How 49ers' unique locker room culture starts at top with Kyle Shanahan

Jennifer Lee Chan
NBC Sports BayArea

SANTA CLARA -- The 49ers have something special brewing in their locker room, but it really starts at the top with the way coach Kyle Shanahan holds himself accountable. 

When watching 49ers games, you won't see frustrated players yelling at each other, or throwing helmets on the sidelines after coming off the field following a bad play or drive. The coaches don't chew their players out in front of the crowd and television cameras, either.

Instead, players and coaches alike show plenty of positivity on the 49ers' sideline, pumping each other up after both huge plays and mistakes. 

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It's not that there isn't tough love, because there is plenty. Just ask wide receiver Kendrick Bourne. Fellow wideout Deebo Samuel noted players are harder on themselves than a coach would ever be, and that's because Shanahan is so hard on himself. 

Shanahan can vividly recall the calls he wanted back from the Atlanta Falcons' Super Bowl LI loss to the New England Patriots. The missteps ate at him in the aftermath of that defeat, and he sees the same mentality from his players. 

"Yeah, I mean you've got to diffuse guys," Shanahan said Monday. "Everyone's sensitive and everyone's trying to do their best, but also everyone makes mistakes. I don't care who you are. Hall of Fame quarterbacks, Hall of Fame coaches, it doesn't matter. No one has gone perfect in this league, and everyone's going to make huge mistakes in front of a lot of people."

The 49ers are one of two teams left standing, and the audience will only get bigger for Super Bowl LIV. The scrutiny has become even more intense, but Shanahan said managing it is all part of the process.  

"That's what sports is about," Shanahan said. "I think athletes go through that. Athletes have a great life. They work hard, they get paid very well and they get to play in a cool game, but they're also going to get judged by everybody in what they do and that's just part of it." 

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Shanahan sets a very high standard for himself and his players alike. He won't hold back from criticism in film sessions, especially if a player misses a block. But, he'll also praise players whose efforts contribute to an explosive play. Those methods have helped offensive stars like Emmanuel Sanders embrace blocking in the running game. 

"You've got to have thick skin," Shanahan said. "You've got to mind not being judged because you're out here, you're good at what you do and you're going to have times that are bad. The more you can call yourself out, the more you can call each other out, the more people take their sensitivity away and say ‘Alright, he's right we all mess up sometimes let's just sit in here and work on getting better.'"

Programming note: NBC Sports Bay Area feeds your hunger for 49ers Super Bowl coverage with special editions of "49ers Central" all week (5:30 p.m. Monday and Wednesday; 8:00 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday; 6:00 p.m. Friday).

How 49ers' unique locker room culture starts at top with Kyle Shanahan originally appeared on NBC Sports Bay Area

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