SANTA CLARA — The 49ers facility was livelier than it had been in the last two seasons on Wednesday. Players joked with each other, and there was a buzz that had been noticeably absent as recently as a month ago.
Winning three in a row tends to have a positive effect on morale. But the good vibes belied a core philosophy of head coach Kyle Shanahan: Never get too high or too low.
“Once you start to make decisions or lead anything based off of ego, you get humbled as fast as anything in this league,” he said Wednesday.
Shanahan said he has a “1,000 stories” from his own career and from being an observer of the league that informed his way of thinking.
The obvious example would be Super Bowl LI. Shanahan was riding high as the offensive coordinator of the Atlanta Falcons, but couldn’t preserve a 25-point lead late in the second half.
So, forgive the 49ers head coach if he doesn’t get carried away in his team’s recent fortune.
“I know everyone’s extremely positive about us recently. That’s neat that everyone feels that way, and we’re excited too,” he said. “But I also know if our kicker’s not 100 percent on all those field goals that we’d be feeling a little bit different.”
That’s the nature of life in the NFL. In one season, the Niners have exhibited how there’s a slight margin between defeat and victory.
Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo is nearly universally credited for turning those close losses into thrilling victories. Fans call him “Jimmy G-sus” for the miracles he performs and, like his nickname-sake, he works in mysterious ways and has an inspirational effect on the people around him.
The defense is performing as their exposure on the field is limited thanks to the offense dominating possession. And special teams is doing its job, putting points on the board and helping with the battle for field position.
“It’s all tied together, and I think we’re working in the right direction for that,” Garoppolo explained.
A franchise quarterback alone can’t be credited for a total team turnaround. It can’t be that simple. Garoppolo wasn’t the one who led the defense to a stop on 3rd-and-short late in the contest against Tennessee, which forced the Titans offense off the field and set the scene for Garoppolo to author another game-winning drive.
So what is it that actually ties it all together?
“It’s the magic of football,” Garoppolo cracked.
Whatever it is, the combination of Garoppolo and Shanahan has it.
But don’t expect the coach to get too excited about it.