There's no shortage of criticism being directed at 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan for San Francisco's stunning collapse against the Kanas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LIV. However, it's not coming from within his own locker room.
Quite the opposite, actually.
The strong bond between players and coaches that was emboldened over the 49ers' progression from the No. 2 overall pick in the draft to NFC champions was readily apparent in the comments emanating from their distraught locker room following the 31-20 loss at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens.
After finishing his postgame press conference, Shanahan returned to his deflated team. Surely, he was in a terrible mood as well, knowing that for the second time in four years, he had the Lombardi Trophy in his grasp, only to see it slip away. Nonetheless, he put his personal disappointment aside and, according to NFL Media's Mike Silver, delivered an uplifting speech befitting of a leader. His players certainly appreciated it.
"Kyle held his head high," defensive end Dee Ford described. "He told us, 'Of course it's not the result we wanted, but I'll line up with any player in here, anytime.' He told us, 'This team is special.' And it is."
As sad as tight end George Kittle was while watching his coach have to make that speech -- rather than the joyous one they were all hoping for -- he valued the sentiment of Shanahan's message.
"S--t, it was brutal," Kittle said. "I don't know how to describe it. It just sucked. Kyle was great, though. That's one thing I do like about Kyle is, he keeps it real, all the time. I love playing for him."
Fullback Kyle Juszczyk scored one of San Francisco's two touchdowns in the Super Bowl, and played a critical role in setting up the other. He was one of the first free-agents to sign with the 49ers after Shanahan was hired ahead of the 2017 season, and he had only glowing things to say about his coach after the lowest point of their time together.
"I have so much love and respect for Kyle," Juszczyk said. "He's the best coach that I've ever played for. He's the same guy every single day, no matter what happens. He always looks to himself first when it comes to blame. And he takes our ideas and suggestions and will really listen, and think about implementing things after the fact. It sucks just because of how much everybody respects and loves him, and because we hate to hear any negativity about him, and we know it's coming."
Juszczyk, a Harvard alumnus, is a smart guy. The negativity has already begun to flow, and it's going to be quite some time until the faucet is turned all the way off. It won't be coming from within the locker room, though, and that will be key as the 49ers try to get back to the Super Bowl next year.