Running back Christian McCaffrey‘s arrival sparked the 49ers’ run to the NFC Championship Game last year and it made head coach Kyle Shanahan’s job less difficult.
Shanahan said that McCaffrey’s ability as a runner and receiver — he also threw a touchdown for the 49ers — simplifies his job because he knows that he can count on McCaffrey to win his matchups.
“It makes it easier. It calms your mind a little bit,” Shanahan said, via 49ersWebzone.com. “You don’t have to make as much stuff up. Everyone wants to be like, ‘Oh, you got him now. How creative are you going to be?’ It’s like, ‘You don’t have to be as creative.’ He can beat that guy. We don’t have to help him. The defense has got to help the guy guarding him. That’s where it gets cool. And that’s what I love so much about Christian.”
Because defenses need to use extra help on McCaffrey, Shanahan said “it just spaces everything out” and there are chances for George Kittle, Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk and others on offense to get the ball because it is easier for them to get open. That approach worked well for the 49ers last season and their opponents will have to try to find a better way to defend them this year.