It has to feel like a recurring nightmare for San Francisco 49ers fans. It wasn’t long ago the 49ers built up a double-digit lead in the Super Bowl vs. the Kansas City Chiefs, just to see Patrick Mahomes mount a comeback and steal their ring. In Super Bowl 58 on Sunday night, the 49ers had a 10-0 lead with just over 3:00 left in the second quarter.
With an opportunity to put pressure on the defending champions in the second half, the Niners started the third quarter with three straight punts. That was followed by an unfortunate Chiefs punt that resulting in K.C. recovering the ball and scoring to take a 13-10 lead. Wild momentum shifts seemed to be the theme for Super Bowl 58. The Niners would rebound to take the lead 16-13, but a missed extra point is just one of many things that cost San Fran the game.
Tied 19-19, the Super Bowl went to overtime. The rules in OT for the playoffs and Super Bowl are different from the regular season. The 49ers won the toss and opted to take the ball first, rather than second, the choice that makes the most sense. Getting the ball second means you have more control over the outcome of the game. You can see whether or not you need a FG or touchdown to win. You also get a shot on defense to win the game outright if there’s a turnover that results in a touchdown.
Instead, head coach Kyle Shanahan got the ball first and ended up with another Super Bowl loss. The Chiefs would drive down the field after the Niners took a 22-19 lead, scoring on a Mecole Hardman pass from Mahomes to win the game 25-22. It’s the third heartbreaking loss in the Super Bowl for Shanahan, who will always be remembered as the OC of the Falcons in that 28-3 blown lead to the Patriots.
There’s no question Shanahan had the 49ers in position to win and that missed PAT should have been the difference. If Jake Moody makes that kick, we’re talking about Shanahan in the same light as Rams HC Sean McVay after his SB win a few years ago over the Bengals. Instead, we’re looking at a coach who has failed to win the big game twice.
So will this loss continue to haunt Shanahan or will the 49ers be fine?
The latter seems more likely. The 49ers are positioned to contend for the Super Bowl for at least another few seasons. The entire offense comes back and is mostly signed through 2025. QB Brock Purdy has two years remaining on his rookie deal before he needs an extension and potentially a big payday. San Fran could go at it and chase a title for the next two years before hitting the reset button, either with Purdy and Shanahan or without the two.
While Shanahan hasn’t gotten the job done, it’s not an easy job to get done in the first place. The 49ers aren’t finding a better coach to put them in position to contend. Shanahan’s offensive system will almost always put the team in a good spot to make the playoffs. Once there, it’s just a matter of getting it done. Perhaps exploring another option at QB is the way to go.
But it doesn’t feel like the Niners and fans should be upset with Shanahan to the point they call for his head. At least not yet. You can be mad at some of his decision-making — especially in overtime. But the play-calling wasn’t suspect and really more of the blame should lie on Purdy, not that it’s his fault either.
The NFC is weak and the 49ers remain strong. Getting back to the Super Bowl should be the expectation going into 2024 and that goal is very attainable. If we’re through the 2025 NFL season and asking the same questions, then it may be a good time to rethink Shanahan as head coach. Until then, sit tight.