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TWENTYMAN: Coaching Senior Bowl helped 49ers, and could help Lions too

MIAMI – This time last year Kyle Shanahan and the San Francisco 49ers coaching staff were getting back from coaching the Senior Bowl and starting to look toward free agency and the NFL Draft, a draft in which they had the No. 2 overall pick.

Fast forward just one year, and Shanahan was standing behind a podium Wednesday night in front of a packed ballroom of reporters and cameras at a downtown Miami hotel for his daily press conference in preparation for Sunday's Super Bowl game against Kansas City.

Shanahan talked about the grind it's taken to get to this week. He was 6-10 his first year in San Francisco, and followed that up by winning just four games in 2018, losing his quarterback to injury for most of the year and being decimated by injuries across the roster.

The similarities between Shanahan's first two seasons in San Francisco and Matt Patricia's first two in Detroit are evident. Shanahan's said he's always had a plan and stuck to it, taking advantage of the opportunities he and his staff have had along the way, including coaching the Senior Bowl.

"Being at the Senior Bowl is not always the most fun thing for a coach because the season just ended and you want to get away for a little bit, but it's a huge advantage," Shanahan said. "You get to go there and get a head start on a bunch of guys, people your scouts and everyone have already been looking at. You get to meet a lot of people which will really help you.

"I think going to that Senior Bowl helped us a lot. We have a few guys from that team. Find out about a few guys you don't want to add, also, which helps."

Shanahan and the 49ers got an up-close look at wide receiver Deebo Samuel and outside linebacker Dre Greenlaw. The two were drafted by the 49ers and have become important rookie players in the 49ers' resurgence in 2019.

The Lions are hoping to use a similar playbook for their own resurgence. The Lions coached the North Team at the Senior Bowl last week and collected a lot of valuable information on a large part of this draft class. Maybe it helps them find a couple impact players of their own.

Like the 49ers a year ago, the Lions have cap space to play with in free agency, and also own a top three pick they expect to get an impact player with. The 49ers used the No. 2 pick last year on likely Defensive Rookie of the Year Nick Bosa.

"Look how much Deebo (Samuel) has helped us this year," Shanahan said of Samuel's 57 receptions for 802 yards and three touchdowns as a rookie. "It would be hard for us to do what we did to go get him if we hadn't spent time with him like that (at the Senior Bowl)."

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