Kyle Shanahan, not surprisingly, is very excited about his new gig as a rookie head coach of the San Francisco 49ers. He’s landed a dream job coaching one of the truly legendary teams of the Super Bowl-era NFL and has a chance to help turn the recently embattled franchise into a winner once again.
Expectations aren’t very high for this team, however, heading into the 2017. Nationally, most pundits peg this as a four-to-five win team, or worse. And that’s a fair assumption. While the 49ers do possess some exciting talent, especially on the defensive side of the ball, they still don’t have many receivers and don’t have a franchise quarterback — the biggest missing piece.
Despite all that, Shanahan thinks the 49ers will do better than people think, which he conveyed on “The 49ers Insider Podcast“ NBCSportsBayArea.com.
“I feel confident with our guys,” Shanahan said. “We got some guys who compete. Collectively, we have a smart group of people who can all play together. And I think we’ll be able to surprise some people. But the biggest thing that always comes into (play) is injuries.”
Injuries haven’t hit the 49ers as hard as other teams around the league. But already they’ve experienced the bite of losing starters. Linebacker Malcolm Smith and offensive guard Joshua Garnett have both been ruled out indefinitely — Smith for the season with a torn pectoral and Garnett potentially out for the season with a knee injury. The injury to Garnett is more problematic, as the 49ers aren’t as deep on the offensive line as they’d like to be.
In Smith’s stead, however, rookie Reuben Foster is going to be an instant impact player and might have beaten out Smith in the first place.
Brian Hoyer will be the person who likely has the biggest impact on wins and losses this year. The veteran journeyman quarterback knows Shanahan’s system and can deliver the ball on time. But he’s a journeyman for a reason and isn’t the long-term answer.
Shanahan is confident in his guys. He thinks they’ll surprise people. And he can count us among those people who’ll potentially be on that list, because if the 49ers win more than five games, we’ll be surprised.