Kyle Shanahan tends to let John Lynch do the talking at news conferences like the one the 49ers had a week ago to announce Jimmy Garoppolo’s five-year contract.
Lynch, the team’s general manager, opened the session with a 925-word introduction. Shanahan went next with 145 words. “John pretty much wrapped it all up,” the coach said. “He always says it much better than I would.”
Shanahan mostly was clipped and subdued the rest of the way. However, he perked up toward the end when asked – with Garoppolo in place for 2018 – whether the 49ers should be expected to make the playoffs.
“No, absolutely not,” he began, his voice gaining timbre as he sat up in his seat closer to the microphone.
“There is no quick answer for anybody,” he continued. “All the favorites very rarely win it, and sometimes people think those that aren’t going to win anything surprise the heck out of everybody. This league is so balanced, so competitive, it is so hard to win in this league that you never go into a year saying, ‘All right, we’re good, we’re in the playoffs.’ You have to earn everything you get, and if you think anything differently, you will be humbled and embarrassed very quickly in this league. That’s why I’m ready to go to work.”
It was Shanahan’s longest response of the news conference and one he obviously was ready – and eager – to give. Keeping expectations in check likely will be one of his biggest tasks when the season begins.
The NFL calendar serves as its own hype machine, its own expectation puffer-upper. For most teams, the last game comes in December. They add expensive new components in March through free agency, a bunch of hotshot rookies in April, then from May to August there are intra-squad practices in which someone – offense or defense – looks really sharp.
By the time September rolls around, even the fans of two-win teams who were irate eight months earlier are optimistic. Call me crazy, but I think we have a real shot this year! We’re going to surprise some people!
Shanahan has the added onus of having won his final five games in 2017 – San Francisco’s December to remember – as well as a big February story, Garoppolo’s contract, which escalated the franchise into its offseason of optimism.
That’s why Shanahan jumped at the opportunity to begin tamping down expectations; he’s the team’s anti-hype man.
Shanahan had to be pleased to hear center Daniel Kilgore’s comments when asked about the 49ers being a possible playoff, even a Super Bowl, contender.
“I try not to keep up with all that,” Kilgore said. “But I see the picks and the dark-horse comments and this stuff. Listen, this is the National Football League. You’ve got to take it day to day, week by week.
“I don’t want to say we’re going to be a playoff-contending team or a Super Bowl-winning team. I will say this: You will have a team that’s going to work its ass off leading up to then.”
That’s music to his coach’s ears.