But when I sat there, I had just interviewed [with] Jacksonville, just finished Jacksonville. ... And I was setting all the stuff up for my Denver interview. That was going to be Saturday morning.

"It took me about an hour, and I had about 30 minutes before Jed (York) and Paraag (Marathe) were going to get there. So I went and laid down in this bed, and I fell asleep. I was going to give myself 10 minutes to wake up, put my suit back on, and just be ready because I needed all the sleep."

Shanahan heard the door shut from the car bringing York and Marathe. The coach wasn't even dressed. Being on the third floor helped him as he was able to scramble to get ready.

"As they're banging on the door, I'm trying to fix my tie," Shanahan said. "And I just opened [the door], and I said, 'Alright, let's go.' And we do the interview, and it was so real. I wasn't trying so hard to get the job, and they weren't trying hard to sell me. We were just talking.

"And I told them all the issues that I thought that there was, the stuff I was worried about. And Jed told me where they thought they were, where he wanted to be. We had a connection because my dad was the coach there when [Jed's] uncle was the owner. I was a ball boy there from sixth grade to ninth grade. The last time I was with the Niners was when Steve Young won the Super Bowl, and I was always the ball boy there."

Shanahan remembers the stories from his father, Mike Shanahan, on how the 49ers had been a first-class organization and treated the employees and players so well.

York's concerns and Shanahan's concerns aligned, giving the coach some confidence in what he previously saw as an undesirable situation. Moreover, it helped change Shanahan's mind about the 49ers.

"My wife asked me which [team] I liked the most," Shanahan said. "I'm like, 'Actually, the Niners is the only one I really feel good about,' and it shocked her because she knew how I talked the morning before."

Shanahan had conditions he wanted a team to meet before accepting a job. He wanted a say in selecting a general manager, a contract that spanned a specific number of years, and other items. His agent said he wasn't going to get all that from any team.

"He called back five minutes later, laughing," Shanahan added. "He said, 'Oh my God, Jed said it was cool.' And I was like, 'That's why it's a good job. That's why I've got to take this.' And that's why I did."

Joked McVay, who also interviewed for the job: "I asked for those things from the Niners, too, and they didn't say yes to that, Kyle. What the hell?"

You can listen to the entire interview below.

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