The San Francisco 49ers are back in the NFC championship game for the fourth time in head coach Kyle Shanahan’s seven-year tenure. That’s quite a feat, but eventually, you’ve got to win the big one. Shanahan is quickly approaching the point where people are going to begin questioning aloud if he can win the Super Bowl. This is why the run these Niners are on currently is so important.
“Kyle Shanahan does not have patience.” – Jared Stillman
That isn’t an exaggeration either. Not only is Shanahan impatient; he can’t afford to be too patient at the quarterback position, heading toward season No. 8 as Niners coach in the fall. Sunday’s NFC title game may not solely fall on Brock Purdy’s shoulders, but there will be times when he’s called on to make a play. If he folds under the pressure and SF loses their third consecutive title game, then he’ll likely be out like Stillman states above.
It’s not a must-win it-all for Shanahan’s Niners, but if they fail again (especially on Sunday), that seat by the Bay could be heating up very soon. The past five years have been super successful for San Francisco. The only thing they haven’t done is hoist Lombardi trophy number six. But they’ve come awfully close and been among the NFL’s final four in each of those years except for one.
So, if the 49ers can’t get it done this postseason, something will need to change. It won’t be Shanahan; not yet. Short of bringing home a Super Bowl victory, he’s been one of the best coaches in the league, especially in the past three years. Even when they’ve had questions at the quarterback position, Shanahan and his troops managed to stay relevant in late January.
Shanahan on the hot seat?
If the Niners can’t get it done this year there’s certain to at least be talk of him making a change under center. Despite Purdy’s stellar performance in only his second season and being in the running for MVP most of the year, many see him as a game manager. That was the knock-on Jimmy Garoppolo during his time in SF — although he did win a lot of games.
Jimmy G’s limitations were at the forefront when the Niners faced the Chiefs in Super Bowl LIV. That game slipped away partially due to Garoppolo not making a play in the fourth quarter. When circumstances were perfect, Garoppolo was fine, but whenever he was nudged off his square just a bit, the moment became too big. That’s the fear most have in the back of their minds with Purdy. As the moments get bigger, will Purdy be able to answer the call or will he fold like the lawn chair Jimmy G often impersonated?
Purdy’s four-interception game against Baltimore on Christmas stands out the most. In three of the Niners’ four losses in the regular season, Purdy had multiple passes picked off. Following a third straight loss in October, SF got back on track — winning their next six until running into the Ravens. Hopefully, the 49ers learned a lot from that loss as a rematch could be ahead if they make it past the Lions.
But this is a huge game for Shanahan because there’s growing pressure on him to get over the hump. The 49ers are one of only four franchises with five Super Bowls. It’s been almost 30 years since San Francisco last won it, although they’ve appeared in two since. However, the goal isn’t to get there, it’s to win it. A couple more second-place (or worse) finishes and it could be time for coach and management to sit down and have a tough conversation. We’re not there just yet but Shanahan and the Niners need to break through.