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A partial explanation for the 49ers' slow start last year

One of the more under-reported facets about the 49ers going into last season was the incredible amount of coaching changes their staff had undergone. Over the last two seasons, the team had a whopping 27 coaches in new positions. Almost every single coach on the offensive side of the ball was either new, or had new responsibilities.


During his press conference this week, offensive line coach and run game coordinator Chris Foerster explained how that affected the team on the field:

"I'd been the o-line coach here before, but I had to move into that run game coordinator, whatever that is, but I had more to do. I had a little bit more to do than I had to do the year before and then everybody else was brand new in their position, so you're right, it did take a while for Kyle to adjust because he's had [Miami Dolphins head coach] Mike McDaniel forever and all these guys had been on his staff and then all of a sudden, boom, they're all gone.
It did take some time, and that's not an excuse for how we played in the first part of the season. We could have won all those games, but it would've gone the same way. There was still an adjustment as far as the workflow who does what for Kyle who prepares these tapes because for years they'd been done by certain people and all of a sudden it changed and who was going to fill that role.
This year, I think we kind of know where we're going. And I think with Klint [Kubiak] filling in for Bobby [Slowik], kind of just doing the same thing, I think we've got a real good flow right now. When we get to the season, we shouldn't be too far off of where we would from say, like you said, the midpoint of season or whenever we kind of started to hit our stride as far as how everybody's role was going to fill out.

People rave about Kyle Shanahan's brilliant game plans and play-calling, but that doesn't just happen. All of that success is a result of a week-long process that takes hours of effort from multiple people every single week. The changes to the coaching staff altered that process significantly, and as a result the team struggled while they recalibrated on the fly.


During the first eight games of the season, the 49ers averaged roughly 20 points per game. After their Week 9 bye when the process behind the scenes had been worked out, the 49ers averaged roughly 30 points per game.


Is all of that improvement due to the coaching staff figuring out the best way to prepare during the week? Of course not. Christian McCaffrey was acquired after the Week 6 loss to the Falcons, and Brock Purdy became the starter after Jimmy Garoppolo went down early in Week 13.


I don't see the situation as binary, however, I see it as complimentary. Yes, Brock played well and McCaffrey was a revelation, but it's also entirely possible that the recalibration by the coaching staff enabled both players to be that effective. Maybe the reason that CMC was able to produce the way he did was because during the week Kyle was able to find the exact weakness in the defense to attack. Maybe the reason Purdy was able to hit the ground running was because Shanahan had all the pieces of the defensive puzzle laid out for him by the other coaches on the staff. Remember, Joe Staley told us before the year that Mike McDaniel was the guy who drew the picture on the puzzle for Kyle Shanahan, and Shanahan was the one that put the puzzle together. Kyle had to adjust to a different artist this year, and that naturally took time.


Things are a lot more stable on the offensive side of the ball for the 49ers this year. Yes, Bobby Slowik left to join DeMeco Ryans in Houston, but there aren't nearly as many moving pieces on the rest of the staff as there were last year, and that can only help things run more smoothly in 2023.


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