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PHOENIX – Without officially offering Kyle Shanahan the job at the conclusion of the 49ers’ second meeting with the then-Atlanta Falcons offensive coordinator, CEO Jed York said he made it clear what he was thinking.
And that led to an awkward moment late on the evening of Jan. 27 after 49ers executives Paraag Marathe and Brian Hampton, who were present during the interview, left York alone with the man who would become head coach.
“I let him know, very, very clearly that he was at the very top end of our list,” York said on the 49ers Insider Podcast from the NFL owners meetings.
"And it was one of those situations where we kind of shook hands and it was one of those things . . . Do you bro hug here? Do you not bro hug? What do you do? And I wanted to kind of play it cool so (we) didn't do the bro hug right then.
“But it was clear that we had a chemistry and a connection and that the 49ers mean something to Kyle. I mean, some of his formative years, being with his dad when we won our last Super Bowl -- it means something to him.”
Mike Shanahan, Kyle’s father, served as George Seifert’s offensive coordinator during the 49ers’ championship season of 1994. Shanahan became the head coach of the Denver Broncos shortly after the 49ers’ victory over the San Diego Chargers in the Super Bowl.
Mike Shanahan was a finalist for the 49ers’ head-coaching openings when Jim Tomsula and Chip Kelly were hired, York said. Kyle Shanahan could have re-joined his dad as offensive coordinator with a succession plan to eventually take over as head coach. The 49ers were also interested in hiring Kyle Shanahan to Tomsula’s staff in 2015. Instead, Shanahan decided to become offensive coordinator on Dan Quinn’s staff with the Atlanta Falcons.
Although the 49ers officially hired general manager John Lynch before finalizing the deal with Shanahan after the Super Bowl, the decision was made to hire Shanahan before Lynch became a candidate for the position to replace Trent Baalke.
The 49ers have not invested in big-money free agents, but the club has been considerably more active in free agency this offseason with the signings of such players as quarterbacks Brian Hoyer and Matt Barkley, fullback Kyle Juszczyk, receivers Pierre Garçon, Marquise Goodwin and Aldrick Robinson, defensive lineman Earl Mitchell and linebacker Malcolm Smith. The 49ers also acquired Pro Bowl center Jeremy Zuttah in a trade with the Baltimore Ravens.
“Obviously, with a 2-14 team, you need to turn some things over and start building the identity that your coach and general manager really want,” York said. “I think that’s what this free agency was all about.”
The immediate aftermath of the season was also about York admitting mistakes and making the moves he believes can turn around the franchise. After the 49ers parted ways with Jim Harbaugh following an 8-8 season in 2014, the club lost many of its veteran leaders and plummeted to the depths of the NFL with records of 5-11 and 2-14 under Tomsula and Kelly.
“My approach is always, be aggressive,” York said. “Try to shoot for the stars. I don’t want to be a 9-7 team. That’s just not what I’m aiming to do. And if you make mistakes, make them quickly, learn from them and move on. And I think we certainly made mistakes with our last two hires.
“I think Kyle is going to be a great addition to this team and to this franchise and somebody we can build around for the next, you know, 10, 20, 30 years. And that’s what I really want to do. The more you can stay stable and the more you can have the same people running your organization, the better chance you can have for long-term sustained success. . . . And I think we have the right people to build this franchise from the football perspective.”
PHOENIX – CEO Jed York said he does not expect the Raiders’ move to Las Vegas to have a significant short-term benefit for the 49ers.
After all, there appears to be a clear delineation between the two fan bases.
“The easy thing to say is this is a great financial gain for the 49ers, which just isn’t the case,” York said from the NFL owners meetings on the 49ers Insider Podcast.
The Raiders moved from Oakland to Los Angeles in 1982, leaving the 49ers as the only NFL act in the Bay Area for 13 seasons. During that time the 49ers won four Super Bowls. But there were few tangible benefits to the 49ers that were directly associated with the Raiders' absence from the market.
“You did not see a huge increase in ticket revenue, sponsorship revenue, even in terms of overall exposure in the market, because I think Raiders fans and 49ers fans are just a different group of folks,” York said. “The Raiders fans aren’t necessarily loyal to a certain geographic location. They’re loyal to the Raiders. I think you’ll see those fans follow the Raiders to Las Vegas.”
York said “20-plus percent” of the 49ers’ season-ticket holders live in Alameda County. He said the only change he envisions would be the expansion of some of the 49ers’ philanthropic efforts to some of the East Bay’s underserved communities.
The 49ers’ home, Levi’s Stadium, was built with the design of accommodating two home teams. While the NFL might have preferred the 49ers and Raiders to forge a relationship with a shared stadium, like the New York Giants and Jets, the Raiders never seriously considered a move to the South Bay.
“We had the conversation with Mark (Davis), but when the stadium was up and running in Santa Clara, and Levi’s was really going, it really is the 49ers’ stadium,” York said. “I think there was a little hesitancy of truly being a tenant in somebody else’s stadium, which certainly makes sense that it wasn’t high on their priority list.”
The Raiders figure to remain in the Bay Area for three seasons until their new home in Southern Nevada is ready for NFL action. The Raiders have a lease at the Oakland Coliseum for the 2017 and ’18 seasons. Davis expressed a preference to extend the lease to 2019.
The 49ers would be open to discussing the possibility of the Raiders’ use of Levi’s Stadium – seemingly as a last resort for both sides.
“If that was an opportunity, we’d certainly sit down and discuss it,” York said. “But I think there are a lot of moving pieces right now and it’s really conjecture to talk about 2019 at this point when they’d still obviously prefer to stay at the Coliseum.”