LAS VEGAS — One of the storylines of last NFL offseason was how teams had devalued the running back position.
The 49ers, however, did not take part in that trend.
Christian McCaffrey rewarded the 49ers on Thursday night by winning NFL Offensive Player of the Year after finishing with 21 total touchdowns and leading the league in scrimmage yards en route to a 12-5 record and the No. 1 seed in the NFC.
Stay in the game with the latest updates on your beloved Bay Area and California sports teams! Sign up here for our All Access Daily newsletter.
McCaffrey beat out league MVP Lamar Jackson and 49ers teammate Brock Purdy for the award, which was announced at NFL Honors.
“It's hard to find guys like Christian that can provide that value," 49ers fullback Kyle Juszczyk said this week.
McCaffrey led the NFL with 1,459 yards rushing and 14 rushing touchdowns while averaging 5.4 yards per attempt. He added 67 receptions for 564 yards and seven touchdowns to lead the league with 2,023 yards from scrimmage.
San Francisco 49ers
“Football is the biggest team game on the planet, and one guy can’t do anything without all 10 of the other guys,” McCaffrey told NBC Sports Bay Area this week. “That’s why this is a special team. You have All-Pros all over the field, and you got arguably the best mind in football calling plays.”
Coach Kyle Shanahan has utilized all of McCaffrey’s skills as the focal point of an offense that led the 49ers to Super Bowl LVIII against the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday at Allegiant Stadium.
“It’s no secret we use Christian in the pass game a lot,” Juszczyk said. “He moves out of the backfield a lot, so our third downs have evolved in how we use the running back.”
The 49ers acquired McCaffrey in the middle of the 2022 season in a trade with the Carolina Panthers for second-, third-, fourth- and fifth-round draft picks.
In addition to giving up a lot of draft capital to acquire McCaffrey, the 49ers also are paying him an average of more than $12 million per season through 2025. This comes at a time when such running backs as Josh Jacobs, Jonathan Taylor and Saquan Barkley had offseason contract disputes with their teams.
The conversation through most of the season was whether the 49ers’ quarterback or running back was more worthy of being league MVP.
“It is unusual,” Shanahan said. “I think to get to where we’ve gotten and to do it at the level we have, you should have some players up for those awards.
“But having both of those guys in the run game and the pass game, with Christian doing it both, they’ve both been unbelievable and are a big part of our offense.”
McCaffrey could join his father, former NFL receiver Ed McCaffrey, as a Super Bowl champion. Ed McCaffrey won one Super Bowl with the 49ers with Mike Shanahan as the offensive coordinator and two more after Shanahan became the Denver Broncos’ head coach and signed McCaffrey as a free agent.
Christian McCaffrey was asked this week about the possibility of adding to the family’s collection of Super Bowl rings.
“It definitely would be cool,” McCaffrey said. “We were fortunate enough to have a dad who won three Super Bowls, had a lot of success, played 13 years, but also did it the right way and was a great father.
“He taught all of us how to play the game and do it the right way. To be able to share that moment with him would be awesome.”