SANTA CLARA – When Jed York and company decided to hire Kyle Shanahan as the new head coach of the San Francisco 49ers back in the beginning of February, he was hired for his offensive prowess. The son of an offensively-minded head coach, Shanahan has been a whiz kid on the offensive side of the ball at every stop of his career.
But up until this point, that’s all Kyle has had to worry about. When he broke into the NFL with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2004 it was as an offensive control coordinator. He became a quarterbacks coach before moving as an offensive coordinator for four teams.
Now, Shanahan has to step in front of the whole team, and players Monday said his knowledge of the defensive side of the ball has been impressive.
“His overall knowledge of exactly what everybody’s job is and how it ties directly into every single play being successful,” 49ers left tackle Joe Staley said Monday. “(He has) seemingly endless answers for everything that a defense can throw at you.”
Bryan Hoyer has worked with Kyle Shanahan before. The two were both in Cleveland for the 2014 season when Hoyer had the most successful year of his career, starting 14 games.
“The best thing in my mind about Kyle is the way he explains how he sees things. How he’s trying to attack a defense, where the defense is trying to attack the offense,” Hoyer said. “That’s been really cool to see…the defensive players respond to it. I was used to it as an offensive coordinator trying to explain it.”
Hoyer said Shanahan will spend ten minutes on a single play at times with the whole team, working through position by position to show what everyone should be doing. He recalled one of those times, when Shanahan was explaining particular gap schemes about a run play and linebacker Dekota Watson said to him, “I never even knew that, I was always just out there playing.”
Ultimately, it may have been Shanahan’s offensive brainpower that got him the job as the head coach of the 49ers, but for his team to be successful in 2017 and beyond he’ll have to master coaching both sides of the ball.
And so far, so good.