MIAMI, Fla. -- Kyle Shanahan blew a 28-3 lead in his last trip to the Super Bowl. The then-Atlanta Falcons offensive coordinator got a shade too conservative and shouldered significant blame for why the New England Patriots surged in the second half to win Super Bowl LI.
While Patriots coach Bill Belichick enjoyed the victory, he surely felt for a young offensive mind who hit a new professional low. Belichick has great respect for Shanahan and vice versa, which was evident after that gut-wrenching loss.
“It was really cool that he reached out to me after the Super Bowl just to talk,” Shanahan said Monday at Marlins Park during Super Bowl Opening Night. “I was able to spend some time with him at the  NFL combine, which I was very appreciative of. Any time that guy talks, everyone in the world listens. That was especially true for someone like me who aspired to be a head coach. He has been great. It’s not like we talk a ton or anything, but he’s a humble guy who likes to help people.”
That wasn’t the first time Belichick has reached out to a Shanahan looking to talk shop. He did so during the 2005 AFC playoffs, right after then-Denver Broncos coach Mike Shanahan beat his Patriots 27-13 in the divisional round.
Kyle Shanahan was in Mike’s office when Belichick stopped by but got booted so the two head coaches could chat.
“I got kicked out of the room, and I had to sit and wait,” Shanahan said. “I remember my dad saying how cool that was for him to come over after the game, after the Patriots had lost, just to talk ball with him.”
Belichick and Kyle Shanahan talked extensively at the combine and spoke again during the 2017 season when quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo was made available.
Though he has never addressed it directly, it’s generally understood within the Boston media that Belichick didn’t shop Garoppolo to establish leverage in the trade market, choosing instead to give his young backup quarterback a good home. He found one with the 49ers -- the Patriots only received a second-round pick in return -- believing Garoppolo could grow and thrive working with Shanahan.
“Having someone like Bill say something like that, for me and what I do in life, if pretty cool,” Shanahan said. “That’s a big a compliment as I could personally have. It feels great. Hopefully that’s true because I’m very glad he felt that way, and I feel very fortunate that we were able to get Jimmy.”
Shanahan said he isn’t trying to exorcise demons on Sunday with the 49ers play the Chiefs in Super Bowl LIV, or looking to make up for mistakes when the Falcons fell just short.
“I know it comes off like that from a narrative and media standpoint, and I can drive a stake through that if it works out right,” Shanahan said. “That [criticism] stuff, just as a coach, it was harder for me when I was younger in my career. The four years I was in Washington helped me a little bit more and start to realize you can worry about what everybody says. You have to prepare, do as well as you can and not hesitate. When you get worried about blame, that’s when you hesitate. That’s when you make mistakes.
"I’m always hard on myself, but I’m aggressive, I prepare hard and I leave it all out on the line. That’s how I treated every game before that Super Bowl. It’s how I treated that Super Bowl and every game after.”
Programming note: NBC Sports Bay Area feeds your hunger for 49ers Super Bowl coverage with special editions of “49ers Central” all week (8 p.m. Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, 9 p.m. Tuesday and 3 p.m. Saturday).
Also tune in at 1 p.m. on Super Bowl Sunday for a two-hour special of "49ers Pregame Live" with Laura Britt, Donte Whitner, Jeff Garcia, Ian Williams, Kelli Johnson, Greg Papa and Grant Liffmann. That same crew will have all the postgame reaction on "49ers Postgame Live," starting immediately after the game.