INDIANAPOLIS -- Head coach Kyle Shanahan and the San Francisco 49ers have begun their initial evaluations of talent at the NFL Scouting Combine. Shanahan, along with the rest of the head coaches around the league, held court on Tuesday and provided updates on the 49ers roster. Here are a few notes from the 49ers head coach:
1. Super Bowl Grieving Process
The 49ers are now three weeks removed from the heartbreaking loss in Super Bowl LIV. There wasn't much time for grieving as the 49ers quickly turned their attention to the offseason. However, Shanahan admitted the loss to the Kansas City Chiefs stung more than his previous trip to the championship game given the completeness of the 49ers 13-3 team.
"I think this one was harder than the last one," Shanahan said. "I know the last one was a bigger loss at the end. But I thought we were the better team. The hardest thing for me is that I thought we were the best team in the NFL, and I thought that for a while. In Atlanta, we kind of got hot at the end of the year, so I felt pretty fortunate. This year, I thought we had it. And we were the second worst team in the league last year, now we've got to live with being the second best, which I'm proud of. But that is harder because I actually believed it was there for us."
In his previous appearance in Super Bowl LI, the Atlanta Falcons finished the 2016 season with an 11–5 record, rattling off five wins in their final six games en route to an NFC Championship.
2. Retaining 49ers Free Agents
With that being said, the reality of the 49ers Super Bowl team remaining entirely intact are slim to none. The 49ers have 17 free agents who could potentially hit the open market at the start of the new league year on March 18.
The 49ers have major decisions looming, that includes the future of Arik Armstead and Jimmie Ward among others. Unlike years prior where the team sought after talent in free agency, San Francisco's decisions lie in-house. Despite the challenges of cap space, the 49ers believe they have the right recipe currently on the roster to return to the Super Bowl. According to Shanahan, San Francisco has its sights set on retaining as many players as possible as they head into the 2020 season.
"This is the first time that I want every single person on our team back because I think we have a team that can win a Super Bowl," he said. "I think we showed that last year. So whenever you have that, it's really tough to bring the exact same team back anywhere you've been. It'll be a lot harder, especially with our cap situation. But it is cool to know that's what we want and that's what we're trying to do. There are so many connecting parts in that with people who are up now and people who are up later. Are you trying to sell the farm for one year or have your best chance over a 2-3 year span. Those are things you can't just decide. There's so much stuff that goes on. There's a lot of big decisions that need to be made."
3. Sanders in San Francisco
Veteran wideout Emmanuel Sanders is another member of the 49ers who is set to become a free agent. The 49ers acquired Sanders in a trade with the Denver Broncos and immediately bolstered San Francisco's offense – both as a player and as a veteran presence in the locker room.
"We have a lot of young guys and that's why we thought it was important to bring in Emmanuel," Shanahan said. "He did everything we hoped for and more. I do not think we would've gotten to where we got to without Emmanuel. I would love for anything to have Emmanuel back, bad. But we have to see how that plays out."
Entering into his 11th NFL season, Sanders proved he's still a top playmaker in the league. In 10 regular-season games with the 49ers, Sanders caught 36 passes for 502 yards and three touchdowns.
4. Rebounding in the Offseason for Pettis
Second-year receiver Dante Pettis was expected to build off of his standout rookie campaign. However, he took a step back in Year 2 which ultimately left him on the sidelines during the second half of the season.
Pettis didn't have a single target since Week 10 and finished the year with just 11 receptions for 109 yards. Shanahan is hopeful the receiver will make a turn around this offseason and reclaim his role in the 49ers offense in 2020.
"I want to see when he comes back that while he was away he's been on a mission," Shanahan said. "I think that's what some guys go through. I think Dante did that more his rookie year, trying to make the league. He took a documented step back in his second year, which I've been around a lot of players who have done that. And the players I've been around, which is a ton, they go one way or the other. They keep being like that and they usually filter out, or it's a wake up call for them and they come back and you can see it in April like 'this guy treated January to April so much different than the year before' and it usually changes their career. I saw it with Ahkello Witherspoon. The way he came back last year in the offseason, he looked different. You could tell he was on a mission. That's why those first few games of the year before he got hurt he was playing at an extremely high level. And that's what I expect to happen with Dante."
5. Garoppolo's Future in San Francisco
Shanahan isn't feeding into the rumors of the 49ers moving on from quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. Garoppolo took a load of the blame for the 49ers Super Bowl loss, despite putting up an MVP-caliber performance for the majority of the contest. Shanahan doubled down on his vote of confidence in his quarterback, who played in his first 16-game season fresh off of a season-ending ACL injury.
"I think Jimmy deserves a ton of credit for what he did this year," Shanahan said. "I think people talk a little bit about how he was coming off of an ACL. But I think people don't realize that was his first year playing quarterback in this league. This was his first time going through a full season. He had less games than Baker Mayfield going into his second year. To do that with the pressure of everyone thinking you've already arrived and coming off of an ACL, I thought there was as much pressure on him in the beginning of the year than anyone I've been around. And he just took it and handled it all year and got better throughout the year and I was very impressed with him."