Sean McVay and Kyle Shanahan are old buddies who both became first-time head coaches in the NFC West in 2017. It makes it relatively easy to compare the two coaches, both of whom have spawned considerable coaching trees, made it to the Super Bowl twice, and faced off 15 times against one another.
The biggest trump card that McVay has in the rivalry is his Super Bowl championship in 2021. Now Shanahan is one win away from tying that mark. Would it make his career as good or better than McVay’s if the 49ers beat the Chiefs on Sunday?
Regular Season Record
Sean McVay - 70-45
Kyle Shanahan - 64-51
There is certainly an advantage here for McVay, winning almost one more game per season than Shanahan, but they have both won three division titles over the past seven years.
McVay got off to a massive head start by going 24-8 with two division titles and a Super Bowl appearance in the first two seasons, compared to 10-22 with third and fourth place finishes for Shanahan. But as you can imagine, the 49ers have done a lot to catch up.
Shanahan gained four games on McVay in 2019 and reached the Super Bowl, then went 6-10 in 2020. But in the last three seasons, Shanahan’s 49ers are 35-16 in the regular season compared to 27-24 for McVay’s Rams. The important caveat in that record difference is that McVay won the Super Bowl in 2021.
That’s been McVay’s trump card, but Shanahan can get his own in six days.
You can’t separate McVay and Shanahan from offense, it is the calling card for both. There are many metrics to measure this but let’s start with the easiest, that being points.
The Rams have ranked first, second, seventh, eighth, 11th, 22nd, and 27th in McVay’s seven seasons.
The 49ers have ranked second, third, sixth, 13th, 20th, 21st, and 21st in Shanahan’s. San Francisco has gone to the Super Bowl both times that their offense has ranked in the top-3.
In the last seven years, the Rams have scored 328 touchdowns (10th) and the 49ers have scored 331 (t5th). The Rams rank fifth in scoring (2,942 points) and the 49ers rank seventh (2,896) since 2017. By passer rating, the Rams are 12th (92.4) and the 49ers are 8th (95.2); by yards per attempt, the 49ers are tied for first (7.6) and the Rams are tied for fifth (7.1). The Rams allow fewer sacks and have thrown more touchdowns with fewer interceptions.
The quarterbacks have mainly been Jared Goff and Matthew Stafford for the Rams, while the 49ers have mainly had Jimmy Garoppolo and Brock Purdy, with the offense being dragged down by Nick Mullens, C.J. Beathard, and briefly Trey Lance.
Famously, this has been Shanahan’s ownage of McVay: After losing three of the first four to the Rams, Kyle Shanahan has won 9 of the last 10 regular season games against L.A.. The only loss came in the Week 18 contest this season in which neither team had anything to play for and both rested starters.
Of course, the Rams beat the 49ers in the 2021 NFC Championship, which feels better than any regular season loss hurts.
McVay is 7-4 and 1-1 in the Super Bowl. Shanahan is 8-3 and 0-1 in the Super Bowl.
A win over the Chiefs on Sunday would make Shanahan 9-3 in the playoffs and 1-1 in the Super Bowl. There is no sweeter victory right now than defeating Patrick Mahomes and Andy Reid in a playoff game, although defeating Joe Burrow and Ja’Marr Chase is no easy task.
McVay has won a thrilling Super Bowl and lost the least-thrilling Super Bowl of our lifetimes.
Shanahan went up against Mahomes in 2019/2020 and took a 20-10 lead in the fourth quarter, where the 49ers got throttled by a score of 21-0 in the final six minutes. Shanahan will forever be associated with terrible fourth quarter playoff games until he isn’t.
We know that McVay and Shanahan can’t really take credit for the successes or blame for the failures of coaches who they hired to help them in the past. Is Bill Belichick any less successful just because all of his assistants over the years were not suitable to become head coaches?
But we make these comparisons anyway.
Shanahan’s coordinator tree: Mike LaFleur (Rams OC), Bobby Slowik (Texans OC), Klint Kubiak (Saints OC, pending)
There actually hasn’t been that much movement on Shanahan’s tree lately aside from Ryans essentially counting for both himself and Slowik’s promotions.
McVay’s coordinator tree: Joe Barry (Packers DC*), Ejiro Evero (Panthers DC), Shane Waldron (Bears OC), Liam Coen (Bucs OC), Wes Phillips (Vikings OC), Thomas Brown (Bears passing game coordinator), Jimmy Lake (Falcons DC), Zac Robinson (Falcons OC)
Jedd Fisch is also the Washington Huskies head coach. Apologies to anyone I missed.
Clearly the NFL has shown more favoritism towards McVay’s system than Shanahan’s, but the two will always be intertwined anyway. They even shared Mike LaFleur and certainly have other ties regarding coaching assistants.
The coach who has a Super Bowl win will always win a close comparison against the coach who hasn’t. If Shanahan beats Mahomes/Reid on Sunday, it’ll certainly make this much more of a toss-up between the two friends and rivals. It’s just an interesting debate and none of this actually matters, but I would bet that it matters to them.
Whether they would admit that or not.