Even geniuses, innovators and franchise saviors can have bad days, right?
Certainly that was the case for Kyle Shanahan, who is expected to become the 49ers’ new head coach, perhaps as soon as Monday.
As the offensive coordinator of the Atlanta Falcons, Shanahan was the architect of the NFL’s highest-flying offense. The Falcons then reached Sunday’s 51st Super Bowl against the New England Patriots and built a huge lead en route to what looked like a certain victory. For a while, it looked as if Shanahan would have the perfect transition, from offensive guru and Super Bowl champion to the man who will guide the 49ers back to respectability and finally restore offensive fireworks to a team that has become inept and boring over the past three seasons.
Yet thanks in part to some suspect play-calling in the fourth quarter Sunday, the Falcons stumbled and eventually fell to the Patriots in overtime.
Vaughn McClure, who covers the Falcons for ESPN.com, noted that Shanahan played a large role in the Falcons’ loss because of a pair of play calls.
In the fourth quarter, with Atlanta leading 28-12, Shanahan called for a deep pass on a third-and-1 in Patriots territory, which resulted in a sack and lost fumble. That set the Pats up for a touchdown and two-point conversion.
Then, on the Falcons’ next possession, Atlanta marched to the New England 22, from where they could have run the ball, taken some time off the clock and kicked a field goal. Instead, Shanahan called for two straight pass plays and the Falcons took a sack and a holding call to push them out of kicking range. When they had to give the ball back to the Patriots, New England marched for a tying score to force overtime.
After the game, Shanahan defended his thinking in both scenarios.
“The thought is to get as many yards as you can get,” he told the media.
Wrote one angry Falcons fan on Twitter: “Kyle Shanahan. Thanks for the memories, but those last plays calls, I’ll come help you pack your house up for SF. That was pathetic.”
Longtime Bay Area columnist Tim Kawakami wrote that Shanahan’s bad Sunday took a bit of the shine off what would have been his triumphant march into 49ers headquarters to take over the Niners franchise.
“None of this (Sunday’s play calls) changes the fact that Shanahan turned in one of the great coordinator seasons in recent history and absolutely deserves a shot at running a team,” wrote Kawakami.
“But he could’ve used the Super Bowl as his greatest advertisement – look at what I just did! – leading into his 49ers introduction, and then he started calling the wrong plays, bad things happened and he has some things to explain about what he just did.”