Bill Walsh is an NFL legend, and for good reason. As the creator of what’s dubbed as the West Coast Offense, Walsh turned the San Francisco 49ers into a powerhouse in the 1980s, leading them to three Super Bowl wins and the highest point per game average (24.4) of any offense during that decade. His legacy hasin the league today, with different variations of his offensive principles on full display.
That said, being compared to Walsh is a massive compliment, in and of itself, but when it’s Ronnie Lott doing the comparing — it carries that much more weight.
Lott, a Pro Football Hall of Famer himself who was drafted by Walsh, sees a lot of the legendary 49ers coach in the current one, Kyle Shanahan. The organization enjoyed a special 2019 season that saw them reach Super Bowl LIV and nearly deliver the franchise’s sixth Lombardi, if not for a fourth-quarter surge by eventual Super Bowl MVP Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs, but the message had already been sent. In only his third season with the club, Shanahan had already joined with general manager John Lynch to create a contender and, in a recent interview with SiriusXM NFL Radio, Lott explained why it didn’t take long.
“To me, they’re there,” he said, via NFL.com. “They’re there on the offense and the reason I think that they’re there on the offense is that, and I’ve said this is, Kyle is our version of Bill Walsh. I think he’s one of the most innovative guys in pro football when it comes to offense.”
Having fallen just short of the ultimate goal last season, the 49ers have seemingly reloaded and are expected to make another run at the title in 2020, and Lott believes they’re on the verge of taking the next step — particularly after the team awarded Shanahan a new deal this offseason.
“I like where they’re at,” Lott said. “I like what they’re doing. I love the way that they built it from the guys up front and now they’re trying to hopefully be able to get the secondary even better. They got the ingredients.”
He does, however, foresee some obvious challenges.
“The question is that you’re in a division that you’ve got some talent,” Lott noted. “… You’re in a division where there were certain teams you’ve got to beat. Right now they’re in a division where there’s talent, there’s a lot of talent. You’ve got the Rams who went to the Super Bowl.
“You got Seattle — that’s a very talented team — and you got the Cardinals who are literally saying, ‘We’re coming after you guys.’ That’s where you gotta look at them and say they’re competing and they’ve got to compete every week. But I gotta believe they’re right there. They’re right there because of what we saw last year.”
If Shanahan can even remotely live up to Lott’s comparison of him to Walsh, the 49ers will be more than fine, and for a long time to come.
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