What does 2-10 record say about Shanahan?

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SANTA CLARA — Can Kyle Shanahan defend the job he has done with 49ers?

The 49ers’ season will end three weeks from Sunday. Their record is 2-10. They won’t make the playoffs, haven’t improved and may even have gotten worse recently. They suffered back-to-back blowout losses the past two weeks.

“I don’t like to grade myself,” Shanahan said Monday, the day after the Seattle Seahawks hammered the 49ers 43-16.

“You look at our record,” Shanahan continued, “we’re all extremely disappointed in that. Always feel like we should win more games than we have. But I’m still going to come to work every day and be the same person. I do as well as I can, work as hard as I can. I take the situation we have and try to get the most out of our players.”

No one questions Shanahan’s work ethic. But the NFL isn’t a work-ethic-based business. It’s a production-based business. Has he produced? Has he gotten the most of out of his available players?

Certainly, two important players aren’t available: Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo and running back Jerick McKinnon. McKinnon tore his ACL before the season, and Garoppolo tore his ACL Week 3 during a 38-27 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs. Those season-ending injuries hurt the 49ers, big time.

But Shanahan still has most of the team’s other key players.

He has two running backs who have gained at least 130 yards from scrimmage in a game this season (Matt Breida and Jeff Wilson), a running back who ranks 13th in rushing yards and third in yards per carry (Breida), a tight end who ranks third in receiving yards at his position (George Kittle), a rookie wide receiver averaging 19.6 yards per catch (Dante Pettis), the highest-paid fullback of all time (Kyle Juszczyk), the second-highest-paid center in the NFL (Weston Richburg) and three offensive linemen who were first-round draft picks (Joe Staley, Laken Tomlinson and Mike McGlinchey).

Plus, one defensive tackle with nine sacks (DeForest Buckner), the 13th-highest-paid inside linebacker in the NFL (Malcolm Smith), a rookie inside linebacker who ranks 16th in tackles (Fred Warner), a second-round pick at strong safety (Jaquiski Tartt), a Pro Bowl cornerback (Richard Sherman) and a backup quarterback (Nick Mullens) whose passer rating after four starts is a solid 91.5.

Despite all of those talented 49ers, their offense ranks just 21st out of 32 teams in points scored, their defense has given up the fourth-most points in the league and their record is 1-8 without Garoppolo.

Still, this dismal season apparently doesn’t concern Shanahan. He remains confident about his long-term plan for the franchise.

“We finished 6-10 last year,” Shanahan said. “I would love to be improving. We came in this year with a franchise quarterback, and we lost him early in the season, which definitely makes things much harder. I think we came here knowing it was going to take some time.

“The way we finished last year definitely accelerates everyone’s (expectations), but by no means did I think this year would be easy. I knew it was going to be extremely hard, and the way it started off definitely made it a lot harder. But just because our record isn’t better than it was last year, that doesn’t change how I feel (about the future).”

Shanahan’s record as head coach of the 49ers is 8-20. For a comparison, Bill Walsh’s record was 8-24 his first two seasons with the 49ers. So, Shanahan may have hope.

But in terms of record, Walsh’s teams improved. They won two games in 1979, six games in 1980 and 13 games in 1981 and won the Super Bowl. Allowing for extenuating circumstances, Shanahan’s teams still have regressed. So far, his résumé with the 49ers more closely mirrors Dennis Erickson’s brief stint as their head coach, rather than the beginning of Walsh’s tenure.

Erickson’s record in 2003 was 7-9. In 2004, he lost his franchise quarterback (Jeff Garcia), who signed with the Cleveland Browns after the 49ers released him, plus franchise wide receiver Terrell Owens, who went to the Philadelphia Eagles in a trade during the offseason. Without those two players, Erickson’s record in 2004 fell to 2-14, the 49ers lost by 19.3 points per game the final three weeks of the season and the front office fired Erickson. He didn’t get another chance to coach the 49ers.

Shanahan’s 49ers have lost by 22.5 points per game the past two weeks since returning from their bye. Before the bye, he challenged his players to finish the season strong.

So far, they haven’t seemed to respond to his challenge, although Shanahan sees it differently.

“We didn’t play very well,” he explained. “That doesn’t (mean) they didn’t respond to my challenge. Magic words don’t make people different. For me, this year has everything to do with next year. I’m evaluating the heck out of our team, our coaching staff. I want to know who’s going to be a part of helping us turn it around. I think this is a necessary process for where we’re going and some of the tough decisions we have to make going into Year 3.”

Tough decisions, such as the 49ers’ toughest one: Just how does the team evaluate Kyle Shanahan?

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