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Takeaways From Super Bowl 58

Brandon Horne

49ers cornerback Charvarius Ward looks on in disbelief as Patrick Mahomes and MeCole Hardman celebrate their Super Bowl LVIII victory.

As MeCole Hardman danced into the endzone for the final touchdown of Super Bowl LVIII, the San Francisco 49ers players, coaches, and executives watched as the Kansas City Chiefs celebrated. They had come up just short on the biggest stage yet again, doomed to another year of almost winning it all. The lights were again too bright, and the commanding ten-point lead, one that had been lost in similar fashion before, was lost once more. Kyle Shanahan’s scheme, as brilliant and elusive as ever, had yet again failed from ahead, just as it had four years prior. The 49ers have been here before. In fact, they have played the Chiefs in the Super Bowl (Super Bowl LIV) before and had a ten-point advantage heading into the fourth quarter. In between the two heartbreaking Super Bowl losses to the Chiefs, the 49ers had a 6-10 season, followed by two losses in the NFC Conference Championship Game. So, what is holding them back from greatness? 

It might be time to examine the scheme that is the primary reason for the 49ers' success. After all, this is not the first team on which Kyle Shanahan has choked a multi-score lead. Remember that New England Patriots versus Atlanta Falcons Super Bowl LI, in which Tom Brady led the Patriots on a historic comeback from down 3-28 to win 34-28 in overtime? Guess who the offensive coordinator of the Falcons was then? If you guessed Kyle Shanahan, you would be correct. The same brilliant offensive mind capable of turning above-average quarterbacks into MVP candidates (see Matt Ryan 2016 and Brock Purdy 2023) is doomed to fail in situations where his team is unable to execute his system to absolute perfection. 

The problem with Kyle Shanahan lies in his arrogance. His offensive scheme relies on a multitude of factors, such as pre-snap motion, extra tight end usage, and a heavy dosage of the run game. When these come together, they work brilliantly, as evidenced by the 49ers’ utter dominance over the Philadelphia Eagles and Dallas Cowboys, two top teams at the time, in weeks five and 13, respectively. In addition, Shanahan and the 49ers boast one of the league's most talented rosters at offensive skill positions, with pro bowlers at nearly every position. As a result, the 49ers often dominate opponents and are regularly used to playing ahead (from winning positions). Shanahan has shown a tendency to “ease up” when in the driver's seat, something that has led to multiple losses in important situations, such as their three Super Bowl losses. Getting arrogant leads to offensive stagnation at inopportune times, which can tank the momentum of the team. For the 49ers to win big, Shanahan needs to address this issue. He is young and certainly has tons of time to prove he can win on the biggest stage. He can do it easily in the regular season. However, one can only think the leash has gotten shorter as the losses have surmounted. If it happens again, don’t be too shocked if the 49ers start to explore other options for Head Coach.


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