LAS VEGAS — Kyle Shanahan is inarguably one of the best head coaches in the NFL, but his legacy took another hit when his San Francisco 49ers lost Super Bowl LVIII to the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday night.
While Shanahan could have cemented his standing in the league history books by winning his first Super Bowl, his NFL tenure has instead come to be defined by his losses on the NFL’s grandest stage.
Kyle Shanahan Will Wait Another Year To Change His Legacy
Shanahan has now lost all three Super Bowls that he’s appeared in as a head coach or offensive coordinator.
He was the Atlanta Falcons’ OC when they infamously blew a 28-3 lead to the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LI. While Dan Quinn — not Shanahan — was Atlanta’s head coach during that loss, Shanahan has admitted he regrets some of his play-calls in that contest that allowed the Pats to get back into the game.
Four years ago, Shanahan and the 49ers played Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs in the Super Bowl for the first time and had them on the ropes. San Francisco held a 10-point lead with nine minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, but KC scored 21 unanswered points to give Shanahan his first Super Bowl loss as an HC.
While Sunday night’s loss didn’t feel quite as devastating, the 49ers did jump out to a 10-0 lead in the first quarter.
“This is my second Super Bowl as a head coach, but I think when you go against guys like Tom Brady and Pat Mahomes, you better never feel comfortable with the lead,” Shanahan said Sunday.
“And those are two of the best players to ever play the game. That’s why, whether you have a lead or you’re down points, it’s those guys who are always in it. Watch them all the time, do that stuff.”
There’s certainly no shame in losing to two of the top quarterbacks in league history. Shanahan’s 49ers have consistently performed during the regular season before falling victim to other excellent clubs in the playoffs.
By DVOA, Shanahan’s San Francisco teams were the second- and third-best Super Bowl-losing clubs of all time, per FTN’s Aaron Schatz.
“There’s nothing different to say,” Shanahan said. “I mean, I don’t care how you lose when you lose Super Bowls — especially ones you think you can pull off — it hurts. When you’re in the NFL, I think every team should hurt, except for one at the end.
“We’ve gotten pretty damn close, but we haven’t pulled it off. We’re hurting right now, but it doesn’t take away from how proud of our guys I am. I’m really proud of them today, too. As part of sports, as part of football, as part of life, as part of life. I’m glad we put ourselves out there. I love our team. We’ll recover, and we’ll be back next year strong.”
The 49ers should be in the mix again in 2024. Brock Purdy is still on a rookie quarterback contract for two more years, and San Francisco isn’t projected to lose any significant free agents. Multiple sportsbooks already have the 49ers listed as next season’s Super Bowl favorites.
But until Shanahan wins a Lombardi, his legacy won’t be complete.
“We all hurt and don’t have a lot of words for it. Obviously, we’re hurting, our team’s hurting, but that’s how it goes when you put yourself out there. I’m real proud of our guys, no regrets with our team. I thought our guys played so hard today.
“Not everything was perfect by any means, but if I’m going to lose with a group of guys, I’d do it with those guys any time, and we’ll get over this and come back next year ready to go.”
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