Kyle Shanahan pushes back at 49ers Big-Game loss narrative

Feb 14, 2024, 6:00 AM | Updated: 8:39 am

Head coach Kyle Shanahan of the San Francisco 49ers walks off the field following the NFL Super Bow...

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - FEBRUARY 11: Head coach Kyle Shanahan of the San Francisco 49ers walks off the field following the NFL Super Bowl 58 football game between the San Francisco 49ers and the Kansas City Chiefs at Allegiant Stadium on February 11, 2024 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Michael Owens/Getty Images)

(Photo by Michael Owens/Getty Images)

Kyle Shanahan and the San Francisco 49ers have won a lot of big games over the last seven years together… just not The Big Game.

The 49ers coach was asked about Super Bowl LVIII following the team’s loss to the Kansas City Chiefs. Leading 19-16 with under two minutes to go, quarterback Patrick Mahomes drove down to the 49ers’ 11-yard-line with ease. That set up the game-tying field goal by kicker Harrison Butker, sending the game to overtime.

In OT, the Red & Gold had possession first but had to settle for three points at the KC nine-yard-line. Mahomes saw that effort and raised it, going downfield on 13 plays to win the game with a three-yard touchdown pass to Mecole Hardman.

Another victory for Mahomes and the Chiefs, another heartbreaker for Shanahan and the 49ers.

When asked to reflect on the play-calling in the game, the coach was honest about it. He’ll review the tape when the time is right but leaves Las Vegas with no regrets.

“Like I’ve told you guys before, anytime you lose, every decision you made, I mean you make a decision every play throughout that game. So when you lose, you’ll go over that stuff always throughout the entire offseason, through cutups, through everything. But there was nothing that I thought in the moment that I did wrong,” Kyle Shanahan said Tuesday. “I like the thought process behind everything.”

Still, the narrative continues for the offensive savant. Can he win the big one?

The 44-year-old coach has a career record of 72-55 with the 49ers, including 8-4 in the postseason. Shanahan has led this franchise to four NFC Championships and two Super Bowls in five years.

Yet the question of clutchability remains because of his past.

“I know if I fixed perception that means I did everything I wanted to do, which isn’t to fix perception, it’s to win a damn Super Bowl,” Shanahan stated. “But I also know when you say big games, we’ve had to win a bunch of big games to get to Super Bowls. We’ve won a lot of big games here. We’ve won a lot of big games to get into playoffs. The fact that we keep getting there shows you guys how much we’ve been able to win big games and I think you guys are aware of that. But these two Super Bowls have been tough losing to Kansas City.

Kyle Shanahan has been involved in three Super Bowl collapses in the NFL. One with the Atlanta Falcons as offensive coordinator and two with the 49ers. Similar to the coach on the other side of Allegiant Stadium Sunday: Andy Reid.

The KC coach suffered four title losses with the Philadelphia Eagles before winning his first Super Bowl in 2019. Since then, he’s added two more, becoming the ninth team to win back-to-back titles.

Shanahan is still young in his head-coaching journey, with plenty of football left in his life. But to think the 49ers can’t win big games with him in charge? Ludicrous.

“But to think that if we win [the Super Bowl], it means I can win a big game? No, that means our team won the Super Bowl. That’s what I understand. You guys can have any narrative you want, but the success or the failure, it comes down to one game and I hope that I can be a part of a team that wins a game at the end of the year, but to say that the Niners can’t win a big game would be an extremely inaccurate statement,” Shanahan said.

The 49ers’ brass agree with that assessment as well, proud of what they built over the last seven years. But until they win the final game of the season, the ultimate goal is beyond their grasp.

“I couldn’t be prouder of Kyle, his leadership with this team, he gives us an advantage every time we take the field, the way he leads his staff, the team and nobody else I’d rather work with,” 49ers general manager John Lynch said. “And I’m right here for him and with him and we came in here talking about wanting to compete and win championships. That hasn’t changed. It’s only gotten stronger and I believe we’ve got the core and nucleus and people to get that done. It’s a kick in the gut to get this close and not get there. So, I hurt for everybody here, but the only thing I know how to do is pick yourself up, let it hurt for a while, use that as fuel and move forward.”

Key offseason dates for the San Francisco 49ers

  • Tuesday, Feb. 20th – Teams can begin franchising players until Tuesday, March 5th
  • Tuesday, Feb. 27 – NFL Combine begins
  • Thursday, March 13 – The 2024 free agency signing period begins at 1 p.m. PST

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