Kyle Shanahan explains how 49ers' running back competition will be decided


The 49ers head into the 2019 offseason with five running backs on the roster and a decision to make on who will get the bulk of the time in the backfield. 

Head coach Kyle Shanahan explained on the Adam Schefter podcast how the decision on which running backs will see time is not his to make. Instead, it will be up to the players. 

“Everyone keeps asking me that like I’m in charge of that or something,” Shanahan said with a laugh. “It’s up to the players. They will define their roles. That’s kind of what’s unique about this.” 

The team signed Tevin Coleman to a two-year deal worth $8.5 million. Both Shanahan and general manager John Lynch admitted that they weren’t in the market for another back but it was too good of a deal to pass up.

Coleman played in Shanahan’s system in Atlanta which should make his adaption to the 49ers seamless.  

The team expects Jerick McKinnon to be ready for the offseason program, but they won’t rush him back as he recovers from his ACL injury. Matt Breida, Jeff Wilson and special teams standout Raheem Mostert round out the group which is not at a loss for speed. 

“They all can do a bunch of different things,” Shanahan said. “The one thing that they have in common is they all run 4.40 or less so I don’t have to look back there to see if I have a slow guy or a fast guy, they are all fast.”  

Shanahan pointed out the varying qualities of the group and also recalled 2018 when injuries plagued the team. They very well could need all five ball carriers. 

“They come in different sizes, they do different types of routes,” Shanahan said. “We played with four running backs last year so I’m not going sit here and try to think about what to do with four running backs, we might need them all.” 

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The competition will be fierce for who will be the lead back in Santa Clara, and Shanahan is relishing the situation. He and his coaching staff like what they have in the group and look forward to seeing how they can take advantage of their varying attributes. 

“If they all stay healthy it will be a fun problem for us to figure out, how to utilize them as a coaching staff.” 

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