© Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports
If you watched almost any 49ers game this season, one thing was a constant: that sideline shot of either a sad or visibly frustrated Kyle Shanahan shaking his head, usually at a turnover, missed completion, drop, etc. It happened so many times, you could put it in one of those bingo board drinking games and know reliably that you’d be taking a shot at some point.
Shanahan is notorious for being obsessive, and something of a perfectionist about his work. So when he was met with a spate of injuries that no other team in the NFL could really compete with, shipped off to Arizona thanks to orders from Santa Clara County, and had a handful of mini COVID-19 outbreaks, it understandably took a toll.
With the 6-10 season finally over, and the 49ers holding the 12th overall pick in the NFL Draft, Shanahan can take some much-needed time off soon. He said for the first time in his career, he packed his bags two days before the season finale.
The 49ers, as if it needed saying, are sick of Arizona. Finally, they can return home.
“I’m very happy the season’s over,” Shanahan said. “Once we were eliminated from the playoffs, we were ready to move on a little bit and get to next year. But we had to finish it.”
A reminder; it wasn’t just the team that came out to Arizona. Everyone came out. The team’s trainers, cooking staff, front office, etc. It was a massive undertaking. While some family members visited players over Christmas, many did not.
Now is the first chance for many, like Raheem Mostert and Jeff Wilson Jr., to see their families and young children, for the first time in months.
“We’re all excited to see our families,” Shanahan said. “We got a little break, some of us saw our families over Christmas which is nice. Some weren’t able to, so it’s been way too long for a number of guys. And just anyone that’s been stuck in a hotel for, I think, over 30 days, that does wear on you a little bit. Not just me, but the players, the cooks, the equipment guys, everybody involved with us is ready to get back home.”
It may well be the last time Shanahan gets to spend time with defensive coordinator Robert Saleh, who could easily be argued as the best coaching candidate in the NFL. Shanahan confirmed that Saleh will interview with the Atlanta Falcons via Zoom on Monday, which will certainly not be the only interview he does.
As he’s said in the past, Shanahan expects to lose Saleh. This time, it’s more immediate.
“I will be very surprised if we don’t lose him,” Shanahan said. “I don’t know what’s wrong with people if they don’t hire him. I mean he’s as good as you can get. He knows more about football, all three phases. And he’s going to hire the best staff. He knows about players he knows who knows what they’re talking about, who doesn’t know what they’re talking about. He also knows how to deal with people, so I hope everyone’s not very smart and doesn’t hire him, so I can keep him, but I’m expecting not to have him.”
Shanahan mentioned the 49ers “have got a lot of other good guys on our staff” that he intimated could replace Saleh, as well as the likely external options like Atlanta’s Raheem Morris. If/when Saleh does leave, San Francisco will be compensated with 2021 and 2022 third-round picks, due to the NFL’s new rules on diversity hiring. Currently, the team has no third-round picks in this year’s draft.