It was not a great night for the 49ers‘ Kyle Shanahan, any way you slice it. It was not just that the 49ers lost in Super Bowl 58 to the Chiefs, by a 25-22 mark in overtime in Las Vegas, it was also that a pair of narratives that have taken shape will now loom over the 49ers for at least another year.
One narrative: That quarterback Brock Purdy is not up to the task of winning a Super Bowl.
The other: That Shanahan himself isn’t up to it either, having now been a head coach or coordinator in three Super Bowls, and blown all three despite having double-digit leads. (The first coming when Shanahan was the offensive coordinator for the Falcons, who blew Super Bowl 51 after leading, 28-3.)
Shanahan was terse when first asked about Purdy after the game. “I thought Brock did a good job and gave us a chance to win,” he said. Purdy was just 23-for-38 passing for 255 yards and one touchdown on the day.
As for his own record, well, Shanahan got defensive, pointing out that he was not the head coach of the Falcons, and that the quarterbacks he’d lost to were future Hall of Famers.
“This is my second game as a head coach but I think when you go against guys like Tom Brady and Pat Mahomes, you better never feel comfortable with a lead,” Shanahan said. “Those are two of the best players in the game. Whether you have a lead or are down points, those guys are always going to—you watch them all the time do that stuff.”
49ers Kyle Shanahan Had Much to Defend
There was more, too. Shanahan was also asked about going away from the run game in the third quarter, which was most certainly true–the 49ers handed off the ball three times for seven yards in the third. But they had two 3-and-outs and a fumble on a punt in the quarter. He was short on that answer.
“I didn’t go away from the run game,” Shanahan said. “You go three-and-out and you don’t get drives. Didn’t get away from it, just didn’t stay on the field.”
Shanahan was also asked about overtime, first about the decision to take the ball first in the period rather than deferring and putting pressure onto K.C. to score first.
“We decided before, the way we’re going to go, we were discussing that,” Shanahan said. “Our biggest thing was we knew both teams were going to get the ball at least once. We wanted to make sure that if we won the toss, we were going to be the team that got the ball the third time.”
Brock Purdy Narrative Sure to Take Hold
Despite his best efforts, though, it is unlikely that Shanahan is going to shake what will be an oft-repeated assertion that he is a big-game choker as a coach. That was the feeling even from the credible (and semi-credible) sources on Twitter/X.
Sober-minded Matt Miller, analyst and writer for ESPN, tweeted that Shanahan thinks too hard in big situations:
“Niners need to… 1. Fix OL 2. Fix CB2 3. Hire someone Kyle trusts in big moments to remind him of the team’s strengths–way too much galaxy braining in crucial situations.”
Bleacher Report was there to eagerly repeat his flop history, writing, “Kyle Shanahan has had a double-digit lead in all three Super Bowls as an OC or HC. He’s 0-3.”
Veteran sportswriter Jemele Hill pointed out that the game came down to coaching, and Shanahan was too conservative:
“Literally came down to coaching. Kyle Shanahan played to hold. Not to win. Purdy, defense, McCaffery, gave everything. He did not seem to understand the concept that the best defense against Mahomes is keeping him off the field.”
And from NFL writer James Nagle comes, “Kyle Shanahan: Blew a 25-point lead in Super Bowl 51 Blew a 10-point lead in Super Bowl 54 Blew a 10-point lead in Super Bowl 58 It’s time to call Shanahan & the #49ers exactly what they are… The biggest choke artists in NFL History.”