Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

‘I truly believed we were the best team in the NFL’: Kyle Shanahan explains why Super Bowl loss was so devastating

Apr 29, 2020 at 10:16 AM--

San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan stood there at Hard Rock Stadium as confetti fell on and all around him. He then wandered around the field, searching for Kansas City Chiefs head coach Andy Reid to offer congratulations.

Being the end of the Super Bowl, the field was a madhouse. Yet, Shanahan continued his search. He couldn't easily get to Reid, who was being pulled in every direction by players, media, and NFL officials.

Shanahan even briefly considered giving up and heading to the locker room but realized how that would have looked. Finally, after some effort, he reached Reid and was able to congratulate him. Shanahan then retreated to the locker room to join his players.

The 49ers coach was still finding random pieces of confetti hours after leaving Hard Rock Stadium — little reminders of a night gone terribly wrong.

Shanahan was laser-focused on the game once he stepped onto the field at Hard Rock Stadium. He was so zeroed in on his team's goal, that he was mentally drained by the end.

The coach mustered enough energy to address his players and then speak with the media.

Super Bowl LIV didn't turn out as Shanahan had hoped, or even predicted. He feels the best team in the NFL didn't win that day, and that's something he has to live with, and it will motivate him moving forward.

"It was tough, man. It was emotional," Shanahan told Tim Kawakami of The Athletic during a recent podcast interview. "To sit there on the field and have to go through all that, especially when you know where we were at, this one was harder for me than Atlanta, even.

"One, because I'm the head coach and responsible for the whole team. But two, I truly believed we were the best team in the NFL, and I thought that for a while. And I know how proud of that I was, and how proud of it I was throughout the whole year. But I never really allowed myself to feel it because I wanted to feel it at the end when it's all stamped and done. And that's what I was excited to feel that I never got to feel, and our players never got to feel."

The 49ers took a game-by-game approach the whole season. Even when reporters asked coaches and players about particularly difficult stretches in their schedule, they just wanted to focus on the game ahead of them. That was, after all, the only thing in their control.

The Super Bowl loss, the very last thing they could control that season, was heartbreaking because they knew how good that squad was.

"It pissed me off so much because it wasn't that I was just hoping that we could luckily get that," Shanahan continued. "I felt like we earned it. I felt like we deserved it. I felt like, offensively, defensively, special teams, the way we played throughout the year, I thought we were the best team, and I thought we were that day.

"And we weren't for the whole 60 minutes, and that's why, all the stuff I strongly believe and feel, I can be proud of. But also, we don't get to celebrate that because we didn't do it. We didn't get to prove that. That's something you've got to live with.

"But I am proud of what we did. I just know I was sad about it long enough. Now, I'm excited and pissed about it, and I just want to get back together and start working on football."

Another reason Shanahan wants to get back to work is that he feels great about the team that he and general manager John Lynch have put together this offseason. The coach feels it can build on what last year's squad accomplished.

NFL team facilities remain closed amid coronavirus concerns. Shanahan explained that it could be an advantage for the 49ers. His team didn't have as much turnover as most others when it comes to its coaches and players. Lynch and Shanahan managed to keep together most of the Super Bowl roster and staff.

Shanahan feels his players, once they are allowed to get together and work, will be just as eager to redeem themselves.

"There's one way to get that feeling away," Shanahan added, "and I'm ready to go at it every single chance, while I'm here."

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