Kyle Shanahan Faces Many Challenges in San Francisco

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EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - SEPTEMBER 20: Atlanta Falcons offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan looks on during a game against the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium on September 20, 2015 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Alex Goodlett/Getty Images)

The San Francisco 49ers are sure to be interested in the outcome of this weekend’s NFC Championship game. Atlanta Falcons offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan may be coaching his last game with the Falcons and will be moving on to San Francisco. The 49ers have found their next head coach. San Francisco proved to be an undesirable landing spot for many of the head coaching candidates this season. So much so that New England Patriots offensive coordinator and 49ers top choice Josh McDaniels took his name out of contention to stay with New England. Lack of talent is likely a large part in why coaches stray from San Francisco. The 49ers are considered to have one of the weakest rosters in the league. Kyle Shanahan will face many challenges when he takes over in San Francisco. He won’t have the MVP candidate at quarterback that he does in Matt Ryan.

Kyle Shanahan Faces Many Challenges in San Francisco

Quarterback

Matt Ryan is not leaving Atlanta to follow Shanahan to San Francisco, this we know. Also, Colin Kaepernick is likely to be leaving the team during the off-season. Not that Kaepernick has played well recently. This leaves Blaine Gabbert at the helm, who has already showed he is at the bottom tier of NFL quarterbacks. Unfortunately, this means the 49ers will be eyeing the NFL draft and free agency to fill its most crucial position on the roster.

The free agent market does potentially have few viable options this year. Names such as Tyrod Taylor and Kirk Cousins could at least sustain the position for a few seasons.  They would work well as mentors or a “bridge quarterback” for whoever the team chooses in the draft. The 49ers and Shanahan have the second pick this year and could use that pick to take a quarterback. The team will end up with either Mitch Trubisky out of North Carolina, or Deshaun Watson from National Champion Clemson. Regardless, the 49ers quarterback spot will be an open competition going into camp.

Defense

San Francisco suffered a number of key injuries this season on defense.  So many at linebacker in fact that safety Antoine Bethea was forced to play the position at the end of the season. Linebacker should be another key focus for Shanahan in the draft. Navorro Bowman suffered another crushing injury this season and may never reach his full potential again, if he’s even able to return. Honestly, San Francisco has holes in each position on defense. Cornerback, safety, defensive line could all be improved.

San Francisco finished with the worst rushing defense in the league this year. It will be important for Kyle Shanahan to make a smart hire when choosing a defensive coordinator.  This may prove to be difficult considering many of the defensive coordinator candidates have already found positions with other teams. Shanahan’s loyalty to Atlanta in finishing this season is to be admired. Unfortunately, it will leave him with a scarce group of prospect as coordinators.

Offensive Line

As we have seen with the Dallas Cowboys this season, a good offensive line can help to make an inexperienced quarterback look really good. San Francisco’s offensive line underachieved this season. They allowed 47 sacks, and the offense as a unit only gained a total of 287 first downs. Most teams averaged well over 300 first downs. Though inconsistency and injury played a role, the real issue seamed to be a lack of cohesion. Kyle Shanahan is an offensive minded coach and will surely want to bring in an offensive line coach with experience. Someone who can re-ignite the fire in locker room and bring the line together as a unit. This will be another of Kyle Shanhan’s challenges once he finally reaches San Francisco. Let us hope the young coach is ready to take on a team in turmoil with a real lack of talent.

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