Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

SI bullish on 49ers’ Kyle Shanahan in head coach power rankings

Jul 17, 2021 at 8:41 AM--

Kyle Shanahan owns a record of 29-35 as the head coach of the San Francisco 49ers. He has won more than six games just once in his four seasons with the team. Yet, despite the losing records, those around the league still hold Shanahan in high esteem due to the coach's creativity as a play designer and play-caller.

In his first two seasons as a head coach, Shanahan won a combined 10 games. However, his fortunes appeared to change in 2017, his first season in San Francisco, when the 49ers traded for quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo and the team rattled off five consecutive wins to end the season. Expectations were high entering the next season, but the team's hopes were dashed when Garoppolo was lost to a torn ACL.

Things seemed to come together in 2019. While the 49ers dealt with several in-season injuries, the team overcame adversity and powered its way to a Super Bowl appearance. Unfortunately for the Niners and Shanahan's legacy, the team fell just short of a championship as Shanahan squandered yet another fourth-quarter lead on sports' biggest stage. Previously, the New England Patriots mounted a comeback win against Shanahan's Atlanta Falcons in Super Bowl LI when the coach was the offensive coordinator.

Shanahan won just six games last season. Of course, he had to watch his roster get decimated by a league-leading number of injuries. In fact, San Francisco was the second most injured team over the past two decades. Only the 2016 Chicago Bears had players who miss more combined games in a single season.

Despite owning more losses than victories during his head coaching tenure, Conor Orr of Sports Illustrated is bullish on Shanahan. The writer recently ranked NFL head coaches and placed Shanahan at a respectable No. 9, noting that the 49ers coach is trending upwards.

Wrote Orr:

"I understand the complaint that Shanahan, a coach with a losing career record who has been responsible for a pair of significant lost leads in Super Bowls, should not be this high. However, any reasonable person looking at his body of work, his teams' history of injuries and available players at the time of major roster decisions shouldn't be too eager to dismiss his one Super Bowl appearance as a head coach as a fluke. Future head coaches will be pouring out of his coaching room in the coming years. Robert Saleh took the Jets job and with him brought Mike LaFleur, a name that will start to pop up in head-coaching lists. Mike McDaniel, Shanahan's offensive coordinator now, is another name that will be buzzing come coaching carousel season. The addition of Trey Lance only serves to deepen the mystery surrounding what this team will look like moving forward, but one thing is for sure: Shanahan has been ahead of the curve offensively for almost a decade now and shows no signs of slowing down."

As for the rest of the NFC West coaches, Pete Carroll of the Seattle Seahawks ranks highest at No. 7. Although, Orr believes he is trending downward. Sean McVay of the Los Angeles Rams ranks one spot above Shanahan, and Orr is neutral in his trending direction. Finally, the writer has Kliff Kingsbury of the Arizona Cardinals at No. 21, and, like Carroll, trading downwards.

Shanahan is entering his fifth season as a head coach. Last year, San Francisco signed him to a contract extension, keeping him with the team through the 2025 season.

H/t to Peter Panacy of Niner Noise for the find.

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