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Appreciating Kyle Shanahan

The San Francisco 49ers are in the Super Bowl for the second time in the last five seasons. I still don't think that fact has fully sunk in yet.

The more I think about it, the more incredible it becomes. As you look at the man waving from the stage, take a second to acknowledge what he's accomplished.

Kyle Shanahan took over a 49ers team that had gone 7-25 in the two previous seasons and immediately won 6 games. He traded for a quarterback in the middle of the season and created a hybrid offense for him that allowed the team to end the year on a five game winning streak.

The season after that, Jimmy Garoppolo tore his ACL in the third game of the year and the team went 4-12.

In 2019 they went to the Super Bowl. In fact, if it weren't for a Biblical plague of injuries in 2020, the 49ers could have been playing a chance to get to the Super Bowl in every year since then.

Let that sink in. Think of the knot that was in your stomach the week before all of those NFC Championship Games. Think of the excitement that you felt when those games finally started and the prospect of going to the Super Bowl wasn't just a hypothetical pipe dream, but a tangible reality that was just 60 minutes away. That's something that we have gotten the chance to experience four times in the last five seasons. Twice now during that time, we've even experienced the unbridled joy that comes with victory in that game.

That is not a normal thing, and it should be appreciated - regardless of whether the 49ers beat the Chiefs on Super Bowl Sunday.

For as much criticism as Shanahan receives, and plenty of it comes from me, this is a pretty impressive resume:

  • 7 seasons as a head coach - tied for the fourth longest tenure in the NFL

  • 4 playoff appearances

  • 8-3 playoff record - fourth most playoff wins of any active coach

  • 4 NFC Championship Game appearances

  • 2 Super Bowl appearances - tied for the second most among active coaches

Even more impressive, Kyle Shanahan can say that the last three times his starting quarterback was healthy enough to start every game of the regular season, he's gone to the Super Bowl. He did it with Matt Ryan in 2016 (as offensive coordinator of the Falcons), he did it with Jimmy Garoppolo in 2019, and he's done it with Brock Purdy this season (who sat out a meaningless Week 18 game). Not even the Chiefs with Patrick Mahomes and Andy Reid can say that.

Going to the Super Bowl multiple times is incredibly difficult. In fact, in 104 total NFL seasons only 26 coaches have ever done it. That's roughly 5% of all the NFL head coaches that there have ever been.

Going to multiple Super Bowls with at least two different quarterbacks is even more rare. That has only happened 13 times in NFL history. That's just 2.5% of the 523 total NFL head coaches.

Going to the Super Bowl with at least two different quarterbacks when one of those quarterbacks is Jimmy freakin' Garoppolo is like finding a leprechaun riding a unicorn in the lost city of Atlantis.

Plenty is going to be said about Kyle Shanahan and the 49ers over the next two weeks, and if the 49ers lose Super Bowl LVIII much of it will be negative. While we have a minute to stop and smell the roses, let's appreciate the journey we've all been on for almost the last decade - and the man most responsible for it.

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