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Defending Kyle Shanahan Got A Lot Harder

Kyle Shanahan

Scott Logush


After allowing some time for the dust to settle after Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs won the Super Bowl, successfully going back-to-back with their sights set on a three-peat, one immediate reaction remains unchanged. Defending Kyle Shanahan has become one of the most difficult things to do in sports.

I wanted to avoid overreacting as much as possible, and Shanahan deserves praise for the body of work he has compiled in the NFL. The man can coach an offense, he’s gone to Super Bowls with Jimmy Garoppolo and Brock Purdy, both solid B-tier quarterbacks during their time with Shanahan. He also got an MVP year and Super Bowl appearance out of Matt Ryan, a good but not great quarterback, when Shanahan served as the offensive coordinator for the Atlanta Falcons the year they went to the Super Bowl before 28-3 happened by the hands of Tom Brady and the New England Patriots. This by itself is not entirely on Shanahan, but having his offense shut out for the remainder of the game when it seemed they only had answers for New England’s defense brings some blame his way. 

Even losing his previous Super Bowl battle against Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs while holding a fourth-quarter lead was not nearly as bad as the sequence of events that led to his latest Super Bowl defeat from Sunday. Multiple players on the San Francisco 49ers admitted to not knowing that overtime rules in the playoffs were different than in the regular season. In the regular season, if the team with the ball first scores a touchdown, it’s game over. If they kick a field goal or don’t score, then the other team gets the ball and can tie it again with a field goal turning it back into sudden death or they can win it all with a touchdown. In the playoffs, both teams are guaranteed a possession regardless. This change was sparked by when the Buffalo Bills and Kansas City Chiefs played in the 2021 playoffs and Kansas City won with a walkoff touchdown in overtime. Josh Allen was in the middle of one of the greatest postseason runs of all time, and did not get a chance to touch the ball. 

This got significantly worse when reports came out of Chiefs players saying they went over the new rule in training camp, and dedicated large portions of practice time in the two weeks leading up to the Super Bowl. The decision to take the ball first in overtime was odd at the time, and while there is now an explanation, it makes the decision objectively worse and points every finger in the room at Kyle Shanahan. Having been burned in overtime previously in the Super Bowl not even a decade ago, how do you not go over the rules and game plan for it just in case you find yourself in a similar situation? How do you not score more than 19 points in regulation? 

Steve Wilks did his job, holding Mahomes to under 19 points in 60 minutes of regulation, and got fired. I have no idea what the problem was between him and Kyle Shanahan, but Shanahan better start pointing thumbs instead of fingers because this Super Bowl loss is entirely on him.

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