Los Angeles Rams head coach Sean McVay and San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan have consistently been compared throughout their entire careers. Both were young coaches, coming from the same former Washington coaching staff, and were hired within a year of each other to division rivals. On top of that, the two have said that they are actually friends outside of football, making it even easier to link the pair.
On Sunday night, Shanahan and the 49ers lost 25-22 to Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs in an overtime thriller that saw the Chiefs comeback from 10-0 late in the second quarter. After finishing another deep post-season run without a ring, does Shanahan’s inability to get a championship solidify McVay’s position ahead of him all-time?
In the regular season, the 49ers have had the upper hand on LA, with Shanahan holding a 10-5 record over McVay. However, in the only playoff meeting between the two coaches, the Rams were able to comeback from a double-digit fourth quarter deficit in the 2021 NFC Championship to win 20-17. They would then go on to beat the Cincinnati Bengals, with McVay earning his first Super Bowl win.
Meanwhile, Shanahan is 0-4 in his pursuit of a Lombardi trophy, losing his first Super Bowl in 2019, followed by back-to-back NFC Championship losses the next two years, and finished out by his most recent loss in the Super Bowl this past Sunday. While it’s impressive that he has finished in at least the NFC Championship the last four years, many would agree that without the hardware to show for it, it’s all a tad bittersweet. It’s also the reason many put McVay slightly ahead of Shanahan when comparing the two.
What makes it worse for Shanahan is the way he has lost these games though. Shanahan was part of one of the worst Super Bowl collapses in NFL history. As the offensive coordinator for the Atlanta Falcons, his team would hold a 28-3 lead in Super Bowl LI, before allowing the New England Patriots to battle their way back into the game. New England would eventually complete the comeback in overtime, winning 34-28. Shanahan also had a 10-pt lead in both of the Super Bowl games he lost, and held a 17-7 lead over the Rams heading into the fourth quarter of his NFC championship loss to LA.
It’s now even being reported that in the latest Super Bowl loss, many of the San Francisco players didn’t know the updated overtime rules, allowing both teams to get at least one possession (unless a defensive touchdown is scored on the opening drive). If it’s true that his players did not know the rules, it would be a real indictment on Shanahan’s coaching, given that the rule is not brand new to this year, being changed last season.
“Multiple San Francisco players said after the game that they were not aware that the overtime rules are different in the playoffs than they are in the regular season, and strategy discussions over how to handle the overtime period did not occur as a team,” The Ringer’s Lindsay Jones reported.
Shanahan’s knack for being unable to finish games is starting to become a tag that is synonymous with his name. Meanwhile McVay has done the opposite, with his teams winning in the last seconds of many crucial playoff moments including the 2018 NFC Championship, 2021 NFC Divisional round, 2021 NFC Championship and Super Bowl LVI - all of which were decided by three points or less.
Overall, McVay posts a .611 (77-49) career win percentage, while Shanahan is close behind .571 (72-54). It would be insane for one to argue that either coach is bad, that’s not at all the issue, and it’s clear that both were slam dunk hires for their respective franchises at the time. That said, McVay having a Lombardi trophy in his case will always put him ahead of Shanahan, despite regular season records, until the 49ers coach is able to get one of his own.