HENDERSON, Nev. – Kyle Shanahan paid tribute Tuesday to another coach who’s made it to multiple Super Bowls.
Twenty-five years ago, Mike Shanahan coached the Denver Broncos to the Lombardi Trophy in back-to-back seasons.
Sunday, his son, Kyle, will coach the 49ers as they try to stop the Kansas City Chiefs from repeating as NFL champs – and from defeating the 49ers like they did in the 2019 season’s Super Bowl.
“I’m the son of a coach, but my dad’s the best coach I’ve ever been around, so to be around that good of one is also a huge advantage for me,” Kyle Shanahan said at the 49ers’ team hotel at Lake Las Vegas.
“He was never training me to be a coach. He was just being my dad,” Shanahan added. “The way he went about everything – how direct he was with people, how honest he was, how hard he worked. You didn’t always like what he’d have to say, but he’d tell you the truth.”
Father and son worked together in Washington from 2010-13, and Mike Shanahan was a finalist to become the 49ers coach in 2015 and ’16 before his son landed his first head-coaching role in 2017.
Following in his father’s footsteps was not the original plan. But being in pro sports was, and Kyle Shanahan wanted to do so as a wide receiver, a goal he shared with his father in eighth grade, when Mike Shanahan was the 49ers’ offensive coordinator.
His dad’s advice during a long car ride remains vivid: “You have to commit to it and do it.”
Coaching only entered the picture once he exhausted his collegiate playing career at Duke and then the University of Texas.
Said Kyle Shanahan: “Once my fifth year hit and the reality of what I was as a player hit, I started to think, ‘You know, I want to coach. I don’t want to stop being around football. And I’ve actually been working at this my whole life. It’s a little easier than playing.’ And it kind of naturally happened.”
When asked how losing the Super Bowl four years ago ranks with his postseason disappointments, he responded how such high stakes obviously puts it “up there,” but he also noted how broken up his dad was to lose in conference championships in his own career.
“Anytime you get that close and lose last one, it’s hardest,” Shanahan said. “All football games are hard to lose.”
When the 49ers hold their first official practice Wednesday at UNLV, a full unit is expected to be available. “I’m expecting it to be pretty positive,” said Shanahan, who couched that optimism by noting he had yet to speak with the 49ers’ trainers because an official injury report was not posted Tuesday.
Tight end George Kittle’s toe injury is not expected to keep him out of practice like it did last week.
A storyline carrying over from the NFC Championship Game win is the lack of effort by some 49ers defenders on two of the Lions’ touchdowns in that 34-31 win.
“But that definitely wasn’t why we struggled stopping the run. There were a number of other things we had to detail up,” Shanahan said. “When we’re playing an eight-man front, it takes just one guy to get out of a gap, for there to be only one guy left.
“That’s stuff we have to do a lot better at. Our guys take a lot of pride in what they do. They work hard every day. I don’t expect it to be different this Sunday.”
Dozens of cameras and reporters swarmed to quarterback Brock Purdy’s podium for the second time in less than 24 hours. Shanahan appreciates how unfazed Purdy is by the massive attention that comes during Super Bowl week.
“That’s the most special thing about Brock. He doesn’t have to change much because who he is,” Shanahan said. “ He’s as humble as a person as I’ve been around. He has a strong foundation of who he is, and it’s rare people have that.”
When it comes to calling plays for Purdy to run, Shanahan referred to it being “a lot of fun” and he’s become “more comfortable seeing what he can do and how aggressive he is.”