49ers’ Kyle Shanahan Singles Out Veteran Safety: ‘Wisdom of our Defense’

Tashaun Gipson, San Francisco 49ers

Gettt Tashaun Gipson celebrating a big play for the San Francisco 49ers.

Though it may have begun a bit closer than some fans may have liked, the San Francisco 49ers closed out the regular season with a win over the Arizona Cardinals, tying their season-high in points scored with 38 in J.J. Watt’s final professional football game. Brock Purdy threw 3 touchdowns, marking the fifth occasion he’s thrown multiple touchdowns in a game, Elijah Mitchell ran for 2 more touchdowns in his first game back from IR, and Tashaun Gipson closed out his 11th season on top with 2 interceptions, marking his second straight week with a pick.

When asked about how Gipson has progressed from being unemployed during training camp to one of the 49ers’ key contributors on the way to the second seed in the playoffs during his post-game media session, Kyle Shanahan complimented the veteran safety who he actually interacted with in the past when they were both with the Cleveland Browns.

“We wanted to bring him in with depth, we had one of the best safeties in the league last year with Jimmie Ward and then when Jimmie got hurt and we knew there was a chance that his playing time was going to go up and we were glad to get him,” Shanahan said via 49ers WebZone. “I was with Gip in Cleveland, which I think was his rookie or second year and I thought he was such a good player then, I haven’t gotten to be with him since then, but just following him his whole career, playing against him in Jacksonville and Chicago and he’s been such a good player for a long time. I thought we were very fortunate that he was available when he was and he’s come in here and I feel like kind of the wisdom of our defense”

“I mess around with him, I call him dad sometimes, but he’s been so consistent. Always putting the top, the backstop on our defense. He’s got great ball skills, he always has. And the biggest thing is it’s allowed us to use Jimmie Ward at nickel too. When we lost [CB Emmanuel Moseley] E-man, which was a huge loss for us and having to bump [DB Deommodore Lenoir] D-Mo out, that was tough and that was right when Jimmie came back and Jimmie, whether he is an all-pro safety or an all-pro nickel it’s been great to be able to have Jimmie there and use him there and get him around the box more where he can make so many more plays. And the only reason we’ve been able to do that is because we have Gip on the back end, so it’s been huge.”

After finishing out his second season in Chicago without being offered a contract extension in 2021, Gipson’s contract looked like it was at a crossroads, with nothing signed until late August. Now, with 17 games of exceptional play on his resume, he should be in high demand in the Bay Area and beyond.

Tashaun Gipson Expresses Gratitude for the 49ers

Asked about his interceptions that helped to extinguish the desert fire fueling the Cardinals’ Week 18 push, Gipson credited his 2022 offseason for helping to keep him humble and prepare him for one of the best seasons of his professional career.

“It’s so humbling because there were a lot of times, and I sit here and my family could attest to it, where I’d be lying to you if I said I didn’t lose a little faith sitting at training camp,” Gipson said. “Going into preseason three, I was at home with my kids. It was my first time spending my birthday at home, and I didn’t envision being at home on my birthday in August.”

“So to be here now, man, it’s just glory to God because I came into the right situation at the right time. And everything just worked out in God’s plan. I couldn’t be around a better group of men, a better group of coaches. This atmosphere here, the family, the organization and just the locker room. They accepted me from day one. It wasn’t any ill will or anything like that. Hufunga, I truly have love for him, he brought me in, helped me understand the defense, and he took me under his wing. As crazy as it sounds, I’m 10 years older than him, but he truly did. And it’s just been a match made in heaven. It’s the most fun year of my career and I can truly say that. I’ve been on some teams where we had a little success, man, but this truly is the most fun year of my career. And, you know, why stop now? We have so much more football left to play. Perfect storybook ending for everybody if we can continue to keep this going.”

After becoming one of the most exciting safeties in the NFL during his second and third seasons in Cleveland, where he picked off 11 interceptions and scored two touchdowns on the way to a Pro Bowl berth in 2014, Gipson’s career has been that of a journeyman, with no more than three seasons spent with any one team. While only time will tell if Gipson can make it to season four with the 49ers, his play in 2022 has warranted a longer look, assuming, of course, the contract price is right.

Talanoa Hufanga Is Grateful for his 49ers Teammate

Despite earning a Pro Bowl nod in 2022 for his impressive plays in coverage and against the run, Talanoa Hufanga has consistently turned to his safety partner, Gipson, for support throughout the 2022 NFL season. When asked about how his pair of interceptions resonated with the rest of the defensive backfield, Hufanga had nothing but nice things to say about his partner in crime.

“Man, best safety in the league right there,” Hufanga said. “He’s really been doing his thing, and he’s just been a part of my life tremendously. Coming in here and teaching me the game, bringing a lot of knowledge, and it’s just a true pleasure to be on field with him. He has a great attitude. Everything about him is just awesome.”

For much of the 2022 NFL season, Hufanga and Gipson were rated the best safety tandem in the NFL, according to Pro Football Focus. While they didn’t ultimately finish out the season with that honor, as both the New England Patriots and the Baltimore Ravens had two safeties with higher defensive ratings than Hufanga and Gipson, DeMeco Ryans and company are certainly happy with the production they’ve received from a pair of safeties who cost less than $2.5 million combined against the cap.

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