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).”