Kyle Shanahan’s first two seasons as head coach were rough.
In 2017, he guided the 49ers to a 6-10 record. That dipped to 4-12 last season. After two years, Shanahan entered this year with a 10-22 career coaching record, and his 49ers teams hardly showed the offensive spark that Shanahan had come to be known for as an offensive coordinator at several stops around the NFL, including the Atlanta Falcons, whom he helped take to the Super Bowl.
But Sunday night, Shanahan’s 49ers could wrap up a terrific regular season by beating the Seahawks in Seattle and claiming the NFC West championship and the top seed in the NFC playoffs.
Shanahan’s team is 12-3 and a bona fide Super Bowl contender. His career coaching record has jumped to 22-25, and the 49ers rank No. 2 in the NFL in team rushing (at 145.1 yards per game) and rank No. 6 in total offense (379.9 yards per game). At 30.2 points per game, the 49ers are the NFL’s second-highest scoring team in the league.
With Jimmy Garoppolo at quarterback, some quick running backs, a revamped wide receiver corps (bolstered by the trade for Emmanuel Sanders), a strong offensive line and perhaps the NFL’s best tight end in George Kittle, Shanahan now has a system in place that could be successful for a long while, as well as a defense with difference-making playmakers such as Nick Bosa, Dee Ford, Richard Sherman and Fred Warner.
Shanahan and general manager John Lynch have built a versatile team that can win an offensive shootout or a defensive slugfest.
Going into Sunday night’s NFC West showdown in Seattle, the 49ers are capable of staying with the Seahawks in any type of game – just as the Seahawks are under Pete Carroll.
As Nick Wagoner of ESPN.com wrote this week of the 49ers: “When the offense has struggled, the defense has been there to pick it up. And as the defense has stumbled toward the end of the season, the offense has usually picked up the slack. It’s the mark of a legitimate contender, the ability to have each other’s backs, never point fingers and find a way to deliver when it matters most.”
Certainly that time comes Sunday night and for every game in the postseason that the 49ers get to play. A victory Sunday will be yet another milestone mark for Shanahan as he helps mold this franchise into an NFC power.
Kickoff for Sunday’s game is set for 5:20 p.m. at CenturyLink Field. Oddsmakers have made the 49ers 3-point favorites.