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The Shanahan Effect: How the 49ers HC (Not Instagram) Led Alex Mack to SF

Alex Mack's phone was ringing off the hook early Wednesday morning. Just hours before he'd hit the open market after spending the previous six seasons with the Atlanta Falcons, a simple tag on Trent Williams' Instagram story had Mack's phone "exploding."

"My phone was very excited for me," Mack joked.

His representatives were already in the midst of getting a deal done with the 49ers, and on Thursday afternoon, both sides landed on an agreement to reunite Mack with his former offensive coordinator, Kyle Shanahan.

Mack had two prior stints playing under the 49ers now-head coach. The two first linked in 2014 with the Cleveland Browns and reunited again in 2016, as the free agent signed with the Falcons during their Super Bowl run.

It didn't take long for the Pro Bowl center to weigh his options on the open market. Even before the social media notifications, Mack said the opportunity to reconnect with a Shanahan-led offense made San Francisco an ideal destination that could allow the veteran center to play to his strengths.

"(I was) looking for a team that was competitive, and obviously there's a connection with Kyle Shanahan and the offense he runs," Mack said. "It's a system that I know I do well in – that outside zone scheme. It's just something that my body type – how I can move, the blocks I've done before – it's something I'm comfortable with. I know it. I'm good at it. I'm confident in it. And I know I can do it well."

Mack has graded out as one of the league's top centers for the bulk of his 12-year NFL career. According to Pro Football Focus, he's been recognized as the second-highest graded center over the last four seasons.

In a down year in Atlanta in 2020 where the Falcons finished the season with a 4-12 mark, Mack recorded his first season with a grade under 70.0, however, allowed just one sack in an impressive 633 pass blocking attempts.

What stands out about Mack's play is his availability. The center has appeared in full 16-game seasons in all but two of his 12-year career. While his analytics grade may have seen a slight decline over the course of the past several seasons, Mack believes that even at age 35, he is more than capable of being a steady contributor in his new setting.

"I'm an older player, there's no denying that. But I do feel like I play well," he said. "I think my film has been good. I felt good doing it. I think I could be great in this system. I don't know exactly what goes into the PFF grades, but I know I can help contribute on this team. I know I can still play this game. I know I could be a good player."

The 49ers addition of Mack only fortifies San Francisco's mainstay of talent along the offensive line. With Mack (second) adding to Williams (second), Laken Tomlinson (eighth) and Mike McGlinchey (eighth), the 49ers have a Top 10 player in PFF's positional rankings in four of their projected starting linemen. And that's not even counting San Francisco's premier talent at fullback and tight end.

"We have a lot of talent on this team and that's something that I got excited about. I'm fired up to be able to join those guys and I know what they bring and the energy they have and what we can do as an offense if we're all on the same page, on the field healthy (and) rolling. And that's what I want to see."