Remote OTA's have come to a close for most NFL clubs and teams are in the midst of their "summer breaks" before rejoining at training camp later this summer. With the virtual offseason behind him, Kyle Shanahan joined voice of the 49ers Greg Papa on the annual State of the Franchise to discuss several updates on the team's offseason, looking ahead to training camp and rebounding from the Super Bowl loss. Here are five takeaways from the head coach:
1. Value in Virtual Offseason
Most clubs have relied on video conferencing to assimilate players and coaching staff as equivalently to classroom instruction as possible. The 49ers used this format for positional meetings as well as offensive, defensive and full-team instruction. While the NFL has been forced to adjust to the effects of social distancing mandates, the 49ers have found the benefits of virtual meetings as guidelines continue to keep personnel away from the team facility.
"It's actually been more work than we would normally get in an offseason," Shanahan said. "Usually, you get guys coming in the building, you've got to travel between meeting rooms. They're worrying about lifting and running. There are so many other things that are in the building. Now, we just get on there and we talk straight ball the whole time. From just a meeting room standpoint, we've been able to do more this offseason than we ever have."
Despite the amplified focus, this offseason has come with its share of limitations. The absence of spring practices disorient the ability for physical, hands on training and the evaluation of players ahead of next month's training camp.
"We're not training guys to learn how to coach. We're training guys to actually do this with their bodies," Shanahan continued. "That's what you miss in OTAs because we get these three weeks of teaching and you get in to OTAs and you get 10 practices or so and you can evaluate them and coach off the film and see what they're doing right and wrong. Then they get away for a month and training camp starts. So that's what they're going to miss now is those 10 practices that we get in OTAs and minicamp that are really crucial to get guys ready to go and also to give the rookies a chance."
2. Rookies Getting Familiar with the Unfamiliar
Speaking of rookies, many first-year players will have an uphill battle come training camp this summer. The lack of physical rookie programs and on-field reps limit opportunities in securing roster spots this fall. It's not an unfamiliar occurrence for the 49ers.
Coming from schools on quarter systems, players like Solomon Thomas and Kendrick Bourne missed the bulk of the 49ers offseason program back in 2017. For the 49ers rookie class, including 10 undrafted free agents, training camp will provide the only on-field reps in front of the team's decision-makers ahead of roster cuts in September.
"It's a huge challenge for rookies every year as it is and they only get the OTAs after the draft, which they're a little behind there," Shanahan said. "And then they go into training camp and they've got about a month to make the team. People don't realize how hard it is to make a 53-man roster. When you only have 10 guys from practice squad and you don't have a minor league-type system, they can come and go for guys pretty fast and it's a huge issue not getting OTAs for those guys. But it's nothing new.
"Guys have done it before and it's going to be really hard for some guys. And some guys it won't affect as much. It kind of depends on the makeup of the guy. But it definitely is a challenge."
3. Unique Athleticism of Trent Williams
As difficult as it was for the 49ers to see Joe Staley retire this offseason, the stars aligned when Trent Williams became available in a trade with the Washington Redskins. Shanahan has coached some of the best tackles in football, including Staley, Joe Thomas, Duane Brown and now his second stint with Williams – a group of players who collectively account for over 27 Pro Bowls and seven first team All-Pro honors.
Williams has alluded to feeling rejuvenated and motivated in his fresh start with the 49ers. Given his previous experience with Williams, Shanahan believes the left tackle's athleticism will be an advantage for San Francisco.
"He's as talented as any player we've been around," Shanahan said. "He's the guy who I truly believe could play 3-technique in this league if he wanted to. A guy that goes to the basketball court, he's going to play point guard just as well as he plays center. He's that type of athlete and it's pretty neat because Joe Staley was like that too in a similar way. He was a tight end in college. Joe won the 200 coming out of high school at State and things like that. So, whenever you can deal with O-linemen like that, who have that type of athletic size, it's a huge advantage in our game."
4. Garoppolo's Ascendance in 2020
Jimmy Garoppolo heads into the season with less distractions than a year ago since returning from a season-ending ACL injury suffered back in 2018. After leading the team to a 13-3 record en route to a Super Bowl appearance in his first full season as an NFL starter, Shanahan has no doubts the quarterback can take his game to another level in 2020.
"Jimmy was one of the better quarterbacks in the league this year and there's still a ton of room to grow though," Shanahan said. "He knows that, and I know that. For him to only have one year in this league and for him to do what he did is very exciting. And I can't wait to get started with him this year and I expect them to get better and better each week."
5. Unfinished Business
Shanahan ended the episode discussing the state of the 49ers football team. Coming off of a heartbreaking Super Bowl loss, the head coach is eager to pick up where the team left off in February. Shanahan stated he is eagerly awaiting the start of training camp with the goals of finishing what was started last season.
"The way last year finished, we had as good of an opportunity as you can ever have to be a champion but we came up just short," Shanahan said. "We came up 1-3 plays short from a World Championship. It's been hard to sit with all offseason. It's also something I'm very proud of with the state of the franchise because we didn't luckily get there. We earned that by doing it the right way. We were playing very good football on offense, defense and special teams. We did it with an entire team, an entire group. You look at the numbers across our whole team and how we played offense, defense, ran the ball, threw the ball, turnovers, everything with their whole team. It was as good of a football team as I've ever been a part of. And I know we were good enough to win that Super Bowl we didn't. And that's something we've got to live with. And that's why the state of the franchise right now is going to get right back to that moment. You've got to get right back to that fourth quarter and get to have a lead. And we've got to finish the job.
"That's why all of our guys have to take this challenge and we've got to take advantage of this offseason. We've got to still find a way to take a step ahead of other people. Because everyone's chasing us right now."