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Kyle Shanahan the Biggest loser in the biggest game

Publish Date: 02/15/2024
Fact checked by: Simon Briffa

Kyle Shanahan once again blew a Super Bowl. Instead of taking responsibility, he used Defensive Coordinator Steve Wilks as the fall guy. Shanahan fired Wilks on Wednesday just a few days after Wilks had held Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs under twenty points for an entire game!

Super Bowl LI

Atlanta opened up with an impressive 21-3 halftime lead thanks to cornerback Robert Alford’s pick-six in the second quarter. Tevin Coleman added another touchdown midway through the third quarter for an insurmountable 28-3 advantage at halftime.

But as events unfolded, New England showed it wasn’t insurmountable – they came roaring back and tied the game before scoring on their first series in overtime.

Reviewing all of the memorable plays, it is difficult to narrow it down to only a few that stand out: Dont’a Hightower’s strip-sack of Ryan,, receiver Julian Edelman’s diving catch that somehow didn’t hit the ground, and most importantly, the Falcons were in Field Goal range, a field goal that would have finished off the Patriots. Instead of running the ball and taking the points, Shanahan called a pass play that Matt Ryan would get sacked on, forcing the Falcons to punt the ball.

Maybe the most disturbing thing was the Falcons snapping the ball throughout the fourth quarter with 10-20 seconds still left on the play clock. If Shanahan had run the play clock within five seconds before snapping the ball, the Falcons would have been world champions. Dan Quinn should have fired Shannahan in the locker room after the game, but he didn’t.

Super Bowl LIV

Shanahan failed his team. And not in the way most coaches typically fail their teams by losing a 10-point lead late in a Super Bowl 54 game; rather he fell flat by calling an overly conservative game in the first half and leaving crucial points off the board that could have saved their chances when everything fell apart for them later on in this contest.

The 49ers lost by 11, yet seven of those points had no bearing on the outcome; they were simply garbage time points when Kansas City scored two late touchdowns while draining down the clock. His inaction during the first and early second half of play cost Shanahan this game. If he’d converted on those opportunities, he might’ve lessened Kansas City’s two late scores; instead, he passed up these chances, eventually leading them down their respective paths of destruction and loss.

Shanahan made an error in judgment by not pressing harder for points at the end of the first half when there was still plenty of time left in play. After stopping a third-down pass by Kansas City, and with 1:50 left in the half remaining, San Francisco held on. Time ran out quickly as the 49ers decided with the ball at midfield to let the clock run out instead of trying to at least get in field goal range.

Shanahan called two run plays without attempting to score, content to go into halftime tied and listen to Shakira or Jennifer Lopez’s music at Hard Rock Stadium. But after the second run play was run successfully by Shanahan’s 49ers, they called timeout, sensing an opportunity to make an impactful play and score before halftime.

Shanahan decided to throw on third down, and the 49ers managed to complete a 20-yard completion, setting him off in scoring mode and calling timeout with only 14 seconds left in the game. Unfortunately, officials wiped out a 42-yard catch by George Kittle with an offensive pass interference flag the very next play – something Shanahan couldn’t control; had he spent more downs trying to score, more time would have been available for recovery and possibly getting three points instead of zeroes.

Instead, Garoppolo chose to kneel from his own 34. While no exact figure can be provided on how many points were left unaccounted for by San Francisco (it could easily have been three!), we can estimate it was at least three.

Shanahan made a second questionable move when he attempted a short field goal that might have been used as an attempt at scoring a touchdown instead. On San Francisco’s opening drive of the second half, instead of trying for a touchdown Shannahan opted for a 42-yard field goal on fourth down from their own 24 in an attempt to put themselves ahead 13-10; Shanahan elected for Gould to kick a 42-yarder which he successfully made and put them ahead by three.

The 49ers ran well (they finished at an average of 6.4 yards per carry) and spent much of the postseason dominating opponents on the ground. Garoppolo showed plenty of skill, throwing for two-yard completions when needed. But Shanahan decided to kick field goals.

People will likely focus on Shanahan calling incomplete pass plays while the Niners protected a late lead, which fits neatly with his narrative from Super Bowl 51 when his Falcons lost to Tom Brady’s Patriots come-from-behind offense; had they run more when up 28-3 instead of calling pass plays that failed, this idea suggests, they might have killed more time and won outright – which may or may not be accurate, as defenses often thwarted his offensive vision and put little faith in Shanahan’s playcalling ability at the end of games.

Being aggressive is no guarantee; ask Dan Campbell.

Shanahan could’ve given both units more leeway had he taken bold actions when presented with opportunities to do so. His refusal to run the ball in the fourth quarter with a lead is mind-blowing.

Super Bowl LVIII

Kyle Shanahan When Calling Plays in the Super Bowl: β€’ 0-3 Record β€’ Outscored 29-74 in 2nd Half/OT!

Once again, Shannahan blew it; why stop running the ball in the 4th quarter? You have the best running back in the NFL!

Why take the ball in overtime?

Kyle Shanahan remains under scrutiny following the 49ers’ failure in Super Bowl LVIII for his decision to take the ball first during overtime. Multiple 49ers players admitted they did not understand the current version of overtime playoff rules; these rules have been updated numerous times recently, so Shanahan revealed Tuesday he did not discuss them before game time with his players. Reports out of Kansas City show that Andy Reid went over this during Super Bowl preparations.

“I didn’t discuss it in a meeting during Super Bowl week,” Shanahan admitted, noting he asked his position coaches to inform players about any new rules during the overtime coin toss. He continued, saying this does not change anything:

Shanahan explained that he had already prepared for such an outcome with the club’s analytics department before the game, who suggested having the ball on the third possession if both teams remained tied after initial possessions.

“I try to incorporate what analytics indicate as being correct, then go off of instinct when making decisions in battle,” said Mr. Davis. “The type of game seemed more field goal related.”

The problem is those analytics never considered that the Chiefs could have gone for two and the win if the Niners had scored a touchdown on that first drive.

The team that goes second if down by three points or a touchdown gets four plays to get a first down. Patrick Mahomes, with four downs to get a first down, is almost always going to win that battle.

Shanahan fires Steve Wilks.

Shanahan response to losing a third Super Bowl was to fire his defensive coordinator, Steve Wilks; Wilks’s defense held the Chief’s offence to 19 points in regulation. He did his job. Shanahan was the man who failed to do his job for the third time in a Super Bowl. Will the Niners recover from this loss? We know the Falcons never recovered from their loss in Super Bowl LI; this loss was not as bad as that one, but when combined with the Super Bowl LIV loss, Shanahan has to feel snake-bitten. In all honesty Shanahan should probably be fired. How many chances do you get to win a Super Bowl? Shanahan should have three rings, and he has none. That is not Steve Wilks’s fault; it’s Shanahan’s.

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