NFL Power Rankings: The 49ers are a mess, and it's time for Kyle Shanahan to fix it

·12-min read

There was a weird moment on Sunday night when San Francisco 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan challenged a play that had no chance of being overturned. 

Colts running back Jonathan Taylor fumbled in the rain on a fourth down, but Indianapolis jumped on the recovery. Taylor clearly had the first down. The 49ers wasted a timeout for nothing. Shanahan explained he "didn’t see it at all" and that the sideline was yelling there was a fumble and the headsets went out at that moment. Since Shanahan heard there was a fumble he threw the flag when he couldn't "get ahold of anybody." 

“That was a mess-up by us,” Shanahan said, according to KNBR

It was a weird mistake but ultimately not one that was the reason the 49ers lost 30-18. It epitomized a sloppy team with a head coach who has recently lost his ability to push any right button. In other disappointing 49ers seasons, a lack of talent or terrible injury luck could be blamed. This 2-4 49ers team has just been playing well below its talent level, and Shanahan isn't surprised he's being criticized. 

“Yeah, you lose four games in a row, I’m the coach of this team,” Shanahan said, via NBC Sports Bay Area. “I expect it and I deserve it.”

It's new ground for Shanahan. He has been criticized for his role in two blown Super Bowl leads, but that's different than wondering why the 49ers can't get things right over the past month. Whenever the 49ers have struggled before there have been other excuses made for Shanahan, but this season has been a mess. The quarterback situation hasn't resolved itself. Jimmy Garoppolo has been the same checkdown quarterback he has always been, and Trey Lance got hurt in his only start because the 49ers had a reckless plan that set their rookie up to get hit too many times. The offense has missed injured George Kittle and struggling Brandon Aiyuk, who has gotten in Shanahan's doghouse and seemingly can't get out. The defense has been mediocre and hasn't made many big plays. 

Sunday night was a good example of the 49ers' offense this season. The first drive was great, with Elijah Mitchell running well and the 49ers getting a quick touchdown. They had 78 yards on that drive, and 85 yards on their next nine drives combined. Playing in a rainstorm didn't help anything but it's not like it's a new issue for Shanahan and his play-calling. 

"I don't think I've got in a great rhythm," Shanahan said. "I think we've done it on a couple drives, but we have not sustained that. No, I have not felt comfortable with it.”

Shanahan has a reputation as a good coach, and it's deserved. He isn't on the hot seat just because the 49ers have had a bad month. But he had losing records in three of his first four seasons with the 49ers. Shanahan got very little heat for those bad seasons, and it helped that the one winning season included an NFC championship. If this season keeps going as it has, with lingering uncertainty at quarterback, no consistent ability to get the team's playmakers aside from Deebo Samuel going and losses piling up, we'll have to reconsider what Shanahan is as a coach. 

There's still time to turn it around. If Shanahan is a good coach, he'll find a way. He might not want to waste any more time doing so. 

San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan is off to a 2-4 start. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar)
San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan is off to a 2-4 start. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar)

Here are the power rankings following Week 7 of the NFL season:

32. Houston Texans (1-6, Last Week: 31)

Tyrod Taylor should resume practicing this week and could return from a hamstring injury. At least he'd make the Texans a somewhat competent NFL team. Let's keep telling ourselves that anyway.

31. Detroit Lions (0-7, LW: 32)

Receiver Kalif Raymond is a fun story. He was undrafted out of Holy Cross. From 2016 to this season, he had 19 catches for 369 yards for four teams. On Sunday he had six catches for 115 yards and looked very good. He's 27, finally getting a shot on a Lions team that is severely short on talent and also dealing with injuries, and he's making the most of it. 

30. New York Jets (1-5, LW: 28)

After Zach Wilson hurt his knee, the Jets traded a conditional sixth-round pick to the Eagles for Joe Flacco. That pick can turn into a fifth-rounder based on playing time. What in the world is a 1-5 team doing trading draft picks for an old quarterback with no upside at all?

29. Miami Dolphins (1-6, LW: 27)

Maybe the Dolphins will end up trading for Deshaun Watson, and we all know why. Watson is one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL, and plenty of teams would ignore his off-field situation to land him. But it would also be reasonable to keep all the assets they'd presumably have to give up to get Watson and see if they can boost Tua Tagovailoa's play. It's not like Tagovailoa has been awful so far in his NFL career.

28. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-5, LW: 30)

One of the Jaguars' goals after the bye has to be to get Laviska Shenault more involved. He has shown flashes this season. But the question is if this coaching staff can figure out how to actually use his talent to its fullest. It hasn't yet. 

27. New York Giants (2-5, LW: 29)

Rookie Azeez Ojulari got 2.5 sacks on Sunday, pushing his season total to 5.5. The Giants might have made a great second-round pick to take Ojulari, who led the SEC in sacks last season at Georgia. 

26. Washington Football Team (2-5, LW: 25)

Washington actually out-gained the Packers 430-304. It had four straight possessions in the Green Bay red zone and somehow got only three points out of that. That's how bad teams lose games. 

25. Philadelphia Eagles (2-5, LW: 24)

Running back Miles Sanders is likely to miss some time with an ankle injury. It's not like the Eagles are running it much anyway, but it won't help an uneven offense to lose another player. 

24. Chicago Bears (3-4, LW: 21)

Justin Fields threw an interception because he was told in his helmet headset that the Buccaneers had 12 men on the field and he had a free play, so he should snap it quickly. The Buccaneers didn't have 12 men on the field. That is a ridiculously bad mistake by the team's staff, which isn't exactly boosting a young quarterback who needs some help.

23. Seattle Seahawks (2-5, LW: 23)

Let's never question Russell Wilson's value again after what we saw on Monday night.

22. Denver Broncos (3-4, LW: 20)

In a poll by Broncos Wire, 93 percent of fans said they wanted Vic Fangio fired (3 percent were indifferent so only 4 percent of fans actively wanted to keep Fangio around). If the Broncos lose at home to a 2-5 Washington Football Team this week, it's going to get even uglier.

21. Carolina Panthers (3-4, LW: 18)

A month ago, the Panthers were 3-0, thrilled with Sam Darnold and making two separate cornerback trades like they were playoff contenders. Since then they're 0-4 and Darnold looks like a lost cause again. It has been a remarkable turn of events.

20. Atlanta Falcons (3-3, LW: 26)

Kyle Pitts is really good. His 163 receiving yards were the second most by a rookie tight end since the 1970 merger, according to NFL Research. Giants legend Mark Bavaro had 176 yards against the Bengals in 1985. It's troubling the coaching staff couldn't or wouldn't get Pitts going for four games — he had a meager 15-189-0 in that span — but the fourth overall pick is unlocked now.

19. San Francisco 49ers (2-4, LW: 17)

One huge bright spot for the 49ers this season has been receiver Deebo Samuel. He has put up a 38-648-4 line and has been one of the better receivers in football. It would be nice if Brandon Aiyuk was also coming along on the breakout ride, but having Samuel play like this is promising for the future.

18. Minnesota Vikings (3-3, LW: 16)

The Vikings, who could be 1-5 or 6-0 if a few plays were different, are in an interesting spot this week at home against the Cowboys. That's the Sunday night game. If the Vikings are closer to that "good team that has had some rough close losses" line, then they will upset the Cowboys and could start to make a wild-card run.

17. Pittsburgh Steelers (3-3, LW: 15)

The Steelers are hoping to get defensive lineman Stephon Tuitt back from IR soon, though there's no firm timetable on when he'll return. When Tuitt comes back, he'll instantly help a pass rush that needs a boost.

16. Indianapolis Colts (3-4, LW: 22)

The Colts have been playing much better, but the Titans are playing really well too. If the Colts lose to Tennessee on Sunday, they're three games back in the AFC South and the Titans will clinch the tiebreaker. This is as must-win as a Week 8 game can get.

15. New England Patriots (3-4, LW: 19)

We'll have to see if the Patriots' offensive explosion was a big step forward or a case of the Jets being that bad. Either way, it was obviously a good day for rookie quarterback Mac Jones and his teammates. A Week 8 game against the Chargers will be a great test. 

14. Cleveland Browns (4-3, LW: 11)

Even though the Browns won without Baker Mayfield in Week 7, they don't want to be without him too long. It's worth wondering if they think they can win without Mayfield this week against Pittsburgh, then perhaps bring him back for what is suddenly a big Week 9 game at Cincinnati. That assumes Mayfield is healthy enough by then that it's an option. 

13. Kansas City Chiefs (3-4, LW: 8)

The Chiefs aren't the worst team in football or anything, but it's clear this is a flawed team in a few ways, some of which are unexpected. You can't rule out the Chiefs figuring it out and getting hot, but it's time to wonder if this is just an average team. 

12. New Orleans Saints (4-2, LW: 13)

Demario Davis had one of the best games you'll see from a linebacker on Monday night. The Seahawks stubbornly tried to keep running the ball and Davis wouldn't allow it. He had 10 tackles, two sacks and broke up the Seahawks' final fourth-down pass.

11. Las Vegas Raiders (5-2, LW: 14)

If we excuse the Raiders for a bad loss to the Bears because it came two days after Jon Gruden's first emails were leaked, the rest of their results are impressive. At some point maybe we just have to acknowledge this is a good team, and maybe one that can win the AFC West. That's what the first seven games have indicated.

10. Los Angeles Chargers (4-2, LW: 9)

The Chiefs' loss was a victory for the Chargers over their bye week. The upcoming schedule isn't too tough either (vs. Patriots, at Eagles, vs. Vikings, vs. Steelers, at Broncos), so they have a chance to solidify their place in the division along with the Raiders. 

9. Tennessee Titans (5-2, LW: 10)

It's hard to have a much better seven-day stretch than the Titans, who beat the Bills and Chiefs. The best news might be that for the first time this season, A.J. Brown looked like a dominant No. 1 receiver.

8. Baltimore Ravens (5-2, LW: 7)

The game got away from the Ravens, who handed off to running backs 11 times and threw 42 times. That's not what they want to do, no matter how well Lamar Jackson has been passing it.

7. Cincinnati Bengals (5-2, LW: 12)

A Bengals' upset at Baltimore wouldn't have been too crazy. A 24-point win was not expected by anyone. Suddenly the Bengals are a 5-2 team with an emphatic win over the Ravens on the road. They're looking like a playoff team and they might be the best bet to win the AFC North too.

6. Buffalo Bills (4-2, LW: 6)

The Bills' next three games are against the Dolphins, Jaguars and Jets. Losing to the Titans wasn't ideal, but the Bills should be 7-2 by the time they're challenged again. 

5. Green Bay Packers (6-1, LW: 5)

The Packers put receiver Davante Adams on the COVID-19 list Monday, and also said defensive coordinator Joe Barry tested positive too. And that happened with the Packers on a short week before facing the Cardinals. If both miss Thursday's game, that's obviously a huge blow for the Packers. 

4. Dallas Cowboys (5-1, LW: 4)

Receiver Michael Gallup was injured Week 1, but he's supposed to return to practice this week. When he is able to play again, the Cowboys offense will have yet another option. That's scary. 

3. Los Angeles Rams (6-1, LW: 2)

Jalen Ramsey's interception on Sunday practically sealed the win, and it was an exceptional play. He baited Jared Goff a bit on a pass to the end zone and then undercut the route perfectly. Not many players could make that kind of play. That's why the Rams paid a heavy price to trade for Ramsey. 

2. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-1, LW: 3)

Leonard Fournette is having a pretty good season, with 635 yards from scrimmage and a healthy 4.4 average per carry. Ronald Jones had his best game of the season on Sunday, with 63 yards on 10 carries. The Bucs' offense seems impossible to stop. 

1. Arizona Cardinals (7-0, LW: 1)

Kyler Murray took some huge hits on Sunday and while he kept getting up, it was a reminder that the Cardinals' great season can go south in a hurry if Murray gets banged up. That's what happened last season, when he played through a shoulder injury. 

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