On one hand, 49ers second-year coach Kyle Shanahan is upset his team is teetering on irrelevancy just six weeks into the season. On the other, he’s optimistic San Francisco is better than its 1-4 record indicates, even with Jimmy Garoppolo out for the year with a knee injury.
“The way we finished (2017), I totally expect people to be more frustrated because I think people did have higher expectations going into this year,” Shanahan said this week.
Shanahan doesn’t believe the season is lost, which he made evident by his message to his team after losing three straight games.
“I think we’ve played in two games now without Jimmy and I think we have been more than capable of winning both of those games and we haven’t gotten it done,” he said. “So, you try to look at that and you just try to say to the players, ‘Why did we lose those games? What did we do good and what did we do bad?’ I think there’s lots of answers in there of what we could have done better to win. That’s really all you can focus on.”
Shanahan is right — both games since C.J. Beathard replaced Garoppolo were winnable. San Francisco lost 29-27 to the Chargers in Los Angeles after yielding a 56-yard punt return that led to a field goal just before halftime — and tight end Garrett Celek dropped a pass near the goal line that was intercepted and taken 86 yards the other way, also leading to a field goal.
The 49ers were defeated in embarrassing fashion to the winless Arizona Cardinals on Sunday thanks to losing the turnover battle, 5-0, despite outgaining Arizona by 227 yards, getting 23 more first downs and Beathard throwing for a career-best 349 yards.
The loss tied San Francisco with five teams — the Cardinals, New York Giants, Raiders, Indianapolis Colts and Atlanta Falcons — for the worst record in the NFL. The 49ers are likely to have a top-10 draft pick for a fourth-straight year, a streak the franchise hasn’t seen since 1961-64.
Predictably, the chatter surrounding the team has gone from playoff optimism entering the campaign to an all-too-familiar disappointment, which Shanahan said is difficult to tune out.
“It’s different in this day and age where you hear everything,” he said. “It’s hard to simplify your world. With social media, when guys go home, even if they don’t listen to things, their wives do. Their girlfriends do. Their brothers do. That’s the world we live in.
“So when you go through that stuff and you don’t meet outside expectations, it starts to affect you. I just try to constantly preach to our guys to be stronger than that, to try to not pay attention to that. Because, that’s not going to help you solve any problems. That’s part of what we do, that’s part of what we signed up for and we expect it.”
The 49ers’ struggles will be under the microscope on the national stage Monday night. They travel to play Aaron Rodgers and the 2-2-1 Green Bay Packers, who should be feeling urgency following their 31-23 loss last week to the Detroit Lions. Green Bay is in a heated battle for a playoff spot in the crowded NFC, while the Chicago Bears (3-1) and Minnesota Vikings (2-2-1) are also contending for a division crown.
A strong showing on the road against Rodgers could lift the team’s spirits.
“I know we’ve been through some adversity,” Shanahan said. “I know this is the hand that we’ve been dealt and I think we have the people in our organization, I think we have the players, I think we have strong enough people who can deal with it and man up and find a way to win. It’s never easy. It definitely gets harder when you do have injures and things like that. But, we have people in here who can win games.”