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Maiocco's Take: Kyle Shanahan Rips Page From Bill Walsh's Preparation Playbook

Each week, NBC Sports Bay Area 49ers insider Matt Maiocco will preview the upcoming matchup and key storylines heading into Sunday's game. For more takeaways and features from Maiocco, visit


The 49ers wrapped up their week of practices with only a few guesses as to which players might be available for Sunday's game against the Los Angeles Rams.

That's not exactly a sustainable recipe for success.

The 49ers are coming off their Bye week, a week during which nine players went on the reserve/COVID-19 list. The players being cleared off the COVID list have been a slow drip.

Most of the team returned to work this week to face the Rams. Sean McVay's team is surging with consecutive victories over Seattle and Tampa Bay after experiencing its own Bye week to get freshened and focused for the home stretch.

While the 49ers might be healthier than when we last saw them, they probably have not faced a situation quite like this one in which the status of so many players remain unknown this close to kickoff.

Legendary coach Bill Walsh's philosophy on leadership is detailed in the book, "The Score Takes Care of Itself." If you haven't read it, check it out.

I was reminded of Walsh's philosophy on Friday when Shanahan was asked about what gives him confidence going into this game.

If Walsh were asked that question, he would not have spoken about his confidence in beating the Rams. He almost assuredly would have answered that he had confidence that the best plan to combat the Rams had been installed. He would have spoken about his confidence that the players understood the plan and were preparing in the best possible way for the game on Sunday.

Remember? The score takes care of itself.

This is how Shanahan answered that question:

"It's about going to work and believing in your guys. We don't sit there and say, 'What can give us confidence?' You just work and try to do the best you can. Then you live with the consequences.

"The work you put in (during) the week, we know we're going against a good team. We thought we were going against a good team the last time we played them. You're always going against good teams in this league and the Rams happened to be one of the better ones."

Shanahan probably did not even realize how much he sounded like Walsh.

But his approach is the best approach. It is the only approach.

In a lot of ways, the final score of NFL games are left to chance.

There could be a bad call. The ball could bounce a certain way. An injury could have an impact. Perhaps, one of the quarterbacks is having the game of his life, seeing it and delivering it at the absolute best of his ability.

When things have gone so shockingly wrong for a team, such as the 49ers this season, the only things on which to focus are the things they can control: Preparation, execution and in-game adjustments.

Shanahan continued with his thoughts on "confidence" following the team's practice on Friday.

"I thought we had a really good effort today," he said. "Really good walk-through. I'm hoping we can get lucky with some of the guys we get back, but when you go and you play good ball, everyone's in it together. If you don't turn the ball over, then you've always got a chance to win."

The 49ers are 4-6. This amounts to a must-win game against the Rams, who are tied atop the NFC West with a 7-3 record.

The 49ers only division win through the first round of games came in Week 6, a 24-16 victory over Los Angeles. Both teams are dramatically different from their early meeting.

And, in the case of the 49ers, they might not even be sure how different until they know which players they will have available to suit up.

"We never go into a game not thinking that we have won, but we try to earn that throughout the week," Shanahan said. "There's been some more challenges with that this week, but I like where our team was at (Friday). After Thanksgiving, they came in ready to go, locked in and our guys are excited to play Sunday."

And, then, the score takes care of itself.