Bill Walsh is one of the most revered head coaches in NFL history. He led the San Francisco 49ers to three Super Bowl victories and won NFL Coach of the Year twice. Now Kyle Shanahan is being compared to the legendary head coach by one of the players who starred for Walsh during the team’s Golden Age.
Ronnie Lott: Kyle Shanahan is now ‘our version of Bill Walsh’
During a recent interview with SiriusXM NFL Radio, Hall of Fame safety Ronnie Lott discussed the 49ers’ current chances of winning another Super Bowl. He thinks the team is poised to make another run at the Lombardi Trophy, even after losing in February to the Kansas City Chiefs. He also thinks Shanahan is on the same level as Walsh.
“To me, they’re there,” Lott said (h/t NFL.com). “They’re there on the offense and the reason I think that they’re there on the offense is that, and I’ve said this is, Kyle is our version of Bill Walsh. I think he’s one of the most innovative guys in pro football when it comes to offense.”
There is no doubt that Shanahan is one of the league’s best offensive coaches. He was integral to the Atlanta Falcons reaching Super Bowl 51 and now runs a potent offensive machine in San Francisco. However, there’s a big difference between what he’s done in championship games and what Walsh did.
Kyle Shanahan has not yet won a Super Bowl
Famously, Shanahan’s play calling in the second half of Super Bowl 51 contributed to the New England Patriots leading a historic comeback win over the Falcons. The 49ers also blew a lead to the Chiefs in Super Bowl 54.
Walsh, of course, never lost a Super Bowl.
That being said, there are some parallels between how Shanahan’s tenure began in San Francisco and how Walsh started his head coaching career with the 49ers. Both coaches had a rough go of it their first two years, only to reach the title game in Year 3. Now, Shanahan has a team capable of contending for years, just like Walsh.
To that point, Lott believes the 49ers have the ingredients to continue contending for a title.
“They got the ingredients. The questions is that you’re in a division that you’ve got some talent. I remember when John Robinson was coaching the Rams. You’re in a division where there were certain teams you’ve got to beat. Right now they’re in a division where there’s talent, there’s a lot of talent. You’ve got the Rams who went to the Super Bowl. You got Seattle that’s a very talented team and you got the Cardinals who are literally saying, ‘We’re coming after you guys.’ That’s where you gotta look at them and say they’re competing and they’ve got to compete every week. But I gotta believe they’re right there. They’re right there because of what we saw last year.”
Those words echo what Hall of Fame receiver Jerry Rice recently said about the franchise as well. Clearly, 49ers legends are bullish on the team’s chances under Shanahan.
This coach is still just 40 years old. He recently inked a six-year contract extension that makes him one of the NFL’s highest-paid head coaches. The 49ers believe in him. Now it’s time to see if he can lead the team into another Golden Age.