Kyle Shanahan and John Lynch are still digesting 49ers’ Super Bowl collapse

Kyle Shanahan, John Lynch recap 49ers' Super Bowl collapse, look ahead to next season

SANTA CLARA, CALIFORNIA – FEBRUARY 6: San Francisco 49ers general manager John Lynch, left, and head coach Kyle Shanahan, right, talk to members of the media at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif., on Thursday, Feb. 6, 2020. (Randy Vazquez / Bay Area News Group)
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SANTA CLARA — Coach Kyle Shanahan, looking as soul-crushed as expected after another Super Bowl collapse, spoke confidently Thursday about each and every call he made, even those that backfired or drew intense skepticism.

He offered no excuses. He kept his usual sarcasm at a minimum. He insisted the 49ers have the “special” trait to bounce back next season.

His 25-minute, post-mortem press conference emitted the opposite emotions of a potential victory parade down Market Street. Shanahan fidgeted with his coffee cup. His eyes looked swollen from a combination of tears, lack of sleep and overall anguish. Who could blame him? Well, most 49ers fans do.

“I don’t feel it’s intense blow-back, I’m not on Twitter and whatever, all that stuff is,” Shanahan said. “I would never do that to myself anyways. You know, I’ve lost the Super Bowl before, I’ve been a part of a bigger lead that was lost, so I’m very well aware of what goes with that.”

(Randy Vazquez / Bay Area News Group)

Three years after enduring a Super Bowl collapse as the Atlanta Falcons offensive coordinator, Shanahan took a seat next to general manager John Lynch inside Levi’s Stadium auditorium and regurgitated Sunday’s Super Bowl loss to the Kansas City Chiefs.

They briefly offered a glimpse at their offseason plan and explained why this “special” group has the ability to overcome the historical challenge of a Super Bowl return. Optimism couldn’t totally cover Shanahan’s pain.

“I also am not a good liar. How you guys hear me talk is exactly how I feel,” Shanahan said. “I’m really upset about the loss because it’s hard to get there. I personally thought we had the best team in the NFL this year. We weren’t. We’ve got to deal with that.”

Shanahan then reveled in how athletics — cue: “Wide World of Sports” theme — offers the thrill of victory and agony of defeat.

“I can’t wait to try our butts off to get back there next year,” Shanahan said.

(Randy Vazquez / Bay Area News Group)

Thursday’s therapy session with the media came with predictable questions, rationale responses and, well, sympathy for a ghastly ending to a near-storybook season. Shanahan and Lynch covered a lot of topics so let’s hit the key ones:

Where does Jimmy Garoppolo stand?

Shanahan said he supports Garoppolo as strongly as prior to the Super Bowl, that there is no inclination to move on after the quarterback started every game, won 15 and was poised to win Super Bowl MVP honors that instead went to Kansas City counterpart Patrick Mahomes. Garoppolo was 3-of-11 as a 20-10, fourth-quarter lead vanished, as did a comeback attempt.

“He was on his way to winning Super Bowl MVP. We all didn’t make those plays toward the end,” Shanahan said. “We made those plays all year, our whole team, that’s one of the reasons we were there. Whenever you don’t make those plays at the end of the game like that, first and foremost the quarterback is going to get attacked, and then usually the play caller. We understand that’s how it goes.”

Shanahan praised Garoppolo’s ACL comeback, his relative inexperience (citing 26 career starts compared to the Cleveland Browns’ Baker Mayfield’s 29) and overall ability to improve.  “I can’t tell you how much I love coaching the guy as a player and as a person,” Shanahan said.

SANTA CLARA, CALIFORNIA – FEBRUARY 5: San Francisco 49ers’ quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo (10), left, talks to members of the media as the team clears out their lockers at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif., on Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2020. (Randy Vazquez / Bay Area News Group)

Why no timeout before halftime?

Shanahan remains “very confident” about not calling a timeout after the 49ers’ defense made a third-down stop about 1 1/2 minutes before halftime. Shanahan said he’d do it “every single time,” especially because the 49ers were getting the second-half kickoff.

Lynch, meanwhile, explained why television cameras caught him signaling for a timeout from a suite. “It’s just as if I was the player looking at the sideline calling, ‘Timeout, timeout.’ I was thrilled for these guys,” Lynch said. “. … It’s not my role to do time management and I don’t focus a lot on it. I was proud of our guys getting a big stop. … I watch the game with emotion because I care and that’s all that was.”

Shanahan said he “absolutely not” would have handle it differently, and that not calling a timeout was a “no brainer.” He expected a Chiefs punt to pin the 49ers near their goal line, instead of an ensuing touchback, and he feared giving the Chiefs’ Patrick Mahomes the ball again before halftime. “The way he did that third-and-15 at the end of the game is how he does a two-minute drive.”

SANTA CLARA, CALIFORNIA – FEBRUARY 6: San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan, right, smiles with general manager John Lynch, left, as they talk to members of the media at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif., on Thursday, Feb. 6, 2020. (Randy Vazquez / Bay Area News Group)

Any regretful moves?

Shanahan said he’s been through his play calls “probably 1,000 times the past few days” and doesn’t regret any. However, he acknowledged later he did regret not calling a timeout and that came after Garoppolo failed to complete a 49-yard pass to Emmanuel Sanders with just over a minute remaining.

“The one thing I was contemplating that was hard on me, was after we missed the post to Emmanuel, I knew how tired the guys were. That was my hardest thing,” Shanahan said. “I wanted to call a timeout to give them energy to beat the corners again. It was very hard how they were going.

SANTA CLARA, CALIFORNIA – FEBRUARY 6: San Francisco 49ers general manager John Lynch, left, talks to members of the media with head coach Kyle Shanahan, right, at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif., on Thursday, Feb. 6, 2020. (Randy Vazquez / Bay Area News Group)

Super Bowl hangover history

Both Shanahan and Lynch echoed what they said in Wednesday’s final team meeting, that the 49ers have what it takes to become only the fourth team to win a Super Bowl after losing in it the previous season.

“It’s not an easy thing to do. But I also think we have different people than a lot of teams have,” said Shanahan, referring back to the 49ers’ resiliency from their 0-9 start under him in 2017. “… We have lot of stats that  prove we’re different people. We have to deal with this and get it out of our system. But it will fuel us more and pump us up to get after it.”

Added Lynch: “This group is very strong in terms of who we are. I know this guy right here, in my mind, was the best coach in football this year. In the last game, we have to all own what happened. Our guys are like that, who are going to take that, put it on their shoulders. They’re going to own it. We’re going to move forward and we’re going to be better from it.”

Lynch, who won a Super Bowl as a safety for the 2002 Tampa Bay Buccaneers, said of his first losing experience “stinks,” adding “That will stick with us for a lifetime. But, to me it’s about what you do going forward.” Upon arriving Monday, Lynch attended one of his daughter’s basketball game and appreciated 49ers fans’ offering thanks for this season’s revival.

SANTA CLARA, CALIFORNIA – FEBRUARY 5: San Francisco 49ers’ George Kittle (85), center, talks to members of the media as the team clears out their lockers at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif., on Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2020. (Randy Vazquez / Bay Area News Group)

Who’s getting paid?

Tight end George Kittle and defensive tackle DeForest Buckner, who won the 49ers’ top team awards this season, stand to cash in with extensions. Lynch indicated that such moves are budgeted and can happen once Shanahan gives his blessing now that he can turn his attention to them.

Defensive tackle Arik Armstead’s pending free agency could prompt the 49ers to either let him go, re-sign him to a multi-year deal or franchise tag him at about $18 million, twice his 2019 salary. “Everything is on the table. We want to find a way to keep him and make him a part of the 49ers for a long time,” Lynch said.

Other free agents include safety Jimmie Ward and wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders.

“The bright side is that we’re top-five in returning starters and they’re really good players,” Lynch said. “We’ve accounted for taking care of some of our own players. … First of all, we get over this loss, then we start having those conversations so that we go into the Combine and the Draft ready.”

How to fix Ford?

Acquiring Dee Ford last March bolstered the pass rush, but as he coped with knee tendinitis, Ford repeatedly suggested last season he would need offseason surgery to cure his ails. Lynch said that won’t be the case. Rest might be the best prescription. Lynch said Ford is “in a good spot right now.” Ford had no sacks, one hit on Mahomes and two tackles in playing 42 of 73 snaps Sunday.

Third-and-15 trauma

The Chiefs’ fourth-quarter comeback sprang to life when Patrick Mahomes completed a third-and-15, 44-yard pass to Tyreek Hill. Up until then, Shanahan said: “I really thought we had the game won right there.”

Shanahan said it was hard for cornerback Emmanuel Moseley “not to take the bait” and change his coverage responsibility. “He held onto it as long as he could, which wasn’t long, and then threw it up, and they had the right two players for that play,” Shanahan said. ” It was a heck of a play by them. That’s why they got back in the game.”

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