Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

ESPN predicts 49ers’ Kyle Shanahan as Coach of the Year based on NFL feedback

Sep 7, 2021 at 6:56 AM--

This could be an interesting year for San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan. He has just one winning record in his four seasons with the team. Many will argue that last season was a fluke. It was a six-win campaign marred by a historic number of injuries. The team had just come off a Super Bowl appearance, but the injuries completely transformed the roster by Week 2.

Most expect the 2021 49ers to more resemble their 2019 counterparts than last season's version. And now, Shanahan has a new toy to feature in his offense—No. 3 overall pick Trey Lance.

Lance won't start. That job belongs to veteran quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. Lance will see the field, though. Those around the NFL expect Shanahan to sprinkle in his 21-year-old quarterback as another challenge, potentially creating a two-quarterback system that could frustrate opposing defenses.

"Oh, he's going to do it," an unnamed veteran NFL coach told ESPN's Jeremy Fowler. "You can already see it. Jimmy will be in the base, and Lance will get packages where you can run different play-actions off it. I can't wait to see it. They have the right coach to handle it. He wants that challenge."

Fowler spoke with "a handful" of NFL executives, scouts, and coaches to predict winners for top league awards. Among those predictions is Shanahan earning Coach of the Year after throwing a combination of Garoppolo and Lance into game plans.

Fowler believes Shanahan is poised for his second season of double-digit wins, assuming his roster can remain relatively healthy.

"The coach has made clear Lance will play, though, and New Orleans reminded us that good playcallers can find a way to use multiple passers," wrote Fowler. "Sean Payton weaved Taysom Hill into a Drew Brees game plan in years past."

If Garoppolo can make it out of September healthy for just the second time in his NFL career and remain healthy, the ESPN writer can envision the 49ers winning a lot of football games.

"Shanahan and Garoppolo are 24-8 together, so there's reason to believe the winning will continue as Garoppolo returns [from] injury," Fowler added.

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