Kyle Shanahan Just Can’t Get Out of His Own Way

June 2, 2022

How Many Super Bowl Opportunities Will 49ers HC Kyle Shanahan Waste Before It’s Too Late?

Most “seasoned” Niner fans are quite familiar with the team’s history with the Shanahan family. San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan is the son of former 49ers offensive coordinator Mike Shanahan. Kyle’s father turned his success with the Niners into a lengthy head coaching job with the Denver Broncos, which included a pair of Super Bowl victories. Kyle Shanahan has also experienced mixed success during his relatively short career; However, he has one glaring problem: In big games, he won’t let his team win.

Kyle Shanahan’s NFL Journey

Kyle Shanahan began his NFL career as a quality control coach for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2004, where he remained through 2005. He then accepted a wide receivers coach position with the Houston Texans in 2006 and later moved to quarterbacks coach in 2007. It was in Houston in 2008 where he got his shot as offensive coordinator. When Mike Shanahan took the head coaching job in Washington in 2010, his son Kyle was right by his side. Serving as the team’s offensive coordinator, Kyle learned much from his father: specifically, that you can win if you can run the ball.

Kyle Shanahan’s Success

After Washington, Kyle Shanahan continued his career in Atlanta as the Falcons’ offensive coordinator. He was there for two years, and in his second year, he helped lead the team to the Super Bowl to face the New England Patriots. Shanahan’s offensive system called for a tandem of running backs in the backfield, and Atlanta had two stud RBs to fit it. Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman both exploded during the Super Bowl. Kyle called a phenomenal first half, and the team’s running game couldn’t be stopped.

Although the Falcons held a 28-3 lead with just over two minutes remaining in the third quarter, but failed to finish the game with a victory. Kyle Shanahan mistakingly forgot to use his rushing attack when he needed it the most, as Falcons fans watched Patriots QB Tom Brady lead his team back into the game. In the end, the New England Patriots were Super Bowl champs, and Kyle embarrassingly exited Atlanta for a new head coaching job in San Francisco.

The 49ers Welcome Their New Head Coach

2017 was the year the Niner fans were waiting for: A fresh start for the 49ers with a new general manager, a new head coach and — a few months later, a new quarterback. Everyone was excited to turn the page from the team’s lost years, ending with the dumpster fire led by HC Chip Kelly.

Shanahan’s five seasons in San Francisco have been a rollercoaster, but at least every year there has been some sense of hope. The problem is the team has failed to fully capitalize on their numerous opportunities. Three years after choking on the biggest stage, Shanahan was back in the Super Bowl, but this time as a head coach.

Kyle Shanahan Does it Again

The 49ers ended the season in Miami in a memorable matchup against the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl 54. Once again, Kyle Shanahan had an impressive backfield with speedy running backs Raheem Mostert and Matt Breida and veteran RB Tevin Coleman. The Niners were able to garner a double-digit lead, which they held until the final minutes of the game. But with the season on the line, Shanahan reverted to the 2015 form which led to the largest Super Bowl collapse in NFL History.

Under intense pressure, Kyle Shanahan forgot how to coach. He failed to move the ball or the clock, and instead kept the ball in the hands of Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes. Taking their coach’s lead, the formerly stout 49ers’ defense collapsed as well. It was now the Niners’ turn to watch their hopes for a Super Bowl victory vanish. Within minutes, The San Francisco 49ers’ double-digit lead became a painful 11-point Super Bowl loss.

Coincidence or Incompetence?

Shanahan has been on the wrong end of two of the worst fourth-quarter meltdowns in Super Bowl history. Deservedly so, this raises a multitude of questions, and his double-digit fourth quarter collapse in the NFC Championship Game earlier this year doesn’t help his case.

Is the acclaimed offensive genius extremely unlucky, or is he simply telling us who he really is? Is he concerned about his reputation or the image of coaching in his father’s shadow? How many chances will owner Jed York and the 49ers’ front office give Shanahan before they’re forced to move on? How many more players will leave their blood, sweat and tears on the field as Shanahan robs them of the sweet taste of Super Bowl victory?

Will the coach’s son ever earn a ring and solidify his place in San Francisco 49ers history? As we enter Year Six of the Kyle Shanahan Era, Niners fans still have nothing but hope.