Kyle Shanahan not worried about Super Bowl LVIII narratives – ESPN

playStephen A: Shanahan loss a bigger story than Reid win (2:02)

Stephen A. Smith explains why Kyle Shanahan losing would be a bigger story than Andy Reid winning his third Super Bowl. (2:02)

  • Nick Wagoner, ESPN Staff WriterFeb 8, 2024, 11:43 PM ETClose
      Nick Wagoner is an NFL reporter at ESPN. Nick has covered the San Francisco 49ers and the NFL at ESPN since 2016, having previously covered the St. Louis Rams for 12 years, including three years (2013 to 2015) at ESPN. In his 10 years with the company, Nick has led ESPN’s coverage of the Niners’ 2019 Super Bowl run, Colin Kaepernick’s protest, the Rams making Michael Sam the first openly gay player drafted to the NFL, Sam’s subsequent pursuit of a roster spot and the team’s relocation and stadium saga. You can follow Nick via Twitter @nwagoner

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HENDERSON, Nev. — With another chance to break through and win his first Lombardi Trophy just a few days away, San Francisco 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan isn’t spending any time thinking about what winning or losing Super Bowl LVIII will mean for him or the conversations that have surrounded his first seven seasons in charge.

On Thursday afternoon in the basement of the 49ers’ hotel, Shanahan was asked what losing to the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday would mean for reinforcing the idea that he — head coach of the Niners for Super Bowl LIV and two NFC championships, as well as offensive coordinator of the Atlanta Falcons’ Super Bowl LI run — can’t win the biggest game of all.

“I deal with it the same way if we win,” Shanahan said. “I celebrate with our team. I celebrate with my family and I move on with the rest of my life, which is being a father or son and coaching and working and doing all that. Narrative, good or bad, is just a narrative … I just don’t want regrets. I just want to do everything that makes sense to myself, that makes sense for our team. And when you do that, that’s what I have found.

“No matter how hard something is or good something is, you always keep perspective of what it really is. If you want your perspective to be someone else’s narrative, good luck being happy in life. Or successful.”

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By now, it’s no secret that Shanahan and the Niners have been knocking on the door of a Super Bowl win for the better part of the past five years. In 2017, Shanahan and general manager John Lynch took over a downtrodden franchise that won two games the previous year. At the time he was hired, Shanahan was San Francisco’s fourth coach in as many years.

After a couple of difficult rebuilding years, the Niners surged to a Super Bowl appearance in year three before coughing up a 10-point fourth quarter lead to the Chiefs at the end of the 2019-20 season. The Niners have been within a game of the Super Bowl the past two years, conceding a late lead to the Los Angeles Rams in the 2021 NFC Championship Game and then falling to the Philadelphia Eagles last year after playing most of the game without a healthy quarterback.

With the Chiefs on the opposite side this week, some have begun to compare Shanahan to Kansas City coach Andy Reid. Reid led the Eagles to a Super Bowl and five NFC championship appearances, but it wasn’t until, coincidentally, they defeated the Niners in Super Bowl LIV that he finally got his first Lombardi Trophy in his 21st season as a head coach.

Shanahan, 44, is only wrapping up his seventh season on the job but is widely regarded as one of the league’s best coaches. Those that have been around Shanahan and known him the longest, like linebackers coach Johnny Holland, know what it would mean for him to break through Sunday.

“He’s been in this situation before,” Holland said. “Kyle is one of the best head coaches I’ve been around and one of the things that he’s missing that’ll probably help him be that Hall of Fame-type coach is a championship. You’ve got to win it. And so, we definitely want to win it for us and him.”

Holland’s sentiment is shared by many in the organization who credit Shanahan for building a culture that has allowed the franchise to enjoy its longest run of sustained success since the early 1990s. Only the Chiefs have won more games (regular season and postseason combined) than San Francisco since 2019.

Shanahan winning a Super Bowl would also make a little bit of history. With a win, he’d join his dad, Mike, as the only father-son head-coaching duo to win a title in NFL, NBA, NHL and MLB history. Mike Shanahan won back-to-back Super Bowls as the Denver Broncos’ head coach in the late 90s.

Niners tight end George Kittle, who was a part of Shanahan’s first draft class in San Francisco, would love to see that achievement come to fruition.

“One thing that makes it really cool for me to play for Kyle is that he has an insane relationship with his dad, kind of like I have with my dad,” Kittle said. “For his dad to have won multiple Super Bowls, I think for Kyle to be able to share that moment with his dad is something that I think would be one of the coolest things ever.”

Despite all that’s on the line Sunday, Shanahan said Thursday that he never loses sight of the fact that at the end of every NFL season, only one team is truly happy. While Shanahan said he likes his team’s chances to be the one, he also can’t waste time worrying about what’s going to be said about him and his team when it’s over.

“When I think of legacy, I think of my dad,” Shanahan said. “I still feel like I’m somewhat young and it just doesn’t really work that with me. And I don’t think it works that way with a lot of people. You’re just trying to win that game and that game is always the next one. Finally, we’re in a game where this is the last one of the year. And these are the ones that count. So, you understand that. You’re aware of that … Hopefully when the game is over, you can sit back and think about that stuff and enjoy it.”

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