SANTA CLARA, Calif. — When Kyle Shanahan was up for a head coaching job in the NFL two offseasons ago, he had one of his interviews in a very familiar place.
Shanahan met with Denver general manager John Elway for about four hours to interview for a job his dad, Mike, held for 14 seasons, helping Elway and the Broncos win a pair of Super Bowl titles.
Elway ended up giving the job to Vance Joseph in 2017 and Shanahan got hired by the San Francisco 49ers instead in what he believes is a better spot to make his imprint.
“I’d like to say I made the decision pretty hard on them. I’d like to think that,” Shanahan said. “I didn’t think I had much chance before. I definitely am happy where I am, and I think it’s definitely a better situation not being there with my dad. Also, that’s my wife’s home. That’s my home. I enjoy going back there to visit, but I like living where I’m at.”
Shanahan now gets the chance to coach against the franchise he spent so much time around as a kid when the 49ers (2-10) host the Broncos (6-6) on Sunday.
Shanahan has plenty of memories from his time in Denver, especially being the “cord boy” in Denver’s 1998 Super Bowl win over Green Bay when he held the cords for his father on the sideline.
“After that Green Bay Super Bowl, they went wireless the next year,” Shanahan said. “I think they only won one more because they didn’t have as good of a cord-holder, is what I always tell my dad.”
Here are some other things to watch:
Two of the three undrafted quarterbacks to start a game in the NFL this season will square off on Sunday.
Denver’s Case Keenum entered the league as an undrafted free agent in Houston in 2012 and emerged as a top-flight starter last year in Minnesota. He signed with the Broncos this year and has the team in position for a playoff run.
San Francisco’s Nick Mullens entered the league last year as an undrafted free agent and was finally promoted from the practice squad in September after Jimmy Garoppolo went down with a season-ending knee injury in Week 3. Mullens has started four games and has the fifth-most yards passing since the merger in his first four career games with 1,147.
“Being an undrafted guy, I’ve kind of, I guess you could say done some research on different guys’ paths and how they’ve made it, how they’ve stuck around in the NFL,” Mullens said. “He’s definitely a guy that I’ve looked at his path, see how he’s gone. He’s a great quarterback.”
UNDRAFTED GEMS PART 2
Both teams will also feature undrafted starting running backs as well. Denver’s Phillip Lindsay has 1,126 yards from scrimmage this season, joining Dominic Rhodes (1,328), Clark Gaines (1,124) and LeGarrette Blount (1,021) as the only undrafted rookies to reach 1,000 yards from scrimmage.
San Francisco’s Jeff Wilson gets his first start in place of another undrafted gem, Matt Breida, who is out with an ankle injury. Wilson rushed for 61 yards on 15 carries and caught eight passes for 73 yards in his most extensive action last week and is familiar with Lindsay as another undrafted player.
“You know who the guys are,” Wilson said. “I know he’s a great back. He’s one of the best ones to me.”
The Broncos got a tough break this week when leading receiver Emmanuel Sanders went down with a torn left Achilles tendon in practice on Wednesday. Sanders led the team with 71 catches for 868 yards and four touchdowns in a bounce-back year. His injury comes three days after star cornerback Chris Harris Jr. broke his leg, leaving the Broncos without seven starters from the opening-day lineup.
“We can’t cry about it,” Joseph said. “We have to move on and go play a football game on Sunday.”
SEARCHING FOR TAKEAWAYS
The 49ers are closing in on a record for ineptitude when it comes to causing turnovers. Their five takeaways through 12 games are the fewest ever at this point in the season, lowering the previous mark of seven by Jacksonville in 2016.
San Francisco needs six takeaways in the final four games to avoid setting the mark of 11 for fewest ever in a non-strike season, last done by Chicago in 2016.
AP Pro Football Writer Arnie Stapleton in Englewood, Colorado, contributed to this report
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Josh Dubow, The Associated Press