San Francisco 49’ers head coach Kyle Shanahan at press conference during the NFL preseason. AP NEWSWIRE

San Francisco 49’ers head coach Kyle Shanahan at press conference during the NFL preseason. AP NEWSWIRE

SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) — For Kyle Shanahan, getting NFL players to believe in you as a coach comes down to one main thing.

He had to prove that when he became the youngest coordinator in the NFL when he took over the Houston offense at age 28, dealt with criticisms of nepotism when he was dad’s offensive coordinator in Washington for four years and now in his first job as a head coach at any level in charge of the San Francisco 49ers.

“I’ve always felt no matter how old you are or what type of coach you are, if you can help a player get better then they’ll listen to you,” Shanahan said. “So that’s kind of been my deal my whole life and I just try to be honest with them.”

After a long career as a coordinator in the NFL, including last season when he led the NFL’s highest-scoring offense in the Atlanta Falcons to the Super Bowl, Shanahan is trying to have success at the head coaching level.

Many proven coordinators haven’t been able to make that transition, but Shanahan is eager to prove he can be more than just an offensive mastermind. He has won over a locker room that has gone through three coaches the past three years and is eager for some needed stability.

“You really, really respect the overall knowledge he has,” left tackle Joe Staley said. “I can’t stress that enough. He’s the smartest coach I’ve been around. When you have leadership like that, you have to raise you game.”

Shanahan is one of five first-time NFL head coaches who were hired for the six openings this past offseason, joining Anthony Lynn of the Chargers, Sean McVay of the Rams, Buffalo’s Sean McDermott and Denver’s Vance Joseph.

That’s the most first-time coaches hired in one offseason since 2013 when five newcomers also got jobs. In a note of caution, only Arizona’s Bruce Arians is still on the job in season five.

That’s been part of a recent trend that has had retread coaches faring better than first-timers with 14 of the past 20 Super Bowl champions being on their second or third jobs led by coaches such as Bill Belichick, Pete Carroll and Tom Coughlin.

That hasn’t always been the case. In fact, 28 of the first 31 Super Bowl champions had first-time coaches such as Chuck Noll, Bill Walsh and Vince Lombardi, including 23 straight between the 1974 season and the 1996 seasons.

That string was broken by Kyle’s father, Mike, who won back-to-back Super Bowls with Denver following a failed stint as Raiders coach.

McDermott has stressed details, practicing subbing in and out of huddles, working on desperation passes and even using a training camp thunderstorm to test how his players would handle an in-game delay once the season started.

“To do it in the short and long term, you have to build it the right way by building a solid foundation,” he said.

Joseph was hired by general manager John Elway to help heal a divide in the locker room between a dominant defense and a pedestrian offense.

With experience as a college quarterback, a professional defensive back and years as an assistant, Joseph has the ability to deal with both sides of the ball.

“Absolutely, that helps a lot,” he said. “Because as a head coach you’re involved with the entire game. I would say this, to coach offense you have to understand defense. And vice versa, to coach defense, you have to understand offense. So, I’ve got both sides, it comes natural to me, so I can feel my way through all the rooms.”

McVay became the youngest head coach in the modern NFL when he was hired at age 30 and was tasked with developing last year’s No. 1 overall pick Jared Goff into an NFL quarterback.

McVay said he’s still learning how to balance calling plays on offense during games as he did as coordinator in Washington under Jay Gruden and overseeing the entire team.

“One of the things that I learned from working with coach Gruden was what made him a special leader was his ability to empower others and help them grow as well,” McVay said.

Lynn must deal with the Chargers move from San Diego to Los Angeles while trying to turn around a franchise that won nine games the past two seasons and has made the playoffs once in the past seven years.

While all these new coaches have mentors they lean on, the biggest influence on Shanahan’s coaching career comes from his father.

Kyle Shanahan purposely started his coaching career on other staffs working in college at UCLA and then in the NFL with Tampa Bay and Houston for six years before joining Mike in Washington.

Kyle Shanahan leans on his father for advice with Mike spending time with the team during the offseason program. Mike Shanahan has been absent during training camp so as not to be a distraction but does watch film of practice and games.

“I don’t have any questions until I’m struggling with something,” Kyle Shanahan said. “I usually call him once I’ve already messed something up. I wish I could tell the future a little bit better and ask him before it happens, which I don’t always.

“But, usually I tell him, ‘Hey I messed this up. Has that ever happened to you?’ And he’s like, ‘Yeah, maybe you should have called me before that and I could have helped you.’ I think that’s me being his son sometimes, but he definitely helps.”


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