Guiding Light: Do The 49ers Need More Veteran Coaches On The Staff?

Image Credit: Andrew Giesemann

A coaching staff with substantial experience doesn’t always equal success. Untenured brilliant minds who have good chemistry and the ability to inspire proficient execution can add up to wins.

This is what Kyle Shanahan and John Lynch were likely banking on when they put their staff together in 2016 to help rebuild the San Francisco 49ers.

While several of the team’s top-ranking coaches hired since 2016 have general experience in the positions they are assigned to, most came on board as rookies.

Those include: head coach, general manager, defensive coordinator, special teams coordinator, pass rush specialist, quarterbacks coach, wide receivers/passing game coach, and run game coordinator. The defensive line coach and defensive backs coach each have less than five years’ experience.

In fact, only the tight ends/assistant head coach, offensive line coordinator, and running backs coach have significant years put in the NFL for their position(s). (See chart attached.)

The emerging problem is that the Niners seem to have lost their way with fundamentals, execution and only have a .333 win-loss percentage since 2016. The team has also been very close to winning tight games in both rebuilding seasons, but can’t seem to get the job done.

Yes, injuries are hampering this club’s progress, no question about it. But, they’re not solely to blame for the 49ers’ woes. Neither is the high number of young players on this team. Younger teams are excelling at an astronomical rate (Rams).

It’s time we ask ourselves: Is the lack of veterans on the coaching roster contributing towards the 49ers’ difficulties? Should we have concern that matters are being made worse because of the lack of veteran leadership, particularly when there’s been so much adversity?

The stats don’t lie. San Francisco is currently the second least efficient team in the league, has the worst turnover differential, is one of the most penalized teams, and is at the bottom of red zone scoring. Missed tackles, dropped passes, and miscommunications are also critical problems encumbering this team.

These issues are not because of injuries, inexperience, or a roster in the midst of being overhauled. This is on the coaches.

Look, adversity is not foreseeable. Unfortunately, the 49ers have seen more than their fair share these last two seasons. Bouncing back from it has not been easy and it’s not expected to be. But, it doesn’t have to be this bad.

It’s not hard to imagine that if the team had more coaches with deeper experience to lean on during this time of hardship, it could have made the difference in at least three games that the 49ers should have won, but lost to mistakes and miscues (Week 1 – Vikings; Week 4 – Chargers; Week 5 – Cardinals).

Even now, without Garoppolo and several other key playmakers out to injury, the 49ers still have a decent roster to go out and challenge teams on the upcoming schedule.

Take a team like Green Bay, San Francisco’s Week 6 opponent. Throughout the first five games of the season, the Packers have been vulnerable. They have not been able to put together a complete game, have suffered from a myriad of special teams and turnover blunders, and Aaron Rodgers appears off kilter due to his Week 1 knee injury. If the 49ers could just get their act together and limit mistakes, there is a chance here…

A really talented team with good fortune is one that will prosper, particularly when deep league acumen can be drawn from its experienced coaches. But, for one like the 49ers who have faced an inordinate amount of adversity, veteran leadership is crucial to getting through the tough times. Where is it now when we need it most?

If there isn’t a marked improvement soon in the basic football fundamentals of this team, the 49ers should think about building a healthier mix of seasoned coaches along with its roster next season.

In the meantime, we should heed Richard Sherman’s recent advice when he said, “It’s one week at a time.”

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