The 49ers did this to themselves. Created a mess.
They had opportunities to win each of the past four games and blew them. Now they’re 0-5, and no team that started a season with five consecutive losses has ever made the playoffs.
A series of bad moves led to this dreadful start for the 49ers. In chronological order, here are the five biggest football sins the Niners have committed in 2017.
1. Not hiring an offensive coordinator.
The 49ers first major move of the year was hiring Kyle Shanahan as the head coach.
I’m not knocking the hire. I advocated for it. Shanahan has the chops to coach offense, as he proved last season with the Falcons. He is an excellent offensive coordinator.
That’s why he didn’t hire an offensive coordinator for the 49ers. He made himself the offensive coordinator. This was his first major mistake. Call it Kyle Shanahan’s original sin.
It’s almost impossible to be a good offensive coordinator and a good head coach at the same time. Andy Reid can pull off both, but he has been in the league 1,000 years. Shanahan is a rookie head coach. He should have made things easy on himself. He should have hired an offensive coordinator as rookie head coach Sean McVay did with the Rams. Shanahan should be focusing on one job — being a good head coach.
An offensive coordinator’s duties are extremely time consuming. All the film he has to watch, all the game planning he has to do — those things take all week. A head coach can’t be Polaroid focused on one phase of the team. The head coach is supposed to have Panavision. He’s in charge of the defense and special teams, too. He’s the CEO of the team, not the VP of Offense.
By spreading himself so thin, Shanahan has underperformed at both of his jobs.
2. Assembling a coaching staff devoid of leadership and experience.
Shanahan can draw a clever play on a grease board and explain the play in depth to his players. But can he lead them?
Shanahan never was in a leadership position before this season. He has no leadership experience. He may not be a natural leader. Right now, he’s not Captain Kirk. He’s Spock.
Every team needs Captain Kirk somewhere on its coaching staff. Someone can deliver a message. Someone who can get his point across. Someone who makes tough decisions because he likes making them. Someone who motivates players, scares them if he has to.
That person doesn’t have to be the head coach. An experienced coordinator with a dynamic personality could be Kirk. Think of Wade Philips helping McVay in Los Angeles. But Shanahan didn’t hire an experienced coordinator with a dynamic personality. He hired Robert Saleh, a defensive coordinator who hasn’t been a coordinator before this year. He has no gravitas. Is learning on the job.
Shanahan assembled a staff full of coaches in training.
3. Neglecting the offensive line during the initial offensive overhaul.
After the first two days of free agency, the 49ers had signed seven offensive players: Two quarterbacks (Brian Hoyer and Matt Barkley), three wide receivers (Pierre Garcon, Marquise Goodwin and Aldrick Robinson), one tight end (Logan Paulsen) and one fullback (Kyle Juszczyk).