SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- By his own admission, San Francisco 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan will go back through every play of the Atlanta Falcons' devastating loss to the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LI for the rest of his life.
In the first overtime game in Super Bowl history, the Patriots overcame a 25-point deficit and shattered the record for the largest comeback in a Super Bowl. The comeback was also the third largest in NFL postseason history overall and biggest in Patriots' franchise history. At its peak, the Falcons had a win probability of greater than 99.5 percent in the third quarter.
But Shanahan's Atlanta offense couldn't close it out. When the game needed salting away, Atlanta either didn't run the ball at all or didn't run it effectively. As the offensive coordinator, Shanahan became the focus of postgame criticism, especially for a sequence late in the game when he opted to throw instead of run when the Falcons were in field goal range.
"Obviously, you guys know the result of that, which wasn't easy," Shanahan said. "It's as hard as anything I've gone through."
Such a disappointment on such a big stage will surely stick with Shanahan for a long time. But if there ever was a task that would help him move on and focus on the present and future rather than the past, it's the one now in front of him.
In the immediate aftermath of the overtime loss to the Patriots, 49ers CEO Jed York offered Shanahan a day to stop, reflect on and grieve the loss with his Atlanta players. Shanahan referred to it as getting "closure" before officially taking the job in San Francisco.
As you'd expect, Shanahan received no shortage of support and advice on how to forge ahead.
"Everyone just tried to tell me to be proud of yourself," Shanahan said. "Don’t kill yourself. Everyone tries to compliment you and stuff, make you feel better, and it doesn’t work. It’s like, thank you, thank you, thank you, I’ve got to deal with this a little bit. Time helps, but getting out here was the best thing."
Indeed, Shanahan has no time to fret about how things ended in Atlanta if he wants to create a happier ending with the 49ers. Upon arrival in the Bay Area, he took over a team that has gone 15-33 over the past three seasons, seeming to bottom out in 2016 with a 2-14 record. It's a team with little in the way of roster building blocks and in desperate need of a franchise quarterback. More than anything, it needs some real, genuine stability after changing coaches for a third time in as many offseasons.
Shanahan will have plenty of help in all of those facets from new general manager John Lynch, who should help take some of the face-of-the-franchise responsibilities off Shanahan's plate. That should clear the way for Shanahan to focus on the football aspects of the rebuild. That includes finalizing his coaching staff and meticulous film study of the Niners from last season, as well as getting up to speed on potential free agents and draft prospects.
And while Shanahan has been accused of being cocky or arrogant in the past, he isn't making any outlandish promises about the immediate future. Neither he nor Lynch offered any clues they believe this will be a quick turnaround as they attempt to re-establish what York calls a "championship culture."
"You get humbled every single day [in this game]," Shanahan said. "As soon as you feel good about yourself, you’re going to get humbled very quickly. So I never really feel that good. I don’t think it’s fair to say I’m cocky and arrogant. I’m a very focused person. I’m either 1,000 percent focused and overly focused, or I’m totally checked out on vacation. It’s very extreme.
"When I come into an office, I’m pretty locked in on my job. I don’t just hang out there just to hang out. I do my work, and I get home to my family. I think that can come off to people who don’t know me like, ‘Man, that guy just walked by me and didn’t even say hi.’ Well, I promise I didn’t even know that person just walked by me. I am a very social person; I’ve always had friends and been liked. I haven’t always been liked when things don’t go well in the football business."
It's a feeling Shanahan has lived for nearly two weeks after his biggest letdown in the sport, but he's also determined to make sure it doesn't define him. After all, there's too much to do to make sure there are better days ahead.