Kyle Shanahan, the 49ers’ longest-tenured coach since Walsh and Seifert, lays eyes on the Lombardi as he always has
Kyle Shanahan is entering his seventh season as the 49ers’ coach, making him the team’s longest-tenured leader since Bill Walsh (1979-88) and George Seifert (1989-96).
Is Shanahan, on the other hand, snakebitten by the prospect of adding a sixth Lombardi Trophy to the 49ers’ collection?
The 49ers have lost in the NFC Championship Game in each of the last two seasons. Two seasons ago, they let a 10-point fourth-quarter lead slip away to the Los Angeles Rams, who went on to win Super Bowl LVI over the Cincinnati Bengals. Last season, they saw quarterback Brock Purdy tear the UCL in his throwing arm’s elbow early in a 31-7 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles, who were defeated 38-35 by Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs in the Super Bowl.
“Almost every guy on our team has felt that passion getting that close (to a Super Bowl win), and that’s to me what makes the offseason so much better,” Shanahan said as the 49ers opened training camp in the hopes of returning to the Super Bowl for the third time in four years. “That’s why guys work differently, because getting close usually strengthens you, if you’re willing to go through it again.”
“It’s a long road to get there, which is why you have to do things correctly during the season, but when you get close, you usually get stronger if you can handle it properly.” … I don’t think it was a mental thing to sit there and make some mental thing out of stuff. “We’ve had our chances.”
How does Shanahan deal with those close-but-no cigar finishes, let alone the bigger disappointments that came with a pair of Super Bowl failures (in 2016 as the Atlanta Falcons’ offensive coordinator, and in 2019 as the 49ers’ third-year coach)?
“We don’t make a big deal out of it,” Shanahan explained. “I like it because our players have done stuff like that before.”
“There aren’t many guys from 2019 here.” We lost a lot of guys from last year. There are so many people in our building who have been to an NFC Championship Game or a Super Bowl, and you realize how different the NFL is once you do.”
Shanahan, 43, is one of the NFL’s longest-tenured coaches. Only Bill Belichick (with the Patriots since 2000), Mike Tomlin (Steelers since 2007), John Harbaugh (Ravens since 2008), Pete Carroll (Seahawks since 2010), and Andy Reid (Chiefs since 2013) have been with their teams longer. Sean McDermott of the Bills and Sean McVay of the Rams are both in their seventh seasons.
Except for Shanahan and McDermott, everyone in that group has won a Super Bowl.
And the San Francisco 49ers are no ordinary team. Only the New England Patriots and the Pittsburgh Steelers have won more Super Bowls than the 49ers, with six each. The 49ers’ seven Super Bowl appearances rank fifth in NFL history, trailing only the Patriots (11) and the Steelers, Dallas Cowboys, and Denver Broncos, all of whom have appeared in the game eight times.
The 49ers’ first Super Bowl appearance – and victory – came in 1981, the first of four titles in the 1980s, including back-to-back titles in 1988 and 1989. The 49ers last appeared in the Super Bowl four seasons ago, and they haven’t won the Lombardi Trophy since 1994.
The ultimate goal is to return the franchise to its Super Bowl glory days.
“That’s one of the reasons we came here,” Shanahan, who was hired before the 2017 season began, said. “When we talked to [49ers owner and CEO] Jed [York] and everything (during the interview process), just the commitment he wanted to have and what we see as a first-class organization, which is just to do everything the right way and give yourself a chance every year.” And that’s difficult to do in this league.
“We felt like we worked really hard the first two years we were here to get there, and I thought we did.” And, really, since Year 3, I’ve felt we’ve been in that position every year, and this year is no exception.”