Why Kyle Shanahan’s 49ers may never win a Super Bowl after defeat to Chiefs

The 49ers suffered a devastating defeat at the hands of Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl 58.

The fallout has been quick and merciless in San Francisco, with drama playing out in full view of the public and a senior member of the coaching staff being relieved of his duties.

Head coach Kyle Shanahan needs to demonstrate his leadership ability and pull the locker room back together, but unfortunately Shanahan has been busy passing the buck as well.

This is unacceptable, and if Shanahan doesn’t get things right and bring the team together, the 49ers may find themselves imploding sooner rather than later.

When a team faces a devastating defeat, the culture and the locker room typically goes in one of two directions.

In one outcome, the team will rally around each other. They will recognize that they’re all in this together, that nobody outside of the locker room is relevant to what they do next and that they are all rowing in the same direction.

There won’t be any finger pointing or throwing blame in the direction of teammates, assistant coaches or other personnel.

The culture in the locker room will remain upbeat, and the team will be closer than ever before. They will all understand that they’re playing for each other.

The players and coaches will all recognize how close they came to reaching the summit of their football careers, and they’ll be confident that if they were able to get that close once, they’ll be able to do it again.

However, not every team responds in this manner. If a team doesn’t respond with extreme positivity, they’ll often respond with extreme negativity.

Players will attempt to deflect the blame from themselves on to their teammates or the coaching staff. Assistant coaches will blame the players for not executing, while the head coach will attempt to pass off the blame to his assistant coaches.

When a team responds in this manner, it is likely the beginning of the end for that team’s chances of winning another Super Bowl.

For an example of things going wrong, look at the Legion of Boom-era Seattle Seahawks. That team had everything in place to become perennial Super Bowl contenders.

They came close to beating the New England Patriots at the height of Tom Brady’s power, but an awful play call led to a disastrous interception thrown by Russell Wilson that ended up in the hands of Malcolm Butler.

The offense and defense stopped trusting each other and tried to blame the other unit for the loss, players began looking out for themselves and prioritizing individual goals, and the majority of the locker room became disillusioned.

Brandon Aiyuk got the ball rolling in the wrong direction by hinting publicly that he is unlikely to return to San Francisco next year, and if he does return there will likely be drama surrounding him.

Offensive lineman Jon Feliciano had an interesting 24 hours on social media that culminated with him inadvertently calling out a teammate for making a mistake.

It doesn’t appear that Feliciano was attempting to stir the pot and create drama, as he was trying to stand up for one of his fellow linemen who was being targeted by fans for supposedly missing a block.

While Feliciano was defending this lineman, he pointed out that it was Spencer Burford’s fault instead. Burford wasn’t too pleased to be called out on social media, but it appears that the two players have hashed it out and ended their short-lived feud.

Feliciano admitted that he should’ve handled the situation better. He explained that he was attempting to defend a teammate and his goal wasn’t to call another teammate out.

At the end of the day, if Feliciano‘s ill-advised social media activity was the only drama surrounding the 49ers after their loss, it wouldn’t be a big deal.

However, with everything else that is going on in the Niners locker room, it is still emblematic of a decaying culture and problematic attitudes that could spill over into next season. To make matters worse, the team’s head coach is getting in on the blame game act as well.

The 49ers just announced that they are firing defensive coordinator Steve Wilks. This decision encapsulates everything that the 49ers are doing wrong in the wake of their devastating Super Bowl loss.

The team should be rallying together, but instead of facing the sting of defeat together they are turning on each other. There’s finger pointing and blame being passed around.

The 49ers’ defense was dominant all season and ended the year as the best or second-best defense in the league.

Shanahan explained that he determined Wilks was not the right fit for the team, and indeed Shanahan and Wilks had disagreements throughout the season about which style of defense was best for the team to employ. At times, these disagreements played out in public.

Still, if the 49ers had won the Super Bowl, it is hard to imagine Wilks being canned. This stinks of an attempt by Shanahan to deflect the blame, relieving somebody else of their duties to send the message that they were the problem and not him.

As the leader of the organization, Shanahan has to set the tone and raise the expectations for the type of culture that will be developed in his building.

By leaning into the blame game and firing somebody who otherwise would not have been fired without publicly taking equivalent accountability for his own shortcomings, Shanahan failed as a leader and the locker room in San Francisco is in trouble as a result.

If Shanahan is unable to right the ship, the 49ers may not find themselves playing in another Super Bowl for a long time.



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