2022 a big year for 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan

The 2022 season could mark a turning point in the career of 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan.

Shanahan is already known as an offensive mastermind who helps elevate offenses to a high level even without a top-end quarterback. Now he has a chance to make his mark on the league with one of the athletic, big-armed quarterbacks that have become something of a requirement for Super Bowl contention (word to Tom Brady).

This is the first time Shanahan will go into a year with a quarterback he hand-picked with a top pick in the NFL draft. Trey Lance is inexperienced, but he brings a skill set to the table that none of Shanahan’s past signal callers have. There’s a chance the 2022 season is Year 1 of a long, successful QB-coach marriage.

And that’s really what Shanahan’s missing from his resumé. He’s yet to have the quarterback he can hitch his wagon to long-term. Bill Walsh had Joe Montana. Bill Belichick had Tom Brady. Andy Reid had Donovan McNabb and then Patrick Mahomes. Sean Payton had Drew Brees. Now Shanahan has a chance to launch himself into that stratosphere.

There are some issues with fourth-down play-calling and overall lack of aggressiveness that have hurt Shanahan during his tenure with the 49ers. Perhaps those continue to be problematic with Lance. Having an elite quarterback to make plays in those situations though could change some of Shanahan’s play-calling tendencies in tight spots. That would also go a long way toward elevating him in the hierarchy of his peers.

There’s also the winning problem. Winning matters, and not having a Super Bowl is a knock on Shanahan’s record, especially given the team’s fourth quarter collapse against the Chiefs in Super Bowl LIV. Shanahan signed off on moving three first-round picks for Lance in hopes that he develops into a player that acts as a better safety net against those late-game collapses.

Of course, this turning point could go the other way. As high as the ceiling is for the ShanaLance 49ers, the floor looks something like rock bottom.

If Shanahan mortgaged his team’s future to pick a player No. 3 overall, and then he can’t make that player great, it would go down as a pretty significant knock against his coaching record. Even if Lance is just okay it won’t look great. If he’s not good at all, then there’ll be a new set of questions about Shanahan as a coach and player evaluator.

However it plays out, the 2022 season matters more for Shanahan than any season ever has, and the next two or three years will set a course for his coaching career and the future of the 49ers’ entire franchise.


Story originally appeared on Niners Wire