When the 49ers hired Kyle Shanahan as head coach, they believed they were getting one of the best young minds in the NFL.
The former offensive coordinator had just helped the Atlanta Falcons go to the Super Bowl, and Shanahan came with a pedigree of success as an offensive coach and had plenty of people in his corner, touting his skills.
Former NFL quarterback and current NFL television analyst Chris Simms once called Shanahan “the most creative schemer in the game right now, and that’s saying a lot.”
But after two seasons as head coach of the 49ers, Shanahan has endured some rough times. San Francisco went 6-10 in 2017 and 4-12 in 2018.
Yet former Denver Broncos standout running back Terrell Davis, an analyst on the NFL Network, doesn’t believe Shanahan’s star has lost any shine. Davis still believes the 49ers got themselves a terrific coach.
In fact, he believes Shanahan is the closest thing the NFL has to Patriots coach Bill Belichick, who has won six Super Bowls.
“There won’t be another six (Super Bowl) winning coach,” Davis said this week. “But I think the guy that will be closest to that is Kyle Shanahan, the Niners coach right now. I know he’s 10-22 as a coach right now, but he’s been doing a lot with less than any coach in the league.
“He’s young. He’s innovative. He’s a leader. He’ll be there for a long time, and he’ll get that team turned around. And he’ll win some rings. It won’t be six, and it won’t be eight, but he’s the next Bill Belichick.”
This season will probably be much more telling of Shanahan’s talent than the first two. In 2019, Shanahan will have Jimmy Garoppolo and Jerick McKinnon returning from injury, plus the benefit of three draft classes and this year’s veteran free-agent recruits. His players are now completely familiar with his system and coaching staff, and most likely hungry after a disappointing 2018.
If Shanahan is going to fulfill Davis’ assessment, Shanahan’s team needs a productive, winning season in Year 3.
Oh, and Belichick's record as a head coach after two seasons? It was 13-19. He had five losing seasons in his first six as an NFL head coach, with an overall record of 41-55.