Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Is Kyle Shanahan to blame for the 49ers’ woes?

Gilbert Brink
Nov 2, 2020 at 7:58 AM

The 49ers are going to dump QB Jimmy Garoppolo. It has become apparent that the marriage between the San Francisco 49ers and Jimmy Garoppolo has fallen on hard times. There is no banter at the dinner table, no kiss goodbye in the morning before they head off to work, no love letters in the lunch box. No, this relationship seems to be nearing its end. After Sunday's loss to the Seattle Seahawks, in regards to his QB's reinjury, head coach Kyle Shanahan told reporters they could "ask [Garoppolo] on the ankle." Yes, you can feel it, Shanahan seems to be at the end of his rope with his QB.

The truth is, Kyle Shanahan needs Jimmy Garoppolo more than ever. He needs Garoppolo to be the scape goat for all the 49ers' problems. It's the best way for Shanahan to keep his reputation in tact. Ignore his record without Garoppolo (5-21), and conveniently forget that prior to the stellar 2019 season, Shanahan himself was clearly on the hot seat. Kyle Shanahan needs everyone to focus on how poorly Jimmy Garoppolo is playing right now. Make no mistake, Garoppolo has not been great this season. Ankle injury or no ankle injury, the QB has been wildly inconsistent and generally unreliable. It is a strange departure from his phenomenal 2019 campaign, but it's undeniable that he has regressed. Yet and still, the 49ers have lost 4 games this season and in every one of them the 49ers looked unprepared, outcoached, and uninspired. Those jobs aren't assigned to the QB. That failure falls directly on the shoulders of the head coach.

Kyle Shanahan's struggles were on full display on Sunday. Riding a 2-game winning streak into division-leading Seattle, the 49ers seemed primed to run an offensive clinic on the NFL's 32nd-ranked defense. What ensued was a comically bad performance from an "offensive wizard". Through 3 quarters, the 49ers managed a pathetic 188 total yards and 7 points against a Seahawk team that led the league in playing awful defense.

What happened to the team from last week that dropped 33 points on a Bill Belichick defense? The head coach left that team in New England, apparently. Shanahan failed to exploit a terrible secondary that was missing its best two players (S Jamal Adams and CB Shaquill Griffin). Instead of attacking through the air, Shanahan was engorged with his new pet RB project as he decided to feature a largely ineffective JaMycal Hasty. See, Kyle Shanahan loves being the genius. It's what drives him to make the running game the focal point of his offense. When Shanahan trots out an undrafted player and makes him look like a star, the Shanahan ego takes a trip to the media buffet. Hence, Hasty's workload: 12 carries for 29 yards against a defense that allows roughly 380 passing yards per game. Shanahan doesn't want to simply win, he wants to win his way. Yet, his way, without the QB he'll soon dump, has led to only 5 wins in 26 contests. Maybe Shanahan is the man the 49ers should be calling into question, for these very reasons:

The Cursed Kyle Crush

Kyle Shanahan falls deeply for players, many of whom are not very good at football. Sure, he hits on a player occasionally, WRs Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk have been the best examples of this, but far too often his inability to evaluate players costs the 49ers dearly. Let's take a look at some of his most infamous crushes and how they've hurt the franchise:

QB Kirk Cousins - The biggest Kyle crush of all. This one set the course for the entire Shanahan-Lynch regime. Taking over the team in 2017, the 49ers were blessed with the #2 overall draft pick and were devoid of any legitimate QB prospects on the roster. In that draft, both Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson were available. Concerning Mahomes, Shanahan said, "I didn't look into him, obviously, as much as I should have...I think it's well documented the relationship I had with Kirk." Yep, Kyle Shanahan didn't look into Patrick Mahomes because he was angling to sign Kirk freakin' Cousins. Let that one marinate.

WR Dante Pettis - You may remember Pettis, he's the one who fumbled the kick return on Sunday that completely buried the 49ers. Kyle loved Pettis, so much so that he traded up to snag him in the 2nd round in 2018. Passing up on WRs D.J. Chark and Michael Gallup, Shanahan pegged Pettis as a starting-caliber WR to build an offense around. A healthy Pettis was inactive for Super Bowl 54 and has become a completely irrelevant member of the 49ers roster. Don't expect him to be around much longer. Fantastic pick, Kyle.

WR Jalen Hurd - Unlike Pettis, this WR doesn't have a single bad memory attached to his name. Mainly because he hasn't played a single snap for the 49ers. Shanahan coached a then-injured Hurd during the 2018 Senior Bowl. Hurd's injuries became a theme as Shanahan went on to draft him in the 3rd round and continued to coach an injured Jalen Hurd as a 49er. In fact, Hurd has never not been injured, missing every single regular season game during his 49ers career. Shanahan knew Hurd had an injury history, fell in love with him, and the 49ers drafted him with the 67th pick. Nine picks later, Washington selected WR Terry McLaurin, the next WR off the board. The 49ers could use McLaurin right about now.

QB C.J. Beathard - Yes, another Kyle crush the 49ers traded up for, and another complete and utter failure. Wrap your head around this: C.J. Beathard was taken in the 3rd round in 2017. Even worse, the Kyle crush is still active with this one as Beathard replaced a clearly-better Nick Mullens as the backup QB for a few games this season. Beathard has been abysmal for his entire career. Coming out of the 2017 draft, Shanahan saw him as one of the few QBs he coveted. Think about that: Shanahan watched enough Beathard tape to become infatuated with him, but didn't have enough time to study Patrick Mahomes because he had eyes for Kirk Cousins. For an offensive genius, Kyle seems to be pretty bad at evaluating the most important part of an offense.

Other Misses:

RB Joe Williams - Originally not on the 49ers' draft board, Kyle pounded the table for the 49ers to select Williams in the 4th round. Joe Williams currently plays no form of football anywhere in the universe after playing zero football plays for the San Francisco 49ers.

WR Pierre Garçon - Signed to a big contract in 2017, Garçon was gone by 2018.

DT Javon Kinlaw - Not really his crush, but DL coach Kris Kocurek's. Kinlaw is a C+ player and the 49ers spent the 14th overall pick on him when they could have had much better players. Kyle explained the pick by citing Kocurek's obsession with the big bodied DT. Kyle should know by now about how sometimes a crush doesn't work out.

Game Mis-manager

Until Shanahan wins a Super Bowl, he wont be able to shake 28-3 and 3rd and 15. The offensive wizard will be haunted by blowing 2 out of the last 4 Super Bowls in stupendous fashion. This isn't something new for Kyle, though. As brilliant as he can be with Xs and Os, he has a legitimate issue with game management. In 2017, the 49ers lost 5 straight games by 3 points or fewer, an all-time NFL record with heartbreaking losses. The 49ers could have won many of those games, but Shanahan often got lost in the bigger moments of games and came up short. He struggles with knowing when to be aggressive and when to play conservatively, seemingly choosing the opposite of what is necessary. Super Bowl 54 was littered with moments like this, and not even in the biggest spot. Heading into the half the 49ers had just stopped the Chiefs and the score was knotted at 10 with a little under 2 minutes left on the clock. While GM John Lynch signaled for the team to take a timeout from the press box, Shanahan let precious time melt off the clock and was content with a halftime tie.

Shanahan has become the new Andy Reid. A great offensive mind who can get lost while balancing the duties of offensive coordinator and head football coach. If the 49ers are to move forward with Shanahan, leaving Garoppolo behind, they need to seriously consider adding some help to Shanahan's staff to assist in balancing his work load.

Foolish Pride

This may be Shanahan's greatest flaw as a head coach. He either believes in people too much or gives up on people too soon. In 2019, the 49ers had a devastating backfield duo with Matt Brieda and Raheem Mostert sharing carries. Half-way through the season, Shanahan gave up on Brieda. It was an awful decision. Brieda's speed was the perfect fit for the offense and made the 49ers dynamic. In the offseason, Shanahan shipped Breida off to Miami. While Brieda found Shanahan's dog house, the rarely-effective Tevin Coleman has always had a place on Shanahan's roster. Coleman has always been the worst back in the 49ers running back room, yet in his 2 seasons with the 49ers he has clearly been an unquestioned piece of the offense. Shanahan often would start Coleman in games, watch him struggle, then turn to the much more talented Raheem Mostert.

It all comes back to Shanahan needing to win his way. It's why he overlooked a player like Patrick Mahomes. The very best player in the entire league is too talented for Shanahan's system, because he would outshine it. If and when the 49ers dump Garoppolo, don't expect them to bring on a transcendent talent like Mahomes or Watson. Kyle doesn't want to win if he isn't the focus. He cannot bear to lose the headlines and soundbites praising his genius. No, Shanahan wants to be front and center, winning games with the C.J. Beathards and Tevin Colemans while other coaches simply want the best players available. It is the fatal flaw of the brilliant mind, and it may lead him to the same fate as his current starting QB.
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.


  • Graham
    Just to pick up one point from this flawed article, you describe Kinlaw, having had no pre season etc, as a miss and a c player. Well, that puts you in the same category as the children who are yelling that he is a bust. 8 games and no prep. Yeah, thanks. This is an article written with insufficient research or thought and an overdose of emotion.
    Nov 2, 2020 at 12:04 PM
  • NoName
    I call BS on this article. Anybody who is not blind, or brain dead, clearly saw that Jimmy was repeatedly throwing wildly off target passes. How is it that Mullens takes over and scores 3 TD's in 1 quarter while Jimmy scored 1 in 3 quarters, and it is in Shanahan? Reality is reality, man.
    Nov 2, 2020 at 11:34 AM
    Response: Pretty simple, defenses take it quit easy when up 30-7 in the 4th quarter.
  • Nolanonesense
    Excellent article.. what triggers me the most is that Kyle or Lynch have ever acknowledge that NICK BOSA was the guy that lead this team to the superbowl not his QB's or RB's, WR's gimmick plays.. he is so over his head that real MVP's like Bosa, Warner, Deebo won't get a smile from him!!
    Nov 2, 2020 at 9:19 AM
    Response: Thanks for the kind words
  • Jaybourne
    This has to be the DUMBEST, emotional, Post-loss hate rant. More selective memory BS trolling. Hate I wasted my 2 minutes on this.
    Nov 2, 2020 at 8:17 AM
    Response: Thanks for spending the 2 minutes on this.

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