Kittle details how Shanahan has evolved as a communicator

NBC Sports Bay Area

George Kittle possesses a unique perspective on Kyle Shanahan after having been with the organization since his coach’s first season with the team in 2017.

During an interview with NBC Sports Bay Area’s Matt Maiocco on the latest episode of the “49ers Talk” podcast, Kittle revealed how Shanahan has grown the most during their seven seasons together in San Francisco.

“What has really impressed me the most about Kyle, from sitting in his meetings all the time and seeing how everything has kind of evolved,” Kittle told Maiocco. “How he has figured out the best way to talk to his players, the best way to inspire his players, the best way to talk to his coaches, it’s evolved every single year.

“We used to have team meetings early in my career where he would let players talk, and that’s who would talk to the team before games and stuff like that.

“These last couple [of] years, he’s kind of found his rhythm about how he wants to talk to the team, and I’ve really appreciated that.”

The All-Pro tight end then went into detail explaining how effective Shanahan’s unparalleled communication is while also having his devout work ethic resonate with players and coaches alike.

“The last three to four years, the way that Kyle speaks to the offense and we talk about the run game, how he teaches the run game, how he explains it in front of the whole team,” Kittle explained. “I feel like guys learn more about football in these small team meetings that we have than you would with any other coach that you’ve ever played with.

“I’ve heard guys say that; there’s an occasional rookie I have to nudge him like, ‘Hey, make sure you’re paying attention to this because it’s very knowledgable.’ But when you’re around a guy who loves the game [like he] does, has the intensity that he does, and puts in the time that he does, it’s incredible to be around because it is infectious.

“You see how hard he works, how hard he pushes the coaches to work and that lands on us too. They do all this grunt work, everything to set it up for us to make it as easy as they can on us so we can go out there and succeed on Sundays.”

The success that the 49ers have had in recent seasons has created a yearly tradition of Shanahan’s staff having members poached by other organizations. Kittle explained how impressed he is with Shanahan’s ability to consistently deal with a high level of turnover among his assistants without missing a beat.

“It’s been really fun to be a part of his offense and to see it evolve, especially when he loses his best friends, his offensive coordinators, [Mike] McDaniel is gone, [Mike] LaFleur is gone, [Robert] Saleh is gone, DeMeco [Ryans] is gone and he keeps replacing them with people who he thinks can help him, amazing,” Kittle told Maiocco.

“He feels like he can continue to replace them, and he does such a good job at that, so to see him at the helm doing all the things that he’s doing, it’s very fun to be a part of and just watch his growth.”

Shanahan faced some scrutiny for his clock management decisions during the 49ers’ NFC divisional playoff round win over the Green Bay Packers last weekend.

The 49ers coach’s strategy around doubling up on points before and after halftime has become a fixture in San Francisco’s weekly game plan. Kittle revealed that while it took time to adjust, Shanahan’s ability to effectively convey why that strategy is being utilized ultimately got the All-Pro to buy into his coach’s plan.

“It took a while, but I’m used to it now. I understand what he’s trying to do,” Kittle shared. “It’s another one of those things you learn from. When we have our meetings on Fridays, he goes through and explains why we are doing the things that we’re doing. He pulls up other games around the league, going, ‘This is when they didn’t do it, and this is how it bit them in the butt.

“This is the best chance at success for us. We have to finish the [first] half with the ball, and we’re going to try and push it down the field a little bit, but we’re going to do everything we can to not give them an opportunity to have the ball so we get it to start the second half.

“When you look at that, the statistics [and] the analytics, whatever you want to say about them, how he does that and how he calls plays is incredible.”

Kittle and Shanahan will participate in their fourth NFC Championship Game together when the 49ers host the Detroit Lions on Sunday at Levi’s Stadium with a trip to Super Bowl LVIII on the line.

The pair hope to get back to the sport’s biggest stage and avenge a heartbreaking loss nearly four years ago in Super Bowl LIV.

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