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Kyle Shanahan, John Lynch likely on hot seat as 49ers suffer embarrassing loss to Cardinals

The 49ers lost an ugly one in Week 9. Big changes won’t happen yet, but seats are getting warm.

Head coach Kyle Shanahan of the San Francisco 49ers (L) talks with general manager John Lynch during practice for Super Bowl LIV at the Greentree Practice Fields on the campus of the University of Miami on January 30, 2020 in Coral Gables, Florida. Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

The San Francisco 49ers managed to embarrass themselves in a 31-17 loss to the Arizona Cardinals in Week 9. The Cardinals were playing without Kyler Murray and DeAndre Hopkins, and Chase Edmonds left the game with an injury leaving the team without arguably their three biggest offensive playmakers.

This was the kind of performance that can sometimes result in somebody getting fired. The Cardinals bulldozed the 49ers on both sides of the ball, and there were also some questionable decisions that make no sense. The 49ers elected to kick an extra point down 18 instead of going for two to turn the game into two possessions. In the fourth quarter, they punted on the Cardinals 39 trailing by 17. It all made zero sense.

The question now is will someone get fired for this loss? Defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans is responsible for a defense looking atrocious against some of the Cardinals backups. Head coach Kyle Shanahan is responsible for the entire product on the field that is going to drop to 3-5. And of course, general manager John Lynch is responsible alongside Shanahan for the roster that is out there.

Aside from maybe cutting cornerback Josh Norman, it’s unlikely we see a significant move benefitting such a poor performance. And yet, the above trio are likely all on the hot seat. Ryans is in his first year as the lead defensive play-caller, replacing Robert Saleh. The defense has had its moments, but it often feels more like individual player moments rather than a strong overall defensive game plan. The unit entered the game ranked 17th in efficiency, so I it might not be quite bad enough to justify firing Ryans quite yet.

The bigger issue is the leadership up top. We can talk about Shanahan and Lynch separately, but they are effectively tied at the hip. Lynch is GM, but the football world knows Shanahan has significant say in the roster-building. Odds are decent that if one was fired, the other would also be fired.

The 49ers made it to the Super Bowl in 2019, but otherwise it’s been fairly rough sledding for the team since Shanahan and Lynch took. The team finished in fourth place in 2017, third in 2018, and fourth in 2020. The first two years likely get some slack because of the rebuild, capped by the Super Bowl appearance. 2020 can be excused due to an excess of injuries on both sides of the ball.

But 2021? The team lacks discipline and any semblance of consistency. Shanahan created a quarterback controversy when he and Lynch moved up to draft Trey Lance while keeping Garoppolo as their starter. And yet this still feels like the least of their worries. The team does not seem to have any kind of focus and has shown no indication they can get on track. It’s one step forward — George Kittle returning, Brandon Aiyuk finally impressing — and two steps back — everything else in the game.

The question now is just how hot the seat is for Shanahan and Lynch. They’re signed through 2025, and given that they were extended on the heels of a Super Bowl appearance, they are likely costly deals. Is Jed York prepared to cut bait if things don’t turn around this season? That’s the however many million dollar question. They aren’t at that decision yet, but it’s fast approaching.