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SANTA CLARA

It was supposed to be a press conference to introduce the new players the 49ers signed as free agents. But it really was a press conference for the new players to introduce and vouch for the 49ers new head coach — Kyle Shanahan.

The players were the chorus in a Greek play called “Shanahan Rex.”

The coach sat in the middle of a long table on the stage of the 49ers auditorium. To Shanahan’s right — wide receiver Pierre Garcon, wide receiver Marquise Goodwin, kicker Robbie Gould and quarterback Brian Hoyer. To Shanahan’s left — linebacker Malcolm Smith, tight end Logan Paulsen, fullback Kyle Juszczyk and general manager John Lynch.

Lynch spoke first and introduced the chorus of players to the audience. Then Shanahan spoke. Then the chorus took the spotlight.

One by one, each player sang praises for the main character of the play. Explained why they like him and why others will, too.

“When you get to spend as much time with someone as he and I did,” Hoyer said, “it’s several hours a day for months on end, you get to know them as a person. You get to know them as a coach. And then, for me to see him go on and flourish in Atlanta just confirmed everything I knew about him.”

Paulsen spoke next.

“I can’t honestly say enough positive things about Kyle Shanahan. I think the way he approaches the game, the way he approaches his preparation — I mean, obviously he’s in this position because he’s a special coach and he’s a special person. I count myself very privileged to play for him again.”

Then Juszczyk spoke.

“When I was going through this process and trying to figure out where I wanted to play and San Francisco was on the table, I reached out to a couple players that I had played with and knew my style and had played with coach Shanahan here. They all just had outstanding reviews about his offense and told me how well I would fit in to what we’re trying to do here.”

You get the picture. This was Act I.

After 25 minutes, the play broke for intermission and the players moved to the 49ers locker room. This is where Act II took place.

Each new player stood in front of his locker and answered questions. I went to Garcon.

“What was the sales pitch to get you to sign here?” one reporter asked.

“Kyle Shanahan,” Garcon said as he laughed. “That’s it. Kyle Shanahan was the sales pitch. That’s what brought me here.”

“You played for him when he was an offensive coordinator,” I said. “This is his first year as a head coach. Why do you think he’ll succeed in this role?”

“He understands the player’s point of view,” Garcon said. “He’s a young guy. He understands the new culture. He understands how to get everybody involved. He understands how to win. Players will definitely love him. People will love him. He’s a good guy.”

Garcon is Shanahan’s ally. I looked around the locker room and realized all these new players are Shanahan’s allies. That’s why they’re here.

Four of the seven in the room — one receiver, one running back, one tight end and one quarterback — played previously for Shanahan. These players are Shanahan’s advocates, Shanahan’s lobbyists. They will justify his methods, his disciplines, his leadership style, his personality to the players who don’t know him, i.e. the rest of the team. They will indoctrinate teammates to believe in Shanahan.

Shanahan needs these lobbyists. He’s a first-time head coach — he doesn’t have the chops that Jim Harbaugh had when he came to the 49ers. Players knew Harbaugh was a good head coach from his days at Stanford and were excited to play for him. His record spoke for itself.

Shanahan has chops only as an offensive coordinator, and he’s an excellent one. But a lot of excellent coordinators failed their first time as head coaches.

Josh McDaniels failed with the Broncos. Bill Belichick failed with the Browns. Pete Carroll failed with the Jets and then with the Patriots. Norv Turner failed everywhere he went. And Mike Shanahan, Kyle’s dad, failed with the Raiders.

Kyle Shanahan will fail with the 49ers if the players reject him, if they label him a novice who only knows offense, a young coach who isn’t a leader of men.

Before Shanahan can win a single game, he must win the locker room. That’s how the NFL works, especially for a coach who never was an NFL player. These players the 49ers signed in free agency will help him win the locker room. These players will balance any negative feelings toward Shanahan other players may have in the future and prevent an all-out mutiny, if the season goes badly — it almost surely will.

These signings were strategic. Shanahan is shrewd for making them. He may be a head coach after all.

Grant Cohn writes sports columns and the “Inside the 49ers” blog for The Press Democrat’s website. You can reach him at grantcohn@gmail.com.