Patriots

Kyle Shanahan reflects on 28-3 collapse, gifting of Jimmy Garoppolo from Patriots

Kyle Shanahan reflects on 28-3 collapse, gifting of Jimmy Garoppolo from Patriots

MIAMI — The most famous comeback in Super Bowl history — maybe sports history — happened in Super Bowl 51 three seasons ago.

Everyone knows the Patriots role in it. The credit for the tsunami of playmaking on both sides of the ball when all margin for error was spent is shared between dozens of players and coaches.

But when the blame is ladled out, it mostly falls on the shoulders of one man. Former Falcons offensive coordinator and current Niners head coach Kyle Shanahan.

Shanahan wasn’t responsible for the ineptitude that led to blockheaded holding penalties, Matt Ryan’s lack of pocket awareness, or the defense’s inability to get off the field. But he was the one calling the shots when his team blew a 28-3 lead. And he was the one who, after Atlanta had reached the Patriots' 23 with four minutes left and a 28-20 lead, dialed up a first-down throw. That throw turned instead into a sack. Then came the hold. Then came an incompletion. Here came the Patriots.  

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I asked Shanahan if Sunday is an opportunity to drive a stake through the heart of that memory.

“Not really,” he said. “I know it comes off that way from a media standpoint, the narrative. I’d like to drive a stake through that if it works out right. But that stuff, as a coach, it was harder for me early in my career.  

“The four years in Washington (as offensive coordinator from 2010 to 2013) helped me a little bit where you start to realize that you can’t worry about what everyone says, you just got to prepare and do as good as you can and not hesitate.

“Sometimes when you worry about being blamed for stuff that’s when you will hesitate and make mistakes. I go through everything. I’m always hard on myself but I try to lay it out there, lay it on the line and not try to play it safe. We’ll see what happens this week but that’s how I treated every game before that Super Bowl, that’s how I treated that Super Bowl and that’s how I’ll treat every game going forward.”

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Even though he was victimized by Bill Belichick — a longtime friend and admirer of Shanahan’s father, Mike — the Patriots head coach went out of his way to be gracious with the younger Shanahan after SB51, calling Shanahan to check in with him after the loss.

“I know him and my dad had a good relationship through the years, I remember when the Broncos beat the Patriots (in the 2005 playoffs), Bill coming into my dad’s locker room and talking to him. I got kicked out, but I remember my dad saying how cool it was, him coming over after they had lost and talk ball with him. He knew he was just a true football guy and loved talking ball any time.

"It was cool how Bill reached out to me after the Super Bowl just to talk and it was cool to spend some time with him at the Combine which I was very appreciative of (Belichick and Shanahan reportedly met “for hours” at the Combine). Any time that guy talks, everyone in the world listens. Especially someone like me who’s aspired to be a coach and tried to do things like he’s done.”

Belichick’s warmth for Shanahan didn’t stop at comforting words. When he was out of options for what to do with prized backup Jimmy Garoppolo, Belichick sent him to Shanahan and the 49ers straightaway in October of 2017. Belichick initiated the transaction with a text to Shanahan requesting the Niners coach call him. That’s when the ask — a second-round pick — was made.

This was a part of Belichick’s statement after he dealt Garoppolo.

“I have a tremendous amount of respect for Jimmy,” he said. “I couldn't ask for him to give us any more than he's given us. The 49ers are getting a good player, and they're getting a good person, and they're getting a great teammate and they're getting a good quarterback. Jimmy is getting a good coach. His career is moving forward. He's a talented individual, was a great person to coach. I met with him weekly and, again, have a tremendous amount of respect for him. As his career moves forward we have to look to our team, both this year and beyond, and that's a consideration we have to make.”

It’s abundantly obvious that sending Garoppolo to a good football home was a priority for Belichick. And he believed Shanahan would provide that.

“Having someone like Bill say something like that is as cool a compliment as I can have so that feels great,” Shanahan said when asked to reflect on Belichick’s comments. “Hopefully that’s true. But I’m very glad he felt that way because I feel very fortunate that we were able to get Jimmy.”

Report: Ex-Patriots WR Danny Amendola to re-sign with Lions

Report: Ex-Patriots WR Danny Amendola to re-sign with Lions

Scratch that Danny Amendola-Patriots reunion.

Peter Schrager of the NFL Network reports the free-agent wide receiver is re-signing with the Detroit Lions, where he spent last season and had 62 catches for 678 yards. Former Pats defensive coordinator Matt Patricia will enter his third season as Lions coach in 2020. 

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The 34-year-old left the Patriots after five seasons to sign with the Miami Dolphins in 2018 and may have burned a bridge or two with Bill Belichick. 

It had been speculated that perhaps bringing in a former reliable Tom Brady receiver might be part of a plan to lure Brady back to New England, with a report in late January that Amendola could come along to wherever Brady lands in free agency, but a Brady-Amendola reunion in Detroit isn't happening, either. 

Next Pats Podcast: Will Patriots go mobile at QB if Tom Brady leaves?

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Next Pats Podcast: Will Patriots go mobile at QB if Tom Brady leaves?

There's one big question that New England Patriots are facing this offseason. Who is going to be their starting quarterback in 2020?

For the past 20 seasons, the team hasn't really had questions at the position. It has always been Tom Brady's job. But with the 42-year-old set to hit free agency, the Patriots can't necessarily count on him returning unless they want to pay him what he's worth.

So, now the question for the Patriots becomes, what will life look like if Brady departs?

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On the latest episode of The Next Pats Podcast, which returns for its first episode of the 2020 offseason, Phil Perry is here to explore that question. And really what it all boils down to is what the Patriots are looking for in a potential successor.

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As Perry notes, it's likely to be one of two types of quarterback: The traditional pocket passer or a more mobile athlete in the mold of some of the recent success stories at the position.

Do the Patriots look for the next Brady? Uber-accurate, somebody who's going to sit in the pocket and absolutely dissect every little aspect of the defense that he is looking at. Or, do they go a different route? Do they go with an athlete? Do they get more mobile? Because talking to people this offseason, I'm getting a whiff -- I'm getting a scent that people believe the pocket passer might be dead.

Perry is joined by guests including Pro Football Focus' Steve Palazzolo, Greg Cosell of ESPN and NFL Films, and NFL Network's Kurt Warner to answer questions about Brady's future and what his game has looked like in recent seasons.

For more thoughts about the Patriots offseason, check out the latest episode of the Next Pats Podcast, available as part of the NBC Sports Boston Podcast Network.