49ers

York, Shanahan and the question of whether to 'bro hug'

York, Shanahan and the question of whether to 'bro hug'

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.”

Reuben Foster does not wait long to show he can be special for 49ers

Reuben Foster does not wait long to show he can be special for 49ers

SANTA CLARA – There is something different about Reuben Foster.

It is similar to when Patrick Willis stepped on the practice field with the 49ers for training camp in 2007. He started out as a backup and had to earn his way onto the field.

All it took was two exhibition games. Brandon Moore was out of the starting lineup. Patrick Willis was in, and seven consecutive trips to the Pro Bowl followed.

Foster is not being handed a starting job with the 49ers. In fact, he faces a more difficult challenge to break into the starting lineup.

In front of Foster is veteran Malcolm Smith at the weakside linebacker spot. Eventually, Foster’s role in the 49ers’ defense will be the middle linebacker spot, where NaVorro Bowman is entrenched as the starter.

But it’s only a matter of time until Foster asserts himself as an every-down player.

Foster will have to earn his way into the starting lineup. He will have to earn respect with how he practices and plays. That was apparent on Thursday when Bowman was asked whether he watched Foster in college. Bowman gave a tepid review of Foster.

That’s understandable. After all, Foster had not practiced with the team until Friday. He was held out practices during the offseason program as he rehabbed from shoulder surgery. It took Bowman a full year before he won his starting job. Bowman started one game as a rookie before establishing himself as a starter and an All-Pro performer the next season.

Bowman is not going to lavish praise on a player who had never made it through an NFL practice – even someone who was the most-accomplished collegiate player on the 49ers’ roster.

Foster received medical clearance on Wednesday to take part on Day 1 of practice when the 49ers opened training camp on Friday. It took almost no time for him to stand out.

Foster intercepted a pass from fellow rookie C.J. Beathard early in Friday’s practice. Then, quite a scene followed. Foster returned it into the end zone through a maze of players -- many of whom were standing behind the line of scrimmage and not even involved in the play.

In his three seasons at Alabama, Foster never intercepted a pass. He was known for his toughness and violent sideline-to-sideline tackling ability.

“It was good to get him out there, get him on the field,” 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said. “I know he’s been chomping at the bit for a while now. It was good to see him go through it full speed, deal with getting aligned right and stuff. I think he got an interception out there today, which was good for him. It was a good first day.”

Foster could quickly turn into the most-exciting player on a team that is severely lacking in star quality. The 49ers targeted him early in the draft process as a player they wanted. Then, he had to check out physically and mentally for the team to determine when he was a person they wanted, too. When he visited the 49ers before the draft, general manager John Lynch became even more intrigued.

“He’s got an excitement that’s infectious,” Lynch said. “He’s an alpha dog. He wants to lead. He’s ready, he’s eager and we are certainly excited to watch him play.”

The 49ers did not believe his shoulder was a major issue. According to national reports, some teams removed him from their draft boards over concerns about his health. The 49ers would have taken him with the No. 3 pick in the draft if Myles Garrett and Solomon Thomas were selected with the top two picks.

Concerns over Foster’s health and a diluted urine sample, which immediately places him into the NFL program for substances of abuse, were the only justifications for his tumble to the end of the first round. The 49ers found a trade partner in the Seattle Seahawks and took Foster with the No. 31 overall pick.

Some teams probably really did have serious concerns about his shoulder. And perhaps those concerns were justified. But, maybe, the teams that could have drafted him feel the need to cover their own backsides for passing on a player who has the look of a special player.

49ers sign top pick Solomon Thomas during first practice

49ers sign top pick Solomon Thomas during first practice

SANTA CLARA -- The 49ers completed contract negotiations with their final unsigned draft pick as the team was going through warm-ups for the first practice of training camp.

Former Stanford defensive end Solomon Thomas, whom the 49ers selected with the No. 3 overall pick, signed Friday and was expected to join his teammates later in the day.

The sides agreed to the mandatory four-year contract worth more than $28 million, including a signing bonus of approximately $18.6 million. The deal is expected to be fully guaranteed.

The 49ers also have an option for the fifth season (2021) that must be exercised months after the 2019 season.

Thomas was unable to participate in full-squad workouts during the offseason due to Stanford’s late class schedule. NFL rules prohibit a rookie from attending the offseason program until his school’s classes have concluded for the spring session.

The 49ers – and the vast majority of NFL teams – have not had a contract stalemate with a rookie since the new collective bargaining agreement went into effect in 2011.

The organization had similar timing with a first-round pick from last year. Guard Joshua Garnett, also from Stanford, signed with the 49ers on the evening before players were scheduled to report to training camp.

Around the NFL, there has been only one notable contract disagreement that prevented a draft pick from reporting to camp in a timely fashion. Defensive lineman Joey Bosa, whom the Chargers selected with the No. 3 pick last year, sat out a month of training camp due to a disagreement over how his bonus would be distributed. Bosa and Thomas are both represented by the agent firm of Creative Artists Agency.