LAS VEGAS — Let’s make this clear up front: Kyle Shanahan is a hell of a football coach.
He’s innovative and creative, his players play for him, he’s helped build a culture of excellence in San Francisco and he comes from strong head-coaching stock with his father, Mike, having multiple Super Bowl titles on his résumé.
But these Super Bowl losses are becoming, well, a thing for Shanahan.
For the third time in his coaching career — second as a head coach — Shanahan was on the wrong side of a Super Bowl result after Chiefs 25, 49ers 22 in overtime Sunday night at Allegiant Stadium.
Steve Young, the last quarterback to lead the 49ers to a Super Bowl title, back in 1994, was on the phone with The Post a few days before Super Bowl LVIII talking about how players’ and coaches’ legacies are cemented by the results of these games.
Fair or unfair, the legacy of Shanahan was as much up for grabs as any player or coach on either team because of the issues he’d had in the game before Sunday.
No one needed this one more than Shanahan.
And now, Shanahan’s big-game-coaching reputation has taken yet another heartbreak hit.
Super Bowls define head coaches and quarterbacks more than anyone. If you’re a Super Bowl-winning head coach or quarterback, you’re a made man.
Shanahan is young, at age 44, and he’s not going anywhere. He’ll have more cracks at this Super Bowl thing.
What we covered during Super Bowl 2024
- Super Bowl 2024 live updates: Chiefs top 49ers
- Taylor Swift celebrates Chiefs’ wild Super Bowl 2024 win over 49ers
- Usher and girlfriend Jennifer Goicoechea obtain marriage license in Las Vegas ahead of Super Bowl performance
- Shirtless Usher rocks (and rolls) at Super Bowl 2024 with Alicia Keys, H.E.R., Ludacris and more special guests
- Jets castoff becomes Super Bowl hero with game-winning touchdown
- Travis Kelce hugs Andy Reid after lashing out at Chiefs coach
But until he does break through, his Falcons losing a 28-3 fourth-quarter lead to Tom Brady and the Patriots in the Super Bowl seven years ago when he was the offensive coordinator who got too pass happy when he should have been bleeding the clock with the run game will be an unpleasant topic of conversation.
So, too, will losing a 20-10 fourth-quarter lead to the Chiefs four years ago in a 31-20 Super Bowl loss as the 49ers head coach.
The weight of these Super Bowl failures will become heavier for Shanahan until he wins one.
It’s no different from professional golfers who win a bunch of tournaments but fail to win a major championship. Top golfers are measured by how many majors they win, same way NFL head coaches and quarterbacks are measured by how many Super Bowls they win.
Unlike in his previous two Super Bowl losses, Shanahan didn’t lose this game with questionable decisions and tactics. In fact, he provided a catalyst moment in the fourth quarter when he went for a fourth-and-3 from the Kansas City 15 and got a TD out of that series to go ahead 16-13.
Yet it wasn’t enough.
When he was asked after the game why these things keep happening to him in the Super Bowl, Shanahan handled the difficult question with aplomb, not lashing out or showing anger.
“This is my second [Super Bowl] game as a head coach, and I think if you go against guys like Tom Brady and Pat Mahomes you never feel comfortable with the lead,’’ he said. “Two of the best players ever to play the game. Those guys are always in it.
“We all hurt,’’ Shanahan went on. “There are not a lot of words for it. Not everything was perfect, by no means. But we put ourselves out there. I’m proud of the team.’’
Shanahan said during the week before the game he’s “never thought about the word ‘legacy,’ ” adding, “When I think of legacy, I think of my dad. It just doesn’t really work that way with me.’’
The thing is, though, the subjects of legacy don’t get to choose their own narrative. That’s done for them by the outside world.
Chiefs coach Andy Reid, before the game, called Shanahan “a big-time coach,” adding, “I really like the way he does things.’’
Sunday was very much a judgment day for Shanahan, and it all went wrong for him.
Shanahan, who obviously — and desperately — wanted to win this Super Bowl for his players, said he was going into this game with one specific goal in mind — other than winning.
“I just don’t want regrets,” he said. “I just want to do everything that makes sense to myself, that makes sense for our team. 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.”
Asked after the game if he had any regrets, Shanahan said, “What I can’t live with is when I do stuff that I didn’t plan on doing or that I didn’t do and second-guess myself. I’m proud of what we did today as a coaching staff and as players. We did everything we planned on doing. We just didn’t get it done.’’