Steve Young questions one Kyle Shanahan decision in 49ers' Super Bowl loss

Steve Young questions one Kyle Shanahan decision in 49ers' Super Bowl loss

With seven minutes to play in Super Bowl LIV, the 49ers appeared to be on their way to a night spent bathing in confetti and champagne in Miami.

They led the Kansas City Chiefs 20-10 and had flustered star quarterback Patrick Mahomes for much of the night. Then, everything unraveled as the Chiefs scored 21 unanswered points to give head coach Andy Reid his first Super Bowl title. 

49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan drew the brunt of the criticism for his fourth-quarter play-calling that saw him put the ball in the hands of quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo rather than rely on San Francisco's powerful run game. But it was another gaffe, one near the end of the first half that Hall-of-Famer and 49ers legend Steve Young questions the most.

"I think [Garoppolo] and Kyle have to work on their dance step," Young said at the Pebble Beach Pro-Am last week, via the San Francisco Chronicle. "The thing before halftime doesn't make sense to me. If I was the quarterback, and you just let the clock drain away, what are you saying to me? That's just me."

With just under two minutes remaining in the half and the game tied at 10, the 49ers were set to get the ball back with a chance to drive to secure the halftime lead. Rather than calling a timeout to preserve time, Shanahan elected to let the Chiefs run the clock down near one minute and pin the 49ers deep, giving Garoppolo and the offense little time to drive the length of the field.

The 49ers ran the ball on first and second down, taking the clock down to 19 seconds before the Chiefs called a timeout to try and get the ball back. The 49ers got a first down on a 20-yard pass from Garoppolo to Jeff Wilson Jr., but Garoppolo ended up kneeling out the clock after tight end George Kittle was called for offensive pass interference on the next play from scrimmage. 

Garoppolo looked shaky early on in Miami, throwing a horrid first-quarter interception that led to a Chiefs field goal. He was much more efficient in the second quarter, but it appeared Shanahan didn't trust his highly-paid quarterback enough to take care of the ball in the two-minute drill.

After the game, Shanahan explained the decision to let the clock tick down as a way to keep Mahomes from getting the football again. 

"They had three timeouts, and it was 10 to 10. The last thing we're going to do there is allow them to get the ball with three timeouts left, especially with their quarterback and the offensive speed, and go down and score before half, Shanahan said "Felt good at 10-10, especially with us starting with the ball [in the second half].

"I thought it played out all right," Shanahan said. "I thought we should have got points, but they ended up calling that PI on [George] Kittle."

[RELATED: Five big decisions that could define 49ers' offseason]

Despite the iffy clock-management decision, the 49ers still were in a position to win the game, but the defense fell apart in the final seven minutes and Garoppolo overthrew Emmanuel Sanders on the would-be, go-ahead touchdown pass with1:40 left, effectively sealing the 49ers' fate.

Shanahan. who was the Atlanta Falcons offensive coordinator when they blew a 28-3 lead to the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LI, now will have all offseason to replay another Super Bowl meltdown in his head.

49ers roster analysis: Signing George Kittle to new contract top focus

49ers roster analysis: Signing George Kittle to new contract top focus

This is the fourth installment of a 10-part series that examines the 49ers’ roster coming out of the 2019 season, looks ahead to 2020, and outlines the offseason challenges facing general manager John Lynch and coach Kyle Shanahan on a position-by-position basis.

Thursday, a look at the 49ers’ tight ends.

Under contract (signed through)

-George Kittle (2020)
-Daniel Helm (2020)

For the first time this offseason, the 49ers and Kittle’s representation can negotiate a multi-year contract extension. After being a fifth-round draft pick in 2017, Kittle has greatly outperformed his contract. He is in line to become the highest-paid tight end in the league at far more than $10 million a season.

Expiring contract

-Levine Toilolo (UFA)
-Ross Dwelley (EFA)
-Garrett Celek (UFA)

Celek, 31, announced his retirement on Feb. 7 after eight NFL seasons. Celek experienced back issues the past couple seasons and underwent surgery in June to repair a herniated disk. He played five games last season before going on injured reserve when his back flared up. He finished his career with 82 receptions for 1,104 yards and 12 touchdowns in 91 games.

Dwelley as an exclusive-rights free agent has no outside negotiating rights and certainly will be back with the 49ers for a third season.

What needs to happen

One thing needs to happen this offseason: The 49ers and Kittle must agree on a multi-year contract extension. It should happen. It has to happen.

It does not make any sense for Kittle to take the risk of stepping on the field again without first receiving a large sum of guaranteed money to reward him for the best three-season opening to a career of any tight end in NFL history.

The 49ers have produced great tight ends in their history. But Kittle is the first to eclipse the 1,000-yard mark. And, now, he has done it two seasons in a row. His 1,377 receiving yards in 2018 were the most in a single season by a tight end in NFL history.

How vital is Kittle to the 49ers? His teammates voted him as the winner of the Len Eshmont Award, the team’s most prestigious honor, for his courageous and inspirational play.

Toilolo was the second-most-used tight end on the team late in the season and into the playoffs due to his blocking ability. He could be back on a veteran minimum contract.

[RELATED: 49ers roster analysis: More receiver depth needed around Deebo Samuel]


Kittle is the best player on the team. He will continue to be the best player on the team.

Dwelley made a big jump from his rookie season to Year 2. If he can make another big improvement with his blocking, he will position himself to see a bump in playing time. He stepped in and made some big catches while Kittle was out with ankle and knee injuries in the middle of the season. Dwelley had 15 catches for 91 yards and two touchdowns on the season.

Toilolo became the team’s sixth offensive lineman, in effect, as he played 34 snaps combined in the playoff games against Minnesota and Green Bay when the 49ers dominated with their ground game. Toilolo has enough value for the 49ers to re-sign to fill a similar role in 2020.

The 49ers promoted rookie Daniel Helm from the practice squad late in his rookie season. The club originally claimed him off waivers from the Los Angeles Chargers in August. He did not see action in any games, but it was a clear indication the 49ers see something in him that they can develop for the future.

Why Kyle Long wants to see 49ers sign Tom Brady in NFL free agency

Why Kyle Long wants to see 49ers sign Tom Brady in NFL free agency

Should he decide to leave the New England Patriots in NFL free agency, Tom Brady will have no shortage of options of where to suit up for the 2020 season.

The six-time Super Bowl champion will be 43 when the season begins, but Father Time hasn't gotten the best of him yet. Given the right situation in which he's surrounded by a stout line and dynamic playmakers, Brady can put up elite numbers and lead another team -- should he choose to leave New England -- to the Super Bowl.

While the Raiders, Tennessee Titans, Los Angeles Chargers and Chicago Bears are the teams commonly thrown around as landing spots for Brady, former NFL offensive lineman Kyle Long wants to see TB12 head to a different team out west -- the 49ers.

"I think this will drive people crazy," Long said on "NFL Total Access." "I know people like to talk during the offseason and one name I've thought about is a guy named Tom Brady and the team called the San Francisco 49ers. It would be something where we would find out if the 49ers are really in love with Jimmy Garoppolo, and I think Tom Brady has earned the right to select a turn-key organization that is one quarterback away from the Super Bowl. Who better than the 49ers? He's a hometown kid. He grew up idolizing Joe Montana."

Long isn't the first person to float the idea of Brady ending his career with the team he grew up cheering for. Kyle's brother, Chris, who played with Brady in New England has said the 49ers might be the only team the legendary quarterback would leave the Patriots for. Of course, Chris said that before Garoppolo led the 49ers to Super Bowl LIV, a game they appeared to have won before suffering a monumental collapse in the final eight minutes against Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs.

On the biggest stage, Garoppolo had moments of greatness mixed with cringe-worthy mistakes. There was the first-quarter interception that set up a Chiefs field goal. After that, Garoppolo was the picture of efficiency, carving up Kansas City's defense during the second and third quarter as the 49ers took a 20-10 lead.

But with the 49ers trailing late in the fourth quarter, Garoppolo had Emmanuel Sanders open for the would-be go-ahead touchdown, but he overthrew him so badly that Sanders didn't even have a chance to make a play on the ball. 

[RELATED: 49ers need to add more receivers around Deebo in offseason]

The 49ers have one of the NFL's top defenses, an offensive innovator in head coach Kyle Shanahan and the best tight end in the game in George Kittle. If San Francisco wasn't already piloted by Brady's former backup they would be the ideal landing spot for the free-agent signal-caller. 

But if Brady goes anywhere this offseason, it won't be to San Francisco. The 49ers are Jimmy Garoppolo's team for better or worse.