Kyle Shanahan will get a look at just how tough and resilient his young 49ers team is in coming weeks at it goes on a rare three-game regular-season road trip.
The itinerary includes games at Arizona, Indianapolis and Washington and — the 49ers will return home following each stop — covers 9,920 miles total. To put that in perspective, six NFL teams will travel less all season, including the Pittsburgh Steelers, whose 6,694 total miles is the fewest in the league, according to the NFL.
The 49ers rank ninth in total miles this season with 24,092. After they return from Washington, their only game in the eastern time zone is Oct. 29 in Philadelphia. They won’t step on a team plane during the month of November: They have three home games in a row and a bye week.
Though the 49ers haven’t had a three-game trip since 2005, those hauls used to be more common. San Francisco had four such stretches between 1980 and 1991, including the start of the 1989 season in which they began 3-0.
The 49ers also went on the road three consecutive weeks during the 2013 playoffs and won all but the NFC Championship game in Seattle.
The Falcons, Bengals, Vikings, Patriots and Buccaneers all have three-game road trips this season. The Vikings’ three-game itinerary — at Detroit, at Atlanta, at Carolina — is the longest of that group at 4,722 miles and it isn’t half of the 49ers’ mileage.
Road games are where past 49ers teams have shown their mettle. Shanahan’s biggest priority this season — more than wins and losses — is re-establishing a tough, gritty culture in the 49ers locker room.
Whether it was signing receiver Pierre Garcon in free agency or drafting defensive lineman Solomon Thomas in the first round or even retaining one tight end, Garrett Celek, and trading another, Vance McDonald, most of the moves the 49ers have made in 2017 were done with fortitude and resolve in mind.
The 49ers have yet to win a game and they have hurt themselves with mistakes and turnovers. But Shanahan has been content with his players’ tenacity so far.
“I told them, ‘When you’re 0-3 and you’re facing some adversity, you either get better or worse,’” he said after Thursday’s loss to the Rams. “If you have mentally strong people, I believe we can get better from all this stuff and I believe we do have the right guys in that room. I don’t really care about the record right now. I care about how guys are responding to it.”