When Kyle Shanahan ended his first season as head coach of the 49ers, players credited him with keeping the team focused and positive even through rough times.
Even going winless over the first nine games didn’t turn the atmosphere negative, said veteran offensive tackle Joe Staley.
“No one was where we wanted to be and the season was kind of not looking very fun, but he was able to stay the course,” Staley told the media. “I think his first head coaching year was very, very impressive because of what he had to go through. It was no success early for him. He was able to build a locker room that was 2-14 the previous year and going through an 0-9 start and still had us believing.”
Of course, the rough start could have shaken Shanahan and caused him to question what he was doing. But he said he was able to keep on track in part because of the support he got from the players, his coaches and those above him.
That, he said, was a key to keeping his focus and keeping a positive attitude in the locker room. Then, when Jimmy Garoppolo arrived to take over at quarterback, those positives – and better quarterback play – allowed the team to grow and finish with a five-game winning streak and a 6-10 record that at midseason would have seemed preposterous.
Now Shanahan can look back and see that both he and the team learned a lot in 2017.
“Starting 0-9 here was tough,” Shanahan told Nick Wagoner of ESPN.com. “Especially being a first-year head coach, going through that, coming into a building every day, knowing how hard everyone is working and coming up just short each week.
“I think one of the things that helped me get through that time was how (GM) John (Lynch) handled it every day, how (owner) Jed (York) handled it every day. They never seemed to lose confidence. I think I can stay pretty confident if I know people around me are confident in me.
“It was pretty cool to have them around where they didn’t waver. They acted like the same people I’ve always seen and made me respect them a lot more.”
What Lynch saw in 2017 made him more convinced that Shanahan was the right man for the job of coaching the 49ers back to being a winning team.
As the team begins work toward 2018, Lynch is Shanahan’s biggest fan and confident the Niners will take more steps forward in Year No. 2.
Said Lynch: “I couldn’t be more impressed.”