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"There was a lot of buzz": Kyle Shanahan and the 49ers give the Broncos hope

Ryan Koenigsberg Avatar
March 1, 2018

INDIANAPOLIS — 5-11 and 6-10.

Those are the records of last season’s first-year head coaches of the Broncos and 49ers, Vance Joseph and Kyle Shanahan.

Just one win separates the two coaches, and it was a Week-17 win at that

In Denver, Broncos fans are ready to toss Joseph to the wolves. In San Francisco, they’re picking out what Shanahan should wear in the inevitable statue.

What’s the difference? Well, it’s simple. One of these coaches got a quarterback.

It wasn’t always that way, though. No, before Shanahan got his man it was he who looked to be a lock for last place in the first-year coach race. But everything changed on Nov. 1, 2017, when the Niners finally convinced the Patriots to ship them Jimmy Garappolo for the obscenely low price of one second-round pick.

“He was there for about a month before he played so I think as soon as he got there everyone was excited,” Shanahan said Thursday when asked how the trade changed the dynamic of his football team. “He got to the practice field… and I think everybody could see his arm talent right away, so there was a lot of buzz about that right when we got him. His personality, I think everyone gravitated to. I think our team started to get better in that month even before he started playing and we got our first win in a couple weeks before he got his start. Then, once he got in, I think everyone knows he played very well and the team started to get better each week after that.”

There’s something very important to note about that comment from the Cherry Creek High School gradtuate—the transformation began long before “Jimmy G” ever threw a pass for San Francisco.

Why, you ask? Confidence. Belief. Assurance.

Just by knowing their guy was in the building, the 49ers’ morale went through the roof. That buzz, that gravitation that Shanahan talked about elevated everybody on its own. It’s one of the most important benefits of having the guy in place.

When Garoppolo finally got on the field, the buzz boiled over and the Niners won their last five games in a row, including three wins over future playoff teams.

A franchise QB can change the entire dynamic of a football team instantly.

“I think it’s necessary if you want to win consistently,” Shanahan said. “If you don’t have that franchise quarterback, you better have one of the best defenses in NFL history, let alone that year, along with a very good running game. I mean, there are other ways to do it, but it makes it a lot harder.”

In 2017, a top-five defense and a 1,000-yard rusher got the Broncos to 5-11. “A lot harder,” is an understatement.

The Broncos believe they can be the next 49ers. As has become clear at the combine, publically and privately, the team feels they are the right quarterback away from being squarely in the mix.

Now they just have to navigate the rocky road that is identifying who that quarterback is.

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