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Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

Where is the 49ers’ Offensive “Genius?”

Chris Beno
Nov 8, 2021 at 7:45 AM--

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According to the folks in and around the NFL, San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan is widely regarded as being one of the brightest offensive minds in the game. Shanahan is young, has "swag," and can seemingly scheme up open players at will. Or is all of that just a bunch of smoke and mirrors?

Coming out of a Super Bowl run as the offensive coordinator with the Atlanta Falcons, Shanahan was hired on the strength of helping build one of the most explosive offenses in NFL history. He has had success as a coordinator throughout the years, making bad quarterbacks look good and bad offenses capable of scoring points. In Washington, Shanahan helped groom rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III to take home the Rookie of the Year Award while also helping to develop fellow rookie quarterback Kirk Cousins into the fully capable starter he is now. So, what's the deal with his 49ers?

In 14 years as an NFL play-caller, Shanahan's offense has only ranked in the top 10 best offenses in the league four times. In the other ten seasons, his offenses have ranked 20th or worse. As a head coach, his overall record is an abysmal 32-40. The 49ers are 3-5 so far in 2021, and many believed they were a Super Bowl contender at the start of the season.

Other coaches in the NFL who also run the "Shanahan Offense," are in fact having tremendous success. For example, Los Angeles Rams coach Sean McVay, a close friend to Shanahan, currently has a head coaching record of 50-23. The Rams have had a top 3 offense in three out of the five seasons McVay has been the head coach, including this season.

Green Bay Packers head coach Matt LaFleur has a head coaching record of 33-8 since taking over in 2019. LaFleur's Packers had the top offense in 2020. So, what is it about the 49ers and their inability to sustain success? Shanahan's team is only two years removed from a 2019 Super Bowl appearance, and has one of the most talented rosters in the league.

Many players and coaches say it takes about two years to learn Shanahan's offense. If that's the case, then his offense is too difficult. Not too many teams can have success if a players' first year within an offense is a wash. In fact, the 49ers haven't been able to sustain success in 21 years, having only six winning seasons in that time.

But make no mistake, Kyle Shanahan is a good play-caller. Much of the struggles this season have been failures in execution and a lack of discipline by the players. The personnel decisions have been questionable as well, and many people don't trust Shanahan to develop his young players, including rookie quarterback Trey Lance.

Accountability for instilling discipline, poor personnel decisions, and not getting the best out of his players falls on Kyle Shanahan. With over 30 players up for free agency at the end of the season, a second rebuild would be devastating to the 49ers, and especially for future quarterback Trey Lance, who has had little to no quality reps with the starters.

Whether Shanahan can right this ship or not, we don't know. If he is the offensive genius everyone says he is, then he can surely scheme something up to give the young future stars of the team a good shot at being successful. But as time ticks on and the losses pile up, the smoke and mirrors will begin to fade, and Shanahan will reveal what he has always been ... an average head coach.
  • Chris Beno
  • Written by:
    Coming from Elk Grove, California I grew up a Bay Area sports fan. I've been cheering for the 49ers for as long as I can remember. In 2005 I joined the Army when I was 18 and got stationed at Fort Hood, Texas. I just kind of hung around here. I've always enjoyed writing and have typically focus on writing music. I am truly blessed to get to cover the 49ers, and have my articles published on the 49ers Webzone. I appreciate all of the Faithful that take the time to read the articles that myself and other contributors put out there. The 49ers have without a doubt the best fanbase, and best content creators around.
The opinions within this article are those of the writer and, while just as important, are not necessarily those of the site as a whole.


  • Stanley
    He's busy figuring out how to ignore running the ball
    Nov 8, 2021 at 7:55 AM
  • TOWO
    John Lynch is a mirror image of Matt Millen. All pro player, extremely smart, nice guy ... can't draft players. You mentioned all the coaches that came from Shanny teams - other teams got the cream - what is left is the curds.
    Nov 8, 2021 at 7:55 AM

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