Time to hold 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan accountable

Kyle Shanahan needs to be held accountable!

If you have been on social media in recent years, there is a very good chance you have seen this trope more times than you can count.

You may be asking yourself, ‘what are we holding him accountable for?’ That’s a great question, especially when you consider the 49ers have been one of the best teams in the NFL over the last four seasons.

San Francisco has won 63.6 percent of its regular season games since the start of 2019. This puts the 49ers fifth in the NFL and second to only Green Bay in the NFC. In addition, they have reached the Super Bowl and consecutive NFC Championship Games over this period.

Let’s be real for a minute if we can. For those calling to “hold Kyle Shanahan accountable” it isn’t about wins and losses. It’s about not liking the quarterback he’s been winning with, and the belief Shanahan mishandled Trey Lance.

Apart from five weeks at the end of the 2017 season, Jimmy Garoppolo was a constant lightning rod of negativity.

When Garoppolo was healthy the 49ers found success, going 38-17 in his 55 regular season starts. He also helped them reach the Super Bowl and conference championship game. The problem for San Francisco is he couldn’t stay on the field. Injuries limited Garoppolo to just nine games in 2018 and 2020.

Enter Brock Purdy.

The final pick of the 2022 draft stepped in when Garoppolo went down against Miami in week 13 and didn’t lose until an injury in the NFC championship game left him unable to throw.

Despite Purdy’s terrific performance, his detractors spent the offseason picking it apart. Every positive turned into a negative. He doesn’t have enough arm strength. He can’t get bigger. He was playing with Christian McCaffrey and George Kittle.

This was all about doing one thing, putting down Purdy to lift Lance.

Those who argue Lance was mishandled by Shanahan most often point to two things, he should have started as a rookie, and they gave up on him after just four starts.

Kyle Shanahan gave Lance every opportunity to win the starting job during training camp his rookie year. He couldn’t beat out Jimmy Garoppolo. Still, Shanahan tried to get Lance onto the field. First there was an attempt to play both, but veterans and Garoppolo pushed back, and it was scrapped.

The door opened again for Lance to take over the job after Garoppolo went down with an injury in week four against Seattle. A knee injury in his first start put Lance on the shelf and forced the 49ers to rush Garoppolo back to face Indianapolis two weeks later.

Lance getting just four starts has everything to do with injuries. The 49ers were ready to ride with Lance for 2022. If he had not gone down for the season with an ankle injury the plan was for him to get 17 starts. Those would have been on top of starts missed during his rookie season due to injury.

Kyle Shanahan and John Lynch are set to move forward with Brock Purdy as their starting quarterback. They believe he has what it takes to lead them to their first Super Bowl.

On Friday they pulled the plug on Trey Lance’s time in San Francisco, sending him to the Dallas Cowboys in exchange for a 2024 pick.

Was the trade up to three in 2021 a mistake? Absolutely. It is the worst draft trade in 49ers history.

The NFL is about wins and losses, not draft picks. While Shanahan missed on the pick, he is still winning which is packing Levi’s Stadium and lining Jed York’s pockets. If things don’t work out with Purdy and the 49ers fail to win, you can bet Shanahan will be held accountable by York.

Until then, enjoy all the winning.

This article has 73 Comments

  1. We’ve been hearing the “talkers” continue to refer to Kyle Shanahan as a “genius” for several years, but when you look at his record, he’s barely over “500”.
    At what point does the “genius” part kick in?

    1. It kicked in, after Chip Kelly was fired for going 2-14.
      Shanahan and Lynch took a dumpster fire roster and made it an NFL powerhouse in a few years.
      Have they missed out on high draft picks? Yes! There’s no debate on this.
      Is this a Superbowl contending team? Yes!
      This is another form of genius, imo.

      1. High draft picks means low record. Top teams rarely get top picks.
        His first 4 years….
        Not exactly burning the toast is it?

    2. Im sorry Jack but can you tell me when was the last time you had a meaningful post before he got there. If I am not mistaking, we played in 3 championship games and a SB, and if we didnt have broken QB’s there would be no questions that we would have seen our 2nd.

      Telling us to hold a coach accountable for not WINNING A SB is a bit overkill. Lets try to limit the negative commentary. I have complete faith in Kyle, and if you think bringing in someone else is a smart idea, I recommend you retire from being an analyst. No coach has had to deal with the amount of bad luck he has. How about you judge his abilities of coaching when he actually has a QB who can finish a season. Be careful what you wish for, because the Eagle had the same stupid A** accountability standard for Andy Reid. Doug Peterson, and How about the Saints and Shawn Payton. Point is Good coaches are not that common as you think.

        1. Lance was the worst pick ever. He only played a few games in college and did not deserve the millions he got. Purdy is getting what… About 1 mil a year for three years. Give the boy a raise. If he stays healthy he is going to smoke Brady records. Go Niners.!

    3. Tim,
      He took over the worst roster in the league in 2017. It took only 2 years to rebuild the team. Since then the team has had great success. But off course you already knew this but just choose to ignore the facts.

    4. U call him a genius by far. U know who was a genius Bill Walsh look at his record. To me he didn’t give Trey a chance.

  2. Agreed. I think a big part of this draft “miss” was the risk and consequences. It was a high risk/high reward move, but that is the nature of the business. Because of the surprise of Purdy and other draft picks, the consequences weren’t that high.

    So…the 49ers had a blend of bad luck…and good luck.

  3. Agreed….except for one thing. I think there will never ever be a worse trade in 49ers history than them trading Charles Haley within the same conference to the Dallas Cowboys. That put the Cowboys over the top and made the Cowboys win three Super Bowls by giving them a Hall of Fame pass rusher.

  4. Tim, KS won the 5th most games in the last 4 years…….with JG, a qb most consider average at best!!!! The 4 teams above us GB, KC and bills?……all have Hall of Fame qbs…….hence the genius label.
    You cant win in this league without an absolute stud at qb…….but KS has!!!!!!! GENIUS!

    I was high on Lance…..on his potential. My issue is trading him now, for a small return,,,,after we paid him most of the $$ owed to him.
    I feel like the wise move would have been to wait a while.., ….and make sure either Purdy is , in fact , the man! or that Lance is a bust.

    1. “ .and make sure either Purdy is , in fact , the man! or that Lance is a bust”.
      I think we already know that both of those things are true.

      1. How so? We’ve seen a small sample size from Purdy and what we’ve seen is his absolute ceiling. Trey also hasn’t gotten enough playing time to know what he’ll be. I think the niners 100% moved on too early from Lance. I am not confident in the least with Darnold as our #2. It’s a bad move. Dude is ass and been ass. How long before he’s “seeing ghosts out there” again? We better hope Brock not only doesn’t get hurt, but hope he is who we want him to be

    2. Potential…every player that’s drafted has ‘potential’….some have the trifecta..’Potential’, ‘High Ceiling’ and ‘Huge Upside’….when a draft pick gets tagged with all three, it creates a ‘hysteria’ among the fan base…but as we’ve seen numerous times, it takes more than adjectives….media types jump on the bandwagon, concocting narratives meant to further the hysteria….then the reality and speed of the NFL game comes into play…the media bandwagon jumpers (Cohn) get pushed out of shape, because the team doesn’t subscribe to their opinions, and fans who hitched their wagons to the hype, get pissed and resort to calling for the firing of the HC and GM….without ever setting for on the practice field, sitting in the meeting room or attending position drills and workouts…the 49ers are a business, and hire professionals to make personnel decisions, based on what they’ve seen and believe is best for the team and business going foreword….

  5. Bravo Jack. Finally someone speaks up with some common sense besides Lombardi.

    The 49ers coverage has become insufferable with personal biases overriding what is actually happening and it’s getting worse with all the Cohn inspired youtubers spitting out the same garbage he does.

    Shanahan made a mistake trading up to draft a kid who needed a lot of development when he needed someone who could be ready to roll by year two. Big mistake. He owned it. They’ve also made other mistakes like not drafting a QB in year one and selecting Solomon Thomas. Every team makes them and the 49ers are no different.

    The difference is that the mistakes have not cost the team on the field for the most part. They have drafted as well as any team in the league overall and 3 NFCCG’s in 4 years attests to that. Everybody liked Lance, but he was not mishandled, mistreated or bullied in the school yard. He got injured and missed a lot of time which killed his development. They likely would have treated year 3 just like year 2 with him if Purdy hadn’t done what he did but it happened and Lance was pushed down the depth chart. That’s football unfortunately. Things change quickly in this league.

    For anyone to suggest he is on the hotseat is flat out wrong. He has, along with a great scouting dept, turned this team into a perennial contender. You don’t fire somebody because you are butt hurt about the way things ended with your favorite player. Sorry.

    1. “You don’t fire somebody because you are butt hurt about the way things ended with your favorite player. Sorry.”


  6. The problem here is using the word genius. KS is not a genius and as far as I know he has never called himself a genius. A coaching genius is one who changed the game. As far as i’m concerned there has been 3 true coaching geniuses those are Paul Brown, Bill Walsh and Don Coryell. Those 3 coaches changed the game. After that you have coaches who were great IE Lombardi/ Belichick/Parcells/Landry/Shula and a few others. Shanahan is I believe a top 5 current coach and the chances of the 49ers firing him and getting as good or better of a coach is slim to none.

      1. Yes it is hard to disagree with what OC says. But genius or not, Kyle continues to dominate the offense on a team that relies very heavily on defense to win. I doubt that will change any time soon despite having a lot of talent on offense. We’ll see how things work out but it is interesting that Wilks will be calling defense from upstairs just like so many others (offense and defense) have done eventually. Although he is not alone I think it is a mistake for Kyle to not delegate that responsibility to someone upstairs while keeping some form of oversight like Walsh and Harbaugh did. As HC, managing the game and your staff is a difficult enough task and having to call all of the offensive plays from the sidelines is not the best strategy. In business there is an old saying: One Oh $hit is worth a thousand Attaboys. IMO Kyle has too many Oh $hits

  7. Your take is so stupid you left the part that Trey Lance finger wasn’t right and it was difficult for Kyle to call plays and was ruining Kyle play calling. Oh Yah Trey’s finger was a factor and couldn’t hold the ball right. He became a QB1 last year and got hurt after 1 game and 2 series and out for the year. Brock Purdy run with his opportunity and became QB1 since he earned. This year he couldn’t win the QB2 against Sam Darnold. In other words, Trey wasn’t good enough. He was a liability and simply a backup QB3. I gave Kyle a big prop for trading Trey when they did. That’s the truth! Stop being a fan and act like a real journalist.

  8. Kyle Shanahan has all of the offensive genius of Bill Walsh without any of the talent evaluation skills at the QB position. Kyle is on the precipice of being the greatest coach of all time to never win a Superbowl. Firing Kyle Shanahan would be idiotic. He’s a great coach. He’s not a great QB talent evaluator. The way you hold Kyle Shanahan accountable is not by firing him. The way you hold Kyle Shanahan accountable is by changing the organizational structure in such a way that you force Kyle to work with a GM who has more control of roster decisions and a better track record of identifying QB talent.

    1. The Niners have been able to assemble one of the best rosters in the league which clearly means they are doing it right. It’s a collaborative effort between the personnel department and the coaching staff. Yes, John and Kyle make the final decisions but with lots of input. This system is clearly the best system, and what was missing under the Baalke era when he was drafting people that didn’t fit the system the coach was running. There is nothing wrong with the way John and Kyle draft. Did they or just Kyle miss on Trey? Of course, but look at all the other teams that miss on Quarterbacks. In any successful organization, mistakes are made and they learn from them.

      1. It’s no secret the 49ers have been terrible at selecting QBs since Shanahan was hired.

        Brian Hoyer
        CJ Beathard
        Jimmy Garoppolo
        Nick Mullens
        Trey Lance
        Brock Purdy
        Josh Johnson

        What success rate do you give those QB selections? There are some real stinkers in that group.

        1. Brian Hoyer, CJ and Nick were all backup quality quarterbacks and Kyle new this but who else was available on the free agent market you would have preferred? He wasn’t looking for a top QB because he had bigger needs and he had a plan to get Kirk Cousins the next year. Garoppolo is a very good QB and they won a lot of games with him. He was offered for a 2nd rd pick and was a huge improvement over the 3 named above. It was a great decision to make that trade. They moved on later because of his injury history. Josh Johnson was brought in at the end of the season due to injuries. He was the best available at the time of need.
          That leaves Trey and Purdy. One was a big mistake and the other was a huge win. That’s football and it happens to every team. Nobody is perfect but the Niners are more prefect than most teams.

  9. I’m sorry but this blog post reads like a “filler article.”

    You know, the kind writers push when there’s nothing to talk about. You go and grab some random argument from the past and push a point/counterpoint analysis.

    In reality, this is not a legitimate topic being debated right now. Few are questioning Kyle’s accountability at this point in his head coaching career.

    Let’s stick to some real analysis. I really enjoy when you break plays down. Perhaps take some moments in the playoff games from last year and look at Kyle’s play calling and the team’s execution (good/bad)?

    Filler material is okay if it is genuine. This reads like content I generally see from lazy media personnel when nothing’s going on. When there’s nothing going on, some writers conjure up their own debate for clicks.

    Again, I apologize, but hoping you don’t fall into the typical writer’s rut.

    1. I’m sorry but this blog reply reads like a “filler response.”

      You know, the kind posters push when they have nothing of value to add.

      Filler responses are okay if it is genuine. This reads like a response I generally see from lazy posters when nothing’s going on. When there’s nothing going on, some posters conjure up their own responses for attention.

      Again, I apologize, but hoping you don’t fall into the typical writer’s rut and find something interesting to reply to a post in the future.

        1. I do have something constructive to add but it’s another form of mockery. Exactly how many user names do you post under? 2 for sure.

    2. I totally disagree with you. This a big topic in the fan base and it deserved an article which Jack handled very well. Furthermore, I think we should all be very thankful that Jack hosts this blog. He does a great job and is far superior to his predecessor. In fact, I say we should enjoy having Jack here while we can. He appears to me to be a sports writer on the move up.

      1. Yes we disagree. The headline itself is an indication of the actual purpose of this article. Click bait. And yes, it does remind me of his predecessor. That’s okay, even Maiocco lately has been resorting to these tricks.

        Someone I truly appreciate moving up in the world of 49ers blogging is Jordan Elliott. Climbed the ranks from 49ersWebZone to NinersNation and now has a job at CSN Bay Area. I think he may make the Athletic one day. Have you read his work? Fantastic.

        I appreciate what Jack brings to the table but this is not it. You only need to get a few words in to realize that this is pure filler material.

        1. I will agree that the headline is click bait and I’ve noticed this a few times with his videos.

  10. Jack,

    Great article. I have one small bone to pick. The trade for Trey was definitely a stinker, but not the worst 49ers trade of all time. It is up there, but not the top stinker. The worst trade belongs to 49ers GM Joe Thomas who gave up everything for a broken down O.J. Simpson. The Bills got:

    Five draft picks from the 49ers over a three-year span, a second-rounder and third-rounder in 1978, a first-rounder and a fourth-rounder in 1979, and a second-rounder in 1980.

    The great outcome of this trade was that it got Joe Thomas fired and Bill Walsh hired as coach/GM.

  11. Jack,
    Your artical brought a smile to my lips to hear the hue and cry from the great unwashed.
    Chapeau to you.

  12. Literature and American sports are, it would seem, two different worlds. However, when I started to explore them closer, I found amazing intersections. Stories about sports, its heroes and dramas can be found in literary works. Opening a book or watching a match, I am immersed in captivating stories that connect my love of words and sports. And they, like a daily ritual, give me joy and inspiration.

  13. Solid judgement by Jack. And in the end, lance let the Niners down simply by being what he is and always was: a decent backup QB and a very decent, pleasant young man. Give the locker room credit for understanding that about Lance: nice guy, a good guy, a pleasant guy. But not a reliable starting QB. Player sense which QB’s will take the team and individuals to the next level. Lance was not that guy.

    1. Lance, couldn’t beat out Darnold and as Montana referenced, he was not a good fit in Shanahan’s offense.
      Another factor is that Purdy was an unexpected goldmine that other teams did not pursue.

      Based on Purdy’s level of play last season, I believe that there may only be a handful of QBs who could replace him in this offense.

      1. true. Players on this team seem to signal that in their words and actions. As Kyle said yesterday, the locker room was ok with it. They will miss lance as a person but not, perhaps, as a starting QB.

  14. Thanks Jack. Well said…

    My 2 cents:

    1) Say what you want about him. But all things considered.. While Jimmie Garoppolo may not havd been ‘Mr. Right”, but he was definitely “Mr. Right Now”. He elevated the output from the QB position on the 49ers. I don’t see how the 49ers would have achieved the same success at the hands of Hoyer, Bethards, et al.

    2) Yes, the 49ers whiffed on Trey Lance – I wish him all the best in Dallas. But to their credit, they may have struck gold with Brock Purdy. We’ll all find out together.

    And… Admittedly a bit off the subject.

    3) Had the 49ers prioritized building the O-line similarly to how they did with the D-line, there probably would be an additional Lombardi Trophy at 4900 Marie P. DeBartolo Way.

    Anyway, that’s what I think…

    1. I couldn’t have said better Abe. But we are both swimming against the tide in this setting.

    2. yeah, about # 3 Abe…the link between the OL pass protection and QBs being injured…

      Jack, do you think that KS’ requirement for his O Line to be quick enough for “stretch runs” or outside zone — does this requirement end up limiting the OL when it comes to pass blocking?

      I think it makes getting O linemen that can do both OZ blocking and pass blocking difficult, my example is what Trent Williams costs vs. the other linemen cost…

      I think so – and the injury turmoil we’ve had at the QB position for the last 3 seasons is the evidence I’d submit to you — what say you?

  15. Another day goes by and still no Bosa. I have been saying since the end of last season that Bosa would hold out into the regular season. Even if he signs tomorrow he may not be ready to play week one. If he signs after week one he may not play till week 3 or 4. When he does sign he may be soft tissue injury prone. I have been as sure about this as I am because its a family tradition. If the 9ers think he is bluffing just look at his Bro, Pops and Uncles record. I really hope they prove me wrong and he signs tomorrow.

  16. I’m sure that Bosa will be in good shape when he comes in.
    My concern is that unless he’s been training his body to absorb and give contact, he may be slowed down.
    I agree that he may need a least one week before starting.

  17. Google Trending Reports.
    Nick Bosa signed a 4 year, $33,551,865 contract with the San Francisco 49ers, including a $22,421,356 signing bonus, $33,551,865 guaranteed, and an average annual salary of $8,387,966. In 2023, Bosa will earn a base salary of $17,859,000, while carrying a cap hit of $17,859,000 and a dead cap value of $17,859,000.

    *Note, yet to be verified by 49ers official announcement.

    1. Lol this is the contract Bosa is currently playing under, which ends next year. Not his new deal.

    1. Lombardi is reporting that Nick and the 49ers are still about 4mil apart. Waiting for an official report from the 49ers on Bosa is the best way to go at this point.

      1. 4 mill per season is quite a bit about 16 mill over the length of the contract. If that is true it wouldn’t shock me if he holds out for the 1st month of the season and if that happens it could really change how he feels and plays.

  18. Let’s be real for a minute if we can. For those calling to “hold Kyle Shanahan accountable” it isn’t about wins and losses. It’s about not liking the quarterback he’s been winning with, and the belief Shanahan mishandled Trey Lance.

  19. 4 mill per season is quite a bit about 16 mill over the length of the contract. If that is true it wouldn’t shock me if he holds out for the 1st month of the season and if that happens it could really change how he feels and plays.

      1. Dee,
        I am a betting man and right now there are just too many question marks. I am not betting on them but I am not betting against them either. I know thats a pretty gutless prediction, i’m not feeling very good about them but i’m also not ready to count them out. One thing i’m pretty sure of is if they do win the SB it will be on the back of the offense. imho

        1. If Purdy stays healthy I think we can get there.
          I’m worried about a brittle Kittle, he’s getting older.
          That damn Bosa might just want to hold out, but maybe we just need him fresh at the end of the season.

    1. Just rumors. There are only a few people on each side and I highly doubt any information is leaking.

  20. It’s now more of a possibility that Moody will be available for week 1 in Pittsburgh, but honestly I’m rooting for him to be in recovery mode a little longer and come back week 2 instead.

    That’s because the guy the 49ers signed to the practice squad was actually a fill-in for Pittsburgh and performed admirably out there last year. In his career he has a solid percentage and has some leg too (booted two 59 yarders).

    He’s also kicked in two difficult places (Pittsburgh and Kansas City) where the elements certainly come into play and has had a number of big time kicks in his limited opportunities.

    Honestly I’m not sure why this guy isn’t a #1 K for someone out there- Dallas??

  21. Steelers 21 — Niners 17 in start to the 2023-24 season in which another Super Bowl eludes the hapless and hopeless Kyle Shanahan.

  22. Don’t agree one bit that we should blame Shanahan. Injuries happen. It’s just unfortunate that we are able to be stable at QB. Every QB on the Niners since Shanahan started had their chance. It just didn’t come to fruition for them.

    I feel that this year is different with Purdy at center. There is no way that last year was a mirage for him. I mean, is there ANY last-pick QB that took a team to a the championship round? We’d never know, but if he hadn’t gotten injured, I just feel we are talking about the #7 run.

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