LAS VEGAS — Kyle Shanahan followed in the footsteps of his famous father, Mike Shanahan, to the coaching ranks, but this profession and the pain that comes with it wasn’t always the plan.
“I was in his ear all the time, asking questions. I always loved football, just a fan of the game,” Kyle Shanahan said Tuesday, a day off from the practice field ahead of Super Bowl LVIII on Sunday.
By middle school, Kyle Shanahan had already been to three Super Bowls — all losses — before finally experiencing the jubilation of a Lombardi Trophy celebration when Mike Shanahan and the Denver Broncos had their breakthrough with back-to-back title in 1997-98.
“Back then, I didn’t think it was possible for the AFC to win a Super Bowl,” he said.
Kyle Shanahan was a senior in high school and still had visions of playing in part because of after-school route-running sessions with Broncos wide receivers Rod Smith and Ed McCaffrey, father of 49ers running back Christian McCaffrey.
“Looking back now, thinking I was going to be a player, that was crazy,” Kyle Shanahan said of dropping a childhood dream to be an NFL wide receiver.
Kyle Shanahan said he mimicked everything Smith and Ed McCaffrey did, down to their cleats and shoulder pads. But it was a few years later he realized coaching would be the best — and perhaps easier — path.
“I remember telling (his dad) in eighth grade I wanted to play in the NFL,” Kyle Shanahan said. “He told me to make a plan and stick to it. It’s a little bit easier than playing. I think it just naturally happened.
“He never really was training me to be a coach. Just a dad. He’s the same way you’d want him to be — direct. Maybe you didn’t like what he had to say, but he was telling the truth.”
The 49ers are in the Super Bowl for what is Kyle Shanahan’s third time as a coach. He was on the losing end of Super Bowl LI with the Falcons as offensive coordinator, when Atlanta infamously blew a 28-3 lead to Tom Brady and the New England Patriots. A day later, Shanahan was shaking hands in San Francisco as head coach of the 49ers.
Following the 2019 season, the 49ers blew a second-half lead and lost the Super Bowl to the Chiefs, and Shanahan started to relate more closely to his father’s pain of losing the big one.
“I’ve broken my arm, collarbone, a lot of injuries that are painful. Those are right there,” he said. “Anyone who loses a Super Bowl knows. Seeing my dad after he was a (losing) coordinator and how hard it was on him in Denver. Anytime you get that close, it hurts.
“All football games are hard to lose, you put so much into it. You are trying to get to this last week. And we did get to the last week, this is going to be our last Wednesday, our last practice Friday, our last game on Sunday.”
Shanahan’s players in San Francisco will attest to the piles of preparation that go into any game, let alone the biggest game of their lives coming up this Sunday.
“This man, his meetings sometimes you kick up your feet because you know you’re about to be there an hour,” safety Tashaun Gipson said Tuesday. “Coach Kyle is so detailed. He’s going to go over every single aspect of it. I tell people this all the time: I don’t think he even thinks about anything else. All football. That’s the kind of coach you want to play for. We’ve got to get one for Kyle.”
–By Jeff Reynolds, Field Level Media
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