'Brilliant' Coach Takes Flak Over an Overtime Call

But San Francisco's decision to receive the ball at start of OT has defenders as well
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 13, 2024 2:16 PM CST
Some 49ers Players Were Unaware of a Big Rule Change
San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan looks at notes during the second half of Super Bowl 58 against the Kansas City Chiefs Sunday, Feb. 11, 2024, in Las Vegas.   (AP Photo/George Walker IV)

With Super Bowl 58 in the books, one of the lingering issues is about overtime—and specifically San Francisco coach Kyle Shanahan's decision to receive instead of kick off at the start of extra time. Shanahan is taking a heat for that decision after his team's loss to Kansas City, though the issue isn't as clear cut as his critics might suggest. Coverage:

  • The NFL changed its OT rules in the playoffs this year: Each team gets the ball even if the receiving team scores a touchdown. The 49ers kicked a field goal on their first drive, but KC won the game by answering with a TD. As the Athletic notes, many think Shanahan should have kicked off, watched what KC did, and then found out exactly what his team needed to do in response.

  • Sure, but plenty of football analysts say there's no clear right or wrong decision, reports the Washington Post. "The 49ers may have lost, but from an analytical standpoint, Shanahan made a defensible choice that didn't work out," writes Adam Kilgore. The advantage of Shanahan's way is that if both teams had equal scores on their first possessions, he could have won the game on the third possession even with a field goal.
  • Shanahan said the team had decided before the game what it would do in that situation, reports NFL.com. KC had as well, and coach Andy Reid said they would have kicked off.
  • Maybe the strangest part of all this is that some 49ers players were unaware of the rule change. "You know what? I didn't even realize the playoff rules were different in overtime," said 49ers fullback Kyle Juszczyk, per CNN. "I assume you just want the ball to score a touchdown and win." Ditto with defensive lineman Arik Armstead, per ESPN. "They put it on the scoreboard, and everyone was like 'Oh, even if you score, they get a chance still." One key difference is that the 49ers had not talked about it as a team during the season, but the Chiefs had.
  • Shanahan is considered one of the smartest coaches in the league, and he has led his team to the NFC championship game or the Super Bowl four times in five years, writes Andrew Beaton at the Wall Street Journal. But he's now been on the losing end of three Super Bowls—two as head coach with San Fran and one as offensive coordinator for Atlanta. Thus, he "embodies one of the central paradoxes of the NFL: Even brilliant coaches can spend their careers banging their heads against a wall."
(More Super Bowl stories.)

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