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Murph: Time for Kyle Shanahan to prove he’s worthy of the trucker hat

© Darren Yamashita | 2021 Oct 3

It’s time for Kyle Shanahan to show us he’s worthy of the trucker hat.

Not that the trucker hat has any magical powers. It’s just that it’s Shanahan’s look. And if you’re going to have a look, it’s good to back up the look with some substance.

In other words, you never want to be the guy of whom they say: “Big hat, no cattle” — which parenthetically has always been one my favorite old-school phrases. 

(They had some good ones back then. Shout out my Mom expressing her dismay with someone by urging them to “go fly a kite”.)

Especially since the 2019 season, when he brought the 49ers to the Super Bowl, I have operated under the belief that Kyle Shanahan is the right guy for the 49ers head coaching job. I know his detractors cite his overall record with the 49ers (42-45) as less than scintillating, but I prefer to look at the trend, and the trend is arrow-up.

Since 2019, Shanahan’s 49ers have gone 32-23. Judge him by his peers: in that time, Sean McVay’s Rams have gone 34-21, and Pete Carroll’s Seahawks have gone 33-22. In other words, in the past three-plus seasons spanning 55 games, the difference between the 49ers, Seahawks and Rams is a grand total of two games — and that includes Shanahan’s outlier bad 6-10 2020 season.

So he’s more than held his own, and the bold move for Trey Lance — with the jury firmly still out — was the kind of move one makes to play for long-term sustainability.

All that said, the start to the 2022 season has been decidedly blah.

One bad loss (at Chicago) is maybe understandable. Two bad losses (at Denver) is maaaaaaybe excusable given Jimmy Garoppolo’s odd spring/summer training camp and his first start. But three bad losses (at Atlanta) is unacceptable. The 49ers are now in a bind the next two weeks because of these three unsightly stumbles. It’s like a high school kid blowing off homework for a month then having to take a pop quiz final exam out of nowhere — here come the high-flying Chiefs, followed by the revenge-minded Rams. Oof.

A 3-5 start is a very real possibility. 

The eternal optimist will say they started 3-5 a year ago and wound up leading the NFC Championship in the fourth quarter. But the eternal optimist may deserve an atomic wedgie for even trying to spin positive here.

While injuries have of course played a major role in the 49ers’ uninspiring 3-3 start, so, too, have some of Shanahan’s tactics — as I was just saying before I nodded off during the 49ers’ eight-minute 4th quarter drive on Sunday in Atlanta, down by 14. Shanahan attacked that drive with the urgency of an old Southern couple on the porch on a hot summer evening, sipping lemonade in rocking chairs. 

His run game has not worked this year — the usually dominant ground corps is tied-14th in the league in yards per carry. Shanahan and the front office can be accused of neglecting some key positions — center and right guard, primarily, and are paying the price.

The passing game, never believed to be an aerial circus with Jimmy G as a game manager, is 21st in the NFL in yards. Deebo Samuel, who scared the bejesus out of us with his off-season trade request, is a surprisingly quiet 29th in the NFL in receiving yards. George Kittle missed the first two games of the season, but in his four starts, has only gone north of 50 yards receiving once — and has not caught a TD.

Yes, players play and coaches coach, and generally, down to Pop Warner level, the team with the best players wins. So it’s not all Shanahan’s fault, as I was just saying to Ray-Ray McCloud’s drop, Charlie Woerner’s drop and Jake Brendel’s holding penalty.

But most would concur the 49ers have enough good players to be better than 3-3. It’s been a disappointment.

Time for Kyle to dial up a few “Trucker Hat Beauties” on Sunday. He needs to be at his best, because his best is needed.


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