It didn’t take Sherlock Holmes to draw the straight line between Kyle Shanahan and Tevin Coleman. The two spent two notable years together with the Atlanta Falcons, the latter notably including a run to Super Bowl LI.
Coleman played a pivotal role in Shanahan’s offense, serving as the counterpunch to lead back Devonta Freeman. He posted 1,347 yards from scrimmage and 12 total touchdowns over the course of those two seasons. Their reunion with the San Francisco 49ers makes obvious sense given that production.
But Shanahan had no expectation that they’d be able to sign Coleman in free agency, which makes the addition a welcome surprise.
“We were very fortunate to have a chance to get Tevin,” Shanahan said. “(I) didn't really think that at all that would be a possibility of going through.”
The move creates an obvious logjam at the running back position with Jerick McKinnon, Matt Breida and special teams ace Raheem Mostert. That’s without mentioning fullback Kyle Juszczyk or Jeff Wilson, who showed well as an undrafted rookie in 2018.
Shanahan was adamant that acquiring Coleman doesn’t indicate that another move is in the works or that McKinnon’s ACL rehab is behind schedule. This was merely the 49ers taking advantage of the opportunity to sign another quality player and add to the competition on the roster.
“I don't consider it a problem. I consider it a very good thing. There's a lot of guys we have confidence in and a lot of guys with some different skill sets too that we can use differently.”
San Francisco’s head coach has never had four active running backs on gameday (five if you include Juszczyk), but he didn’t rule out that scenario in 2019.
“I think it could make a lot of sense this year,” Shanahan suggested.
Coleman isn’t worried about San Francisco’s surplus of talented runners. It’s never been in his nature to stress about the numbers game.
“I’m just going to be me,” he said Thursday evening. “I’m going to go out there and compete. This is my team now. Those are my brothers now. We’re going to go out there and have fun together and play ball and compete together.”
The allure of Shanahan’s system and another chance to work with running backs coach Bobby Turner was too good for Coleman to pass up. He noted his fit in Shanahan’s offense given his ability to run in a zone scheme, catch the ball out of the backfield and line up at receiver.
As for Turner, the two have kept up over the last two years. Coleman credited the acclaimed running backs coach with improving every aspect of his game.
“He’s helped me tremendously in my career,” Coleman said. “I’m excited to be here with him.”
Fellow free agent signee Kwon Alexander had a unique perspective on San Francisco adding Coleman. Alexander and Coleman saw each other bi-annually in the NFC South for the last four years. Coleman scored four combined touchdowns against Alexander’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
“Oh, I’ve got a scouting report on him,” Alexander said, laughing. “I had to play him twice a year, so, yeah, I know him. He's a great player. He's great, and he can catch the ball, run, and make great cuts. He's got great vision, very fast too. He's going to be a great addition to this team.”
Shanahan is going to have his work cut out for him in terms of how to get all of his talented running backs involved next season. That, or there will be a few challenging roster decisions to be made this summer. Either way, those are likely to be champagne problems in Shanahan’s eyes.