49ers’ Kyle Shanahan will face a familiar system when visiting the Broncos

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Memories of Colorado’s Kyle Shanahan are probably pretty common for the kid of an NFL coach. He would hear from classmates if the Broncos weren’t playing well with his dad, Mike, at the helm. He would wonder what analysis the newspapers would bring on Monday morning.

Oh, and there’s also the big one.

“My fondest memory was my senior year of high school when they beat the Packers in the Super Bowl,” Shanahan told Denver-based reporters on a conference call this week. “That probably wasn’t just my best memory from Denver, it’s one of my favorite memories in life. It was an awesome, awesome day.

Football is cyclical in many ways and that will be felt in relevant ways when Kyle Shanahan brings his team from San Francisco to Denver for a Sunday night game with the Broncos. It’s his first trip back to Denver as head coach, though he played down the emotions attached to it, saying, “The biggest one for me, where I was probably more emotional than (Mike) was when he was in Washington and coming here with him for this.

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Current interpretations of these teams, however, also overlap. Under first-year head coach Nathaniel Hackett, the Broncos hang their hats on another offshoot of the Shanahan-Sean McVay offense, which is rooted in the system Mike Shanahan popularized in Denver in the mid-20s. 1990.

“You have something successful, whether it’s defense, attack, special teams, everyone is going to study it,” said Hackett, who has spent the last three years working under the Greens coach. Bay Packers Matt LaFleur, himself having coached Mike and Kyle Shanahan in Washington from 2010-13 and with Kyle again in Atlanta from 2015-16. people do things. It’s an honor for Kyle, it’s an honor for (longtime offensive line coach Mike Shanahan) Alex Gibbs and Mike Shanahan a long time ago because that’s really where the foundation begins.

“Kyle takes it to another level.”

Kyle Shanahan and Hackett were never on the same staff, but they worked with many of the same people. Shanahan said this week that if his former passing game coordinator Mike LaFleur had taken a job on the Packers staff when his brother Matt became the head coach, Hackett was among the people he would have considered as a substitute.

Now they go head-to-head, with Hackett and company trying to implement an offensive system built on the same principles of zone-based running play and then adapted to the strengths of quarterback Russell Wilson. It’s the way of the world in the NFL, although Shanahan wishes it wasn’t quite the case.

“I wish fewer people had done it, so it doesn’t make me so happy,” Shanahan said. “It’s not about other people doing it, I just hate that defenses practice against it other weeks. I like it when they just have to manage our week and our three days of play. training…. That’s the only thing that’s changed for me in the last few years because defenses can see that week in and week out, so they’re just a bit more used to it.

Not only did the Broncos’ defense get a lot of work done against their offense during camp, but they also include three regulars who are former 49ers defensive lineman DJ Jones, inside linebacker Jonas Griffith and nickel K’Waun Williams. . Freshman defensive coordinator Ejiro Evero has spent the past five seasons with the Los Angeles Rams and is now preparing for Shanahan’s offense for the 12th time in the past five seasons.

For an interconference confrontation, the level of familiarity is very high.

Even still, there’s one element that San Francisco brings to the Mile High City that Hackett and the Broncos simply can’t replicate or polish in a few weeks: continuity of system and process.

In an interview this summer with USA TODAY Sports, Mike Shanahan said the process of truly mastering the outside zone system can take coaches and players years.

“No. 1, do they believe it? he said. “And if they believe it, do you know what you’re talking about? If you believe it, then you have a chance to start. lead it and you’re not going to let it down.

The 49ers have seen a turnover in their coaching staff like several others, but the ability to reload internally – in particular, defensive coordinator Demeco Ryans and offensive line coach Chris Foerster succeeding Robert Saleh and John Benton, respectively. , when Saleh was hired by the Jets and took Benton with him after the 2020 season – made a difference.

“Over the years, when you get familiar with the same pattern and the same players do the same thing, they really get to know it and master it,” Evero said of the San Francisco offense. “They did a good job.”

That certainly helped last week when quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo was returned to action following a season-ending ankle injury to starter Trey Lance. Garoppolo has started 46 games in San Francisco since 2017 and has won 36 of them.

Defensively, the linebacking trio of Fred Werner, Dre Greenlaw and Azeez Al-Shaair enter their fourth season playing together for Ryans, who moved from linebacker coach to coordinator after the 2020 season.

“When these guys have been in the same system for so long – any time you can have a group of players in that group, they can play more, their athleticism, their ability starts to show even more,” Hackett said. “You see that with this group. Then you add that they’ve played (against) Russell a lot, so they know he does a lot. It’s definitely an advantage for them, but it’s something we know they have that advantage, so we have to try to reverse it on them.

“It’s a very good group.”

Hackett spent the first few weeks of his first regular season in charge learning something about his decision-making process isn’t working and diving deep — including, he says, conversations with general manager George Paton. and assistant general manager Darren Mougey – to try to find quick fixes. The offseason theme was novelty. New coach, new coordinators, new quarterback, new ownership group. It comes with a lot of energy and buzz, but also problems and roadblocks.

In time, everything may turn out great. Sunday night, however, in a game with so many familiar faces, family ties and schematic similarities, on the pitch, the question is whether novelty can stand up to continuity.

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