The 49ers saved their season when they figured out the right way to use Deebo Samuel.
Samuel is an elite wide receiver who led the NFL in yards per catch this season. But he also is an elite running back, as the 49ers learned midway through this season, and when they give him at least six carries in a game, they're undefeated.
Had the 49ers figured out the best way to use Samuel two years ago, they wouldn't have blown a 10-point fourth quarter lead in the Super Bowl. That's how important this revelation has been.
Here's what offensive coordinator Mike McDaniel said Thursday about the process of figuring out how best to use Samuel:
Q: From a personnel standpoint, when a guy like Deebo Samuel has the season he did, do you think that's going to become something other teams will look for, or is he hard to replicate?
McDANIEL: "Any time people approach some uncharted territory, it opens people's minds. But if watched any of the draft coverage the last couple years, people have been trying to find the next Deebo, The problem is there's one Deebo. Maybe he will open up opportunities for other guys with his skillsets, but he is a rare, rare player for him to be able to contribute in the way he does -- shoot, it has taken time for us to adjust. You're going step by step with a player learning your offense, you want him to master stuff before you move on, and we've learned this year that this guy can handle more things within our system, and we can find different ways to get him the ball because he's truly truly special."
Q: How much does that open up your imagination and challenge you having Deebo?
McDANIEL: "The problem that you're trying to solve is how do I get the ball. And on game day, it's, 'Hey Deebo, here's the ball.' That's the best thing for a coach that you can possibly imagine."