Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports


Kyle Shanahan, 49ers Must Find a New Identity

Gilbert Brink
Oct 7, 2020 at 7:28 AM


The 49ers can still win Super Bowl 55. Many teams can. There has been a handful of teams throughout history that have started off slow and still won the Super Bowl. Sitting at 2-2, the Super Bowl seems like a pipe dream for the 49ers. This is a good thing; perhaps the 49ers were a little too focused on their "revenge tour" and less focused on winning the battle immediately in front of them.

After suffering some major injuries early in the season, the 49ers look nothing like the team that took the stage for Super Bowl 54 in early February 2020. That team was driven by a dynamic running game and a fierce defense that got after the quarterback with its front 4. This team is struggling to run the ball, and is playing without defensive linemen Dee Ford, DeForest Buckner, Solomon Thomas, and Nick Bosa. The 49ers defense no longer terrifies opposing QBs like it did when Bosa and Ford were screaming off the edge with Buckner collapsing the middle of the pocket. It is painfully obvious after 4 games that this team doesn't pack the same punch as it did last year.

Football is an allegory for life. Often you have a plan, a set of core beliefs, and are committed to these concepts with every fiber of your being. As a young man just turning 30 and exiting a dysfunctional 3 year relationship, I was dead-set on living the single life and enjoying being a bachelor with no one to answer to for quite some time. A few months later, I met the love of my life and a few weeks after we started dating we were expecting our first child together. 7 years later, here I stand, a father of 4 beautiful girls and happily married going on 6 years this month. So much for my plan. Point is, sometimes you have to adjust your plans, beliefs, and expectations due to changing circumstances. The 49ers are at this point. Head coach Kyle Shanahan has to know that his offensive and defensive philosophies have to adapt to his new set of circumstances.

Offensively, the 49ers aren't the same team that ran its way to Super Bowl 54. In 2019, the 49ers trailed only the Lamar Jackson-led Ravens as the best rushing team in the NFL. In 2020, 10 teams are ahead of the 49ers in rushing yards per game. The offensive line is struggling to create holes for the run game and it has been significantly slowing down the offense.

It's difficult to analyze the 49ers' passing game as the team has played only 6 quarters with its starting QB. When Jimmy Garoppolo returns to the starting lineup he will be welcomed by a roster full of pass catching options. In his only full game, Garoppolo was without WRs Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk. Even TE George Kittle was severely hampered by an injury during that game. With all the weapons on deck, the time is now for the 49ers to turn this offense over to the pass game and trust their franchise QB.

Defensively, the 49ers have handled the loss of premier players pretty well. Despite the absence of their best pass-rushers and cornerbacks, defensive coordinator Robert Saleh has adjusted and the unit ranks 3rd in yards allowed per game (294) and points allowed per game (17.8). The evolution of the defense can already be seen as the team has blitzed more than usual. Saleh must continue this creative thinking if he is to keep the 49ers defense afloat. The first 4 games of the season were against soft opponents. Not a single one currently has a winning record. Going forward the 49ers defense will be facing some great offenses and will need to find a way to generate pressure and create turnovers. Over the final 12 games, the 49ers play Russell Wilson and Jared Goff twice, as well as Aaron Rodgers, Cam Newton, Dak Prescott, Josh Allen, Kyler Murray, Drew Brees. These QBs are quite different than the cupcake factory the 49ers have seen so far.

This is the time when a good coach can become a great coach. If Kyle Shanahan wants to cement himself as one of the best in the league, the opportunity is staring him right in the face. The Seahawks sit atop the NFC West at 4-0. No longer is there time to bang your head against the wall using the same scheme that worked with a much different team. It is time to innovate, evolve, and adapt. With 7 teams making the playoffs this season, the 49ers simply have to get to the dance and can then can worry about finishing the job.
The views 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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