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Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

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Kyle Shanahan’s Contract Extension Means More Than Stability for the San Francisco 49ers

Bret Rumbeck
Jun 17, 2020 at 7:00 AM


Too often, a new coach press conference is full of bluster. This new leadership will increase win totals and playoff appearances, and ultimately fill the stadium to the brim with fans.

These promises often remain empty, and fans are begging for another fresh start after two or three losing seasons.

Over three years ago, Jed York, Kyle Shanahan, and John Lynch emerged from behind a soda machine in the 49ers' press room. Camera shutters fired like gentle machine guns as the stage settled and creaked.

The scene had become commonplace at 4949 Centennial Boulevard. The San Francisco 49ers had just finished the 2016 season with two wins and were in a freefall into the depths of pro football mockery.

Another lousy season meant another new coach, with no promise that the 49ers' front office would change its ways.

"There's a lot of work in front of us. There's certainly not a lot of time to celebrate on just making a hire," said York in his opening remarks.

A bit later, York noted a conversation he had with Shanahan about his plans with the 49ers.

"I think in talking to Kyle, he was very direct with what he wants to do with the team and how he wants to build this thing and get it right. He knows that he's going to have the leeway to do that and he's going to have the time to do that, and we need to make sure that we commit to building something that we're going to all be proud of when it's all said and done."

York provided Shanahan the time and space to work, allowing Shanahan to build something that took the NFL by storm in 2019.

It was no surprise that on Monday, June 15, 2020, the 49ers extended Shanahan's contract another six years and reportedly made him one of the highest-paid coaches in the league.

There are plenty of reasons to look at Shanahan's new deal as a contract extension for last season's success. But, there's more than just ink on paper and a pile of cash in the bank.

Shanahan's deal reflects Jed York's growth and maturity as the team's chief executive officer.

Leaders cannot find success in raw emotion. There's a massive difference between rage and having a fire in the belly to succeed.

With the 49ers' near Super Bowl win over the Baltimore Ravens in the rearview mirror, York and the front office created a franchise more concerned with press leaks than victories.

Whatever was building between York and former 49ers' coach Jim Harbaugh spilled over into two nightmarish seasons with Jim Tomsula and Chip Kelly. It became more important to find scapegoats for failures, rather than own up to general ineptitude.

Mysterious "sources" provided 49er locker room drama and potential staff firings to local and national journalists.

For York, whispering the fate or tragic end of a player or coach to his friends was more important than building a champion. For all his bluster, these efforts brought the team no closer to a championship, and they backfired in spectacular failure.

They did create a radioactive football organization, which made me wonder how York was going to find a permanent coach and general manager.

Fortunately, John Lynch had a plan to test York before taking the job as the 49ers' general manager.

"One of the great and liberating things for me, and I think why this thing came to fruition, I made a big deal that this stay quiet. First of all, you know what I was doing? Part of the rumors are things fly out of that building. And I wanted to see if I could trust this person. And so that was part of my thinking."

Success is not built and cannot be built upon fractured leadership. York's metamorphosis from boy-owner in the pool cabana to NFL leader is remarkable. He's learned his role for the 49ers is not to be calling plays or learning the offense, but to be a steady rudder to keep the organization running smoothly.

The CEO of Ford or Chevrolet should know the cars' inner workings that come off the assembly line. Pro football CEOs do not need a vast comprehension of a 550-page playbook, route combinations, or pass protections.

Under the new Jed York, he's been able to revive our champion fighter – the one who had been mocked and beaten for a few seasons. These new 49ers, with Shanahan on the sideline, found a way to pick themselves up from the dirt, remember the swagger, and know precisely what it takes to win games.
  • Bret Rumbeck
  • Written by:
    Bret Rumbeck has been writing about the 49ers since 2017 for 49ers Webzone and 49ers Hub. He is a Turlock, CA native, and has worked for two members of the US House of Representatives and one US Senator. When not breaking down game film, Bret spends his time seeking out various forms of heavy metal. Feel free to follow him or direct inquiries to @brumbeck.
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.


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