SANTA CLARA (AP) — The goal for Kyle Shanahan during the remaining seven games of this season is identifying players to keep around through a franchise-wide rebuilding project.
He’ll certainly find out who can handle adversity. The 49ers fell to 0-9 on Sunday with their 20-10 loss to the Arizona Cardinals, extending the team’s worst start in franchise history. The Browns are the league’s only other winless team.
“There’s not a doubt in my mind we’ll get through this,” Shanahan said Monday. “It’s when you get through it, are you going to be better from it or worse? And I know I’ll be better and I expect our team will be better.”
Shanahan signed a six-year contract with San Francisco when hired in February. It’s no surprise the team has struggled as Shanahan and first-year general manager John Lynch began building a foundation of continuity after three coaches were fired the previous three seasons.
But things have been made worse by a slew of injuries to key players. The 49ers on Sunday were without top offensive lineman Joe Staley and their leading receiver Pierre Garçon, who’s done for the year because of a non-displaced fracture in his neck. Also out was recent third-overall draft pick Solomon Thomas, free safety Jimmie Ward (injured reserve) and 2015 first-round pick Arik Armstead.
Making things worse, promising third-year safety Jaquiski Tartt is expected to go on injured reserve after fracturing his arm in the first half against Arizona.
The 49ers went into the game with 15 players on injured reserve and are expected to add three more this week: Tartt, tight end Cole Hikutini (knee) and tackle Garry Gilliam (knee).
The injuries mean Shanahan will have to rely on reserves for his first win as a head coach. San Francisco has one of its most winnable games coming up, a home matchup against the 1-7 Giants.
“It takes mentally strong people, because right now you can sit there and look for every excuse in the world and people will try to give it to you. But that doesn’t matter,” Shanahan said. “Your record is what it is at the end of the year. And you got to do everything you can fight to improve at and make sure that you’re getting better and not worse. And I know we got a huge challenge ahead of us right now. I know it’s gotten tougher with injuries. That doesn’t mean we can’t get better from it.”
NOTES: Shanahan said the 49ers will be without TE George Kittle (ankle), WR Trent Taylor (broken rib) and LB Elijah Lee Sunday against the Giants. ... WR Louis Murphy, who was with the team in August, was signed Monday along with TE Logan Paulsen, who’s been released twice by San Francisco this season.
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