An inconvenient truth about Kyle Shanahan and the Super Bowl

49ers Head coach Kyle Shanahan (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
49ers Head coach Kyle Shanahan (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images) /

Kyle Shanahan attempted to escape the ghost of Super Bowl LI and leave the memory of 28-3 in the dust, but his past caught up with him again in Miami.

I’m sure in the coming days, weeks, even months following San Francisco’s mini-meltdown in Super Bowl LIV, 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan will study his PR guide and do the damage control routine when likely pummelled about his 4th quarter play-calling.

We’ll probably hear a lot of “I’m not second-guessing myself” or “I wouldn’t change how I approached things” or even “Those are the plays that had been working for us in the game”.

But there is an inescapable and inconvenient truth that everyone will point to and that will be zipping through Shanahan’s head and keeping him up many a night for the foreseeable future.

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He played a big part in blowing a 4th quarter, double-digit lead in the Super Bowl for the second time in four years by panicking and outthinking himself.

In 2017, the Falcons defense — which had contained Tom Brady and his weapons most of the night in Super Bowl LI — ran out of gas and allowed the New England quarterback to magically get his team back in it during the 4th quarter, thanks to an assist from the Kyle Shanahan guide to poor clock management and play-calling.

The script was the same this time, and it was once again written by Shanahan.

Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes had one of the worst games of his young NFL career, and yet it was still enough to beat San Francisco. It wasn’t Mahomes magic that took over the 4th quarter, it was Shanahan foolishness.

Sure, Jimmy Garoppolo missed some open receivers. He got rattled and couldn’t put the team on his back.

But he never should have been put in the position where he had to.

There’s a saying in baseball many pitchers adhere to when the game is on the line – don’t get beat throwing your second-best pitch. If you give up the game-winning run on your best pitch, you tip your hat to the other guy.

But that’s what Shanahan did. He abandoned the screaming fastball and tried to get cute throwing some breaking junk. Kansas City hadn’t been able to stop the run for most of the night. The creative ways to get wide receiver Deebo Samuel involved in the run game as well as pounding it inside with Raheem Mostert had stymied the Chiefs defense.

Shanahan let them off the hook.

With a 10-point lead and 12 minutes left in the game, Shanahan’s best options; run the ball, milk the clock, rest your defense and keep Mahomes from ruining the game for you.

Shanahan’s decision; four running plays and 13 pass plays in the 49ers final four drives, taking a total of only 5:41 seconds off the clock in all four drives. The Niners’ defense barely had a chance to catch their breath before being called on to stop Mahomes over and over again.

Kyle Shanahan needs to get a tattoo on the arm that most commonly holds his playsheets during a game, and it should read “Dance with the one that brought you”. Make no mistake, running the ball and marauding the opposing defense is who brought the 49ers to the dance, and Shanahan sent the run game to go get a glass of punch while he danced with the drunk girl who was giggling and flirting.

San Francisco fans were horrified. Atlanta fans were a case study in schadenfreude. Kansas City fans welcomed the gift horse.

The very thing Shanahan casually laughed off when questioned about it prior to the game — his poor play-calling in the 4th quarter of a Super Bowl– came back up like a bad piece of meat and choked his team…


Unfortunately for him, that’s something Shanahan won’t be able to turn off or tune out if he ever gets back to a Super Bowl again.

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