LAS VEGAS — Yeah, Kyle Shanahan knows his way around Super Bowls.
He was in one four years ago as a young head coach.
He was in one seven years ago as a hotshot offensive coordinator for the Falcons.
He estimates he attended six other Super Bowls “as a family member growing up,” along for the ride to see his father, Mike, work in the big game during an illustrious coaching career.
Kyle Shanahan is 0-1 in Super Bowls as a head coach, as his 49ers lost Super Bowl LIV 31-20 to the Chiefs in Miami Gardens, Fla. He is back at it again, this time taking the Niners into Vegas for a Super Bowl 2024 meeting with, wouldn’t you know it, the Chiefs once more.
“I was real happy with our preparation last time,” Shanahan said recently in Santa Clara, Calif. “Just always hearing about it and watching it. I’ve been paying attention to stuff my whole life.
“You try to get as much in this first week as possible. When you get out there, we go through it again. But it is different. Our Monday’s totally different with the media deal. Our routine’s off because you’ve got to do these press conferences every day. So you get about an hour off from all your normal times. So when you usually do red zone and stuff, you’re two hours behind. A little more tired. All that stuff adds up. If you put stuff off to that week and think it’s going to be a normal week you’re going to get to that Thursday or Friday and not quite feel as comfortable.”
Yeah, Shanahan should not be blind-sided by anything that takes place this week leading up to another opportunity for him to break into the exclusive club reserved for head coaches who have won Super Bowls.
He said his entire offensive and defensive game plans will be installed before his team leaves home. He did that four years ago but could not claim the Lombardi Trophy because Patrick Mahomes was better that day than Jimmy Garoppolo.
This time, Shanahan brings with him Brock Purdy, the Mr. Irrelevant quarterback tasked with trying to limit mistakes and, if not match Mahomes play-for-play, at least give the Niners a fighting chance to give Shanahan a championship in his seventh year as an NFL head coach.
It is the final piece to the puzzle that would complete the picture for the 44-year-old Shanahan.
He has led a charge that put the Niners in four of the past five NFC Championship games. His team overcame deficits of 14-0 and 24-7 to outlast the Lions 34-31 in last week’s NFC title game. The final hurdle awaits his vaulting.
“There’s been a lot of good things, but the ultimate goal, we always say it, there’s only one team happy at the end of the year,” Shanahan said. “We’re real proud of a lot of things that we’ve accomplished here in the last five years or so. We still want to be that one team that’s happy. No matter what you accomplish, if you don’t win that Super Bowl, it’s always disappointing.”
He knows about disappointment this time of year.
He ran the Atlanta offense, pretty much to perfection, in compiling a massive 28-3 lead on the Patriots in Super Bowl LI in Houston. Shanahan received plenty of criticism for staying too aggressive in the second half of that game as the Falcons blew the largest lead in Super Bowl history in an infamous 34-28 overtime loss.
Three years later, Shanahan as the 49ers’ head coach held a 10-point lead in the fourth quarter of a Super Bowl but could not close the deal and lost to the Chiefs.
There were back-to-back losses in the NFC Championship game, but frustration was quieted with this year’s playoff resurgence.
“Every year, going into every season there’s always something new that we have to work on to get better at to attain what we’re trying to do here,” linebacker Fred Warner said. “That’s something that he has done a great job of every year, just continuing to get better as a coach and a leader for us.”
It was comfortable to pin a label of “front-runners’’ on Shanahan’s 49ers based on their history of rolling to victories by taking leads and then playing bully-ball.
Under Shanahan, the Niners are 0-38 when trailing by at least eight points in the fourth quarter. The inability to stage big comebacks took a beating during this postseason, with the victory over the Lions and, one week earlier, a 24-21 escape-job win over the Packers after trailing 21-14 after three quarters.
“I think if you’re not hard on yourself, it’s kind of hard to put in the work and stuff that it takes I think to be an NFL coach,” Shanahan said. “I think most of us are pretty hard on ourselves. We’re kind of perfectionists because you know how hard it is to win games for everybody. So you demand a lot out of everybody, just like you demand a lot out of yourself. It’s a very fine line of winning and losing so you question every single thing, every single moment and that always starts with yourself.”