Staley recalls pushing 49ers to hire ‘next big thing’ in Shanahan originally appeared on NBC Sports Bay Area
The 49ers were searching for answers ahead of the 2017 NFL season, and Joe Staley knew exactly where to find them.
Following Jim Harbaugh’s firing after the 2014 campaign, San Francisco suffered through two seasons with a combined 7-25 record under then-coaches Jim Tomsula (2015) and Chip Kelly (2016). But Kyle Shanahan’s arrival the following year brought a new culture, and results followed.
Staley foresaw all the success Shanahan could bring to the Bay, recently revealing that he advocated for 49ers CEO Jed York to hire the former offensive coordinator as San Francisco’s new coach six years ago.
“I was like, ‘You have to make this happen,’ ” Staley recalled telling York during an appearance on the Mojobreak Media podcast last week. “‘Everything I’ve heard about from a player’s side, management side, he is the next big thing. He is an unbelievable coach, the way that he sees the game. You need to — whatever you can do — try to make this happen.’ “
The conversation took place during the week of Super Bowl LI in Houston as York prepared to interview Shanahan for the job, although Staley could not remember if it happened before or after the Atlanta Falcons blew a 28-3 lead to the New England Patriots. Shanahan ultimately got the 49ers job, of course, but he was coming into his first head-coaching gig after one of the worst losses in NFL history.
Along with the 49ers brass that hired him, Shanahan certainly had Staley’s full support.
“That’s why I was so behind Shanahan, because I saw the system, saw what he was trying to build, him and [49ers general manager] John [Lynch],” Staley said. “And it was the first time in my career, probably since before [Trent] Baalke and Harbaugh, that I felt a connection from the top level down — ownership, general manager, head coach, support staff — everything was on the same page, and I knew what they were going to build from that point on.”
Brick by brick, the 49ers’ new tandem of Shanahan and Lynch began to construct a championship-caliber roster. But it wasn’t easy at first, with San Francisco going 6-10 then 4-12 in the coach’s first two seasons. Staley saw growth he knew would eventually contribute to wins, however, and in 2019, it all came together as San Francisco reached the Super Bowl.
“That 2019 season was a surprise to everybody, but it wasn’t a surprise to the people who were in the building,” Staley said.
That was Staley’s final season, as he called it a career shortly after the 49ers’ Super Bowl loss to the Kansas City Chiefs. San Francisco was not able to secure a ring for Staley, but the team has come close in the years since his retirement. And as long as Shanahan and Lynch are in charge, he believes the 49ers’ sixth Vince Lombardi Trophy is only a matter of time.
“As long as they’re there, [the 49ers are] going to be unbelievable,” Staley said.
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