© Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports
Bye weeks are ideal reflection periods, and these 49ers have plenty to think about.
Their roller coaster season has featured season-ending injuries to their starting quarterback and running back, four second-half leads turned into losses, and a recurring feeling of falling just short. At 2-8, they are all-but-eliminated from playoff contention.
There is still plenty to learn about this team, deeming the remaining six games as an important step toward future success, Kyle Shanahan says.
“My whole thing is that whether, I don’t think we’re eliminated from the playoffs or not, but regardless, it doesn’t matter,” Shanahan told reporters Tuesday. “You’re always playing for something. This league does not have patience. I don’t have patience. No one in this league has patience. You shouldn’t have to say that to players. Most players who have been around, more veterans understand that. But, a lot of people don’t understand that. So, sometimes you do have to educate people on that.”
Shanahan pulled his team together on Tuesday and went over several topics, which he would not disclose with reporters. He did, however, divulge the general message he left as the 49ers enjoy their first extended rest period of the season entering the bye week.
“I want them to really reflect on the season so far, and what they want coming back in these six games,” Shanahan said. “We have six games coming back, lot of football to play, and a lot of important football to play. I want them to sit there and really think of what their goals are for the rest of the half. Do they want to solidify themselves as a starter or backup? Do they want to be a part of it here? Do they want to be one of the answers or a solution to what we are going through?”
It may sound like coach-speak, but there was a seriousness and straightforwardness to Shanahan’s message that underscores his urgency. He is trying to find the players who will propel the 49ers to their goals in future years. He is trying to find the players with the right kind of makeup both on and off the field.
The 49ers head coach has had no problem challenging his players. He frequently talks about wanting to see how players respond to challenges and adversity. And for a team searching for playmakers, these final six games will largely determine whether certain players are retained or shipped out at season’s end.
It appears Shanahan wants to impart that kind of message, one of urgency. The expectations of his third season as 49ers head coach will be even greater than his second, with quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo’s injury pushing everything back a season.
“We’ve been here for over a year now,” Shanahan said. “It’ll be two years when it’s said and done at the end of the season. We’ll have a much better idea of people. And nothing is more true than when you watch us in the final weeks of the season, and lots of guys stepped up at this time last year. I want to see the guys who do it again, and the guys who don’t, and see the guys who truly want to be a part of this.
I see better than I hear. And I’ll always say that. A lot of the guys say the right things. I see our guys work and their actions show it, but we’ve got a stretch ahead of us that there is a lot of football left and I feel we’re just getting started in finding out what our team is.”