Is 49ers HC Kyle Shanahan the Favorite for NFL Coach of the Year?

Garoppolo and Shanahan

GETTY Head coach Kyle Shanahan of the San Francisco 49ers and quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo will look to elevate the 49ers' offense in 2020.

Kyle Shanahan made a pretty strong case for the AP’s NFL Coach of the Year after the San Francisco 49ers head coach took the 49ers to Super Bowl LIV.

But going from 4-12 to 13-3 in the regular season was not quite enough, as the award was handed to John Harbaugh for going 14-2 with the Baltimore Ravens, achieving the best record in the NFL in 2019.

2020 bodes well for Shanahan’s chances again, as William Hill released their NFL Coach of the Year odds this month, giving the fourth-year head coach 14/1 odds to win the award.

However, Shanahan isn’t the favorite. The New England Patriots‘ Bill Belichick and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers‘ Bruce Arians currently sit at 17/2 and 12/1 odds respectively.

Arians and Belichick’s favor makes sense, as Belichick is arguably the most decorated coach in modern NFL history with a team that just lost it’s greatest player in quarterback Tom Brady, while Arians and the Buccaneers receive Brady and former Patriot tight end Rob Gronkowski.

Despite those strengths, William Hill’s recent odds ask a question: Is Kyle Shanahan being disrespected by recent odds?

The Case For Shanahan

The obvious thing working in Shanahan’s favor is his team. The departures of defensive lineman DeForest Buckner, wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders and retired tackle Joe Staley highlight what Shanahan has lost.

But the additions of first-round draft picks DT Javon Kinlaw and WR Brandon Aiyuk as well as seven-time Pro Bowl tackle Trent Williams made for a smooth reload, although Kinlaw and Aiyuk are still unproven at the NFL level.

Should the 49ers defense maintain its status as an elite unit in the NFL, Shanahan ought to be able to continue diversifying and developing the San Francisco offense into one that just doesn’t utilize unique offensive schemes and mix up production, but one that can emulate what head coach Andy Reid and the Kansas City Chiefs do.

Whether or not the flashiness of an offense should determine can be debated, but recent winners of the award bode well for Shanahan if the 49ers offense steps up in 2020.

Harbaugh’s Ravens had the NFL’s best rushing offense while completely subverting popular offensive schemes, and Sean McVay and the Los Angeles Rams’ offense made huge strides as McVay won the award in 2017.

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The Case Against Shanahan

Besides the obvious chance of regression, there’s still the very real possibility that the NFL credits another coach instead. For example, the top-two in William Hill’s odds, Belichick and Arians, have each won the award multiple times, Arians with two and Belichick with three.

The coaches tied on odds with Shanahan include the Dallas Cowboys‘ Mike McCarthy, the Indianpolis Colts‘ Frank Reich and the Arizona Cardinals‘ Kliff Kingsbury.

These are all interesting options. The Colts nearly made the playoffs in 2019 in a competitive AFC South, and McCarthy takes over the NFL’s most valuable franchise that boasts a team with talent across both sides of the ball.

However, it’s Kingsbury that probably interests most 49ers fans. The Cardinals will still need some help defensively with the NFL’s statistically worst defense, but Arizona QB Kyler Murray showed serious play-making ability in his rookie year. With the addition of WR DeAndre Hopkins from the Houston Texans, the Cardinals offense could explode in 2020.

Luckily for the 49ers and Shanahan, San Francisco will have two opportunities to prove themselves against Arizona when Week 1 and Week 17 roll around.

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Evan Reier is a sportswriter covering the San Francisco 49ers for Heavy.com and local sports for the Montana Standard in Butte, MT. Follow and reach out to him on Twitter at @evanreier.


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