There are a few things that NFL coaches don’t want to deal with much when it comes to questions from the media. One is decisions from the past. The other is hypotheticals. So when a question came in to coach Kyle Shanahan after the 49ers pulled away late from the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday, he had to pause. The question was both a hypothetical and a past decision.
“Can you imagine what it would be like if you didn’t get (Christian) McCaffrey?”
Shanahan’s answer: “No. Don’t ever say that.”
Christian McCaffrey, of course, came over to the 49ers 49 weeks ago, on October 21, 2022, with multiple draft picks going to Carolina in exchange. McCaffrey was outstanding for San Francisco in his first half-season with the team, but he has been off the charts thus far this season.
And he out a fine point on his star season—heck, perhaps even MVP season—on Sunday when he scored four touchdowns to go with 177 yards from scrimmage against the Cardinals in a 35-16 blowout win.
Trade for Christian McCaffrey Was ‘Real Close’ to Collapsing
Shanahan did go one to give a more complete answer to the notion of not having McCaffrey on board. He pointed out that while, in hindsight, the trade that brought McCaffrey to the Bay Area was inevitable, it almost did not happen.
“It’s real close,” Shanahan said. “Especially when you decide on something, and then there’s—you need a little bit more. And it’s like, ‘Man, we weren’t gonna do that, should we do more?’ There’s always that huge debate. That’s why usually when trades happen with lots of good players, there are usually only two teams involved, because trades are tough and there’s always a huge risk.
“When those don’t work out, it’s not just, oh, the player didn’t work out, it’s also you don’t get those draft picks back, too. There’s always a gamble to it. But, no, life has been much better.”
That is pretty clear. McCaffrey has been a workhorse for the 49ers, with 459 rushing yards in four weeks, and an average of 5.7 yards per carry. And if Brock Purdy can be successful with the 49ers as a caretaker quarterback rather than a throwing star, McCaffrey is a big part of the reason—the 49ers are the rare offense that can be driven by the running game.
Purdy, for his part, was pretty good on Sunday, completing 21 of his 22 attempts for 283 yards and a touchdown.
4 TDs Made McCaffrey the Star of the Day vs. Arizona
But McCaffrey was the story of the day. Now 15 games into his 49ers career, McCaffrey is showing just how different he can be while working with an offensive-minded coach like Shanahan—who sometimes splits McCaffrey out like a receiver—and a mistake-free QB like Purdy.
And the 49ers like what they see.
“Not gonna lie, I watched him from afar for a long time, and I knew he was really, really good,” lineman Trent Williams said, via KNBR. “And I knew he was really special, he can do a lot of things that conventional running backs can’t do. But, watching him play conventional running back, it’s like, ‘Wow, how can you be that talented, in the open field, playing wide receiver, and still line up in the I formation and still continue to gash defenses?’ Special player.”