Shanahan’s team will be defined by its Super Bowl loss

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — I’d be more shocked, more awed, more confused as to what just happened, had I had not covered the Warriors during their five-year dynastic run.

Because what went down in the final seven-plus minutes of Super Bowl LIV was beyond comprehension in football, but was commonplace — at least for the Dubs — in basketball.

Steph Curry and the Warriors were the masters of “flipping the switch”. You could also call it prolific procrastination — taking an entire game’s worth of success and condensing it into a short run, dazing the other team in the process. I’ve seen it too many times to count.

That’s what Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs did to the 49ers on Sunday.

Mahomes faced a third-and-15 in his own territory with 7:13 remaining in the game. Kansas City was down 20-10.

Less than six minutes later, the Chiefs had won the Super Bowl, leading 31-20 with 1:20 to play. The 49ers had not thrown an interception or lost a fumble deep in Kansas City territory, either. Mahomes — who had a negative Expected Points Added before his majestic third-and-long pass to Tyreek Hill — had merely compressed an entire game’s worth of positive play into three critical drives. A Curry-esque flurry.

Kyle Shanahan’s 49ers will be defined by what happened by those critical moments in the Super Bowl, for better or for worse.

After a week in Miami, I found it incredibly difficult to make a prediction on the game, but I went into Sunday’s game convinced that — no matter the outcome — this would not be the 49ers’ last time in the Super Bowl.

Shanahan is an elite coach. Don’t let one bad quarter and some questionable game management at the end of the first half distract you from the fact that he took the NFL’s laughingstock franchise (non-Browns edition) to the Super Bowl within three years of taking over.

Last year, the 49ers drafted second. This year, they finished second. That’s an incredible turnaround, soured by the incredible turnaround to Sunday’s game.

The 49ers were able to be so close to winning the Lombardi Trophy because the infrastructure of this team is so strong. Shanahan’s staff is second-to-none in the NFL and it seemed as if no one in his employ was merely using the 49ers as a means to a different end with a new team. The Niners will unquestionably lose coaches in the years to come, as bigger and better opportunities come their way, but the brainpower behind the scenes is jaw-dropping.

And yes, there will be tough decisions to make on the roster heading into next season, but Shanahan and his hand-picked GM John Lynch have shown an almost preternatural ability to find top — even elite — talent in unlikely places, and Shanahan remains the best offensive mind in the NFL.

What’s being built in Santa Clara is sustainable for the long haul. And while the competitiveness of the NFC tampers my thoughts that there are some serious Patriots vibes with the Niners, again, I did go into the game thinking San Francisco would be back at the Super Bowl in the years to come.

But it’s harder to predict that after what went down on Sunday.

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