'Boomer And Gio': Was 49ers' Super Bowl Collapse More About Play Calling Or Execution?

Chiefs Rallied To Beat San Francisco 31-20

Boomer and Gio
February 03, 2020 - 9:18 am

Did Kyle Shanahan's conservative play calling cost the San Francisco 49ers a world championship Sunday night?

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That was a topic WFAN's Boomer Esiason and Gregg Giannotti debated Monday, the morning after the Kansas City Chiefs rallied to beat the 49ers 31-20 in Super Bowl LIV.

"Kyle Shanahan was way too conservative," Esiason said of the 49ers head coach. "And the reason I say that is because when you have your defense, as good as their defense is ... you know that the Chiefs are going to end up scoring 30 points. They always score 30 points with Patrick Mahomes under center.

"Kyle Shanahan, at the end of the first half, mismanaged that (by not trying to score). They come out, and they score the first 10 points in the second half. And after Patrick Mahomes' second interception, the one that goes off of Tyreek Hill's hands (early in the fourth quarter) ... you're going, 'Man, 20-10, San Francisco's going to win this game.' San Francisco's next four offensive series were punt, punt, downs and interception. I mean, it was almost like the game completely flipped, and it flipped on the third-and-15 pass to Tyreek Hill, where all of a sudden the track meet that is the Kansas City offense finally found some traction."

Giannotti, however, argued that the reason the 49ers' lead evaporated was more about execution than play calling.

"There's no doubt that Kyle Shanahan at the end of the first half was far too conservative," he said. "But when they got the ball back up three, they run the ball for 5 yards on first down, then they throw on second down. It's not like they all of a sudden went into a shell. ... They started throwing the ball. It's just they weren't successful at it.

"I mean, at some point Jimmy Garoppolo had to execute with the ball in his hands and be able to complete a pass, like a ballsy completion in the fourth quarter, and he couldn't do it," Gio added. 

49ers coach Kyle Shanahan reacts against the Kansas City Chiefs during Super Bowl LIV on Feb. 2, 2020, at Hard Rock Stadium.
Tom Pennington/Getty Images

"He actually was playing really well. ... He was almost flawless in the game in terms of his completions and his attempts," Esiason said of Garoppolo. "But that one to Emmanuel Sanders (when Garoppolo overthrew the receiver on a long fourth-quarter pass), that's the one he's going to want back. He also missed George Kittle on one, and George was very frustrated on the sideline. He didn't want to go after his quarterback, but, of course, if he just holds the ball and finds him, it's going to be an easy first down as opposed to having to punt again in the fourth quarter."

For Shanahan, it's the second time in four years he has let a Super Bowl win slip through his hands. He was the offensive coordinator for the Atlanta Falcons, who blew a 28-3 lead in losing to the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LI.

"This guy has just got to be 'What do I have to do to be able to win one of these things?'" Giannotti said.

To listen to the open from Monday's "Boomer and Gio" show, click on the audio player above.