On Monday morning, Peter King published the Super Bowl preview edition of his weekly “Football Morning in America” column for NBC Sports.
Before recent Super Bowls, King has ridden to work with one of the team’s head coaches. In Monday morning’s column, he recalled his ride to Arrowhead Stadium with Kansas City Chiefs’ head coach Andy Reid before Super Bowl LIV. While it was scheduled to begin at 3:15 a.m., Reid was already waiting in his Ford pickup truck when King stepped out his hotel’s front door at 3:07 a.m.
“I’m gonna tell you,” we reported of Reid’s remarks four years ago, “I go into every game thinking we’re gonna win and rip your heart out. That’s every game. Right or wrong. You can talk to the sports psychiatrist or psychologist and they’ll probably tell you that’s the wrong way to go. But that’s the way I go. I’ve gone that way everything I’ve done. I try to do it humbly because that’s how I roll.
“But yeah, that’s why we work this hard. We don’t work this hard to lose.”
Before Sunday’s Super Bowl LVIII matchup between the Chiefs and San Francisco 49ers, however, King rode to work with 49ers’ head coach Kyle Shanahan, who was on the other sideline when Kansas City erased a 20-10 fourth-quarter deficit to win Super Bowl LIV 31-20. But that wasn’t the first time Shanahan had been on the wrong end of such an ugly turnaround in an NFL championship game. He was also the Atlanta Falcons’ offensive coordinator when they famously blew a 28-3 halftime lead over the New England Patriots — and lost 34-28 in overtime.
“When you lose, and you feel the heartbreak, you get to see how you handle it, how you react, how you handle the pressure the next time,” Shanahan told King as he drove his Tesla through Silicon Valley. “And, oh my gosh, you realize, ‘I am this. I can do this.’ You get to go through something you love, something that’s more important in life than almost anything. That’s what I learned about football growing up, but it only gets stronger as I get older.”
As the two men arrived at Shanahan’s office in Santa Clara, the San Francisco head coach summed it up.
“Football,” Shanahan said, “teaches you who you are.”
King noted that Shanahan has plenty to worry about as he prepares for Sunday’s game. The Chiefs will once again be bringing defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo (with a much better roster than he had four years ago) and defending NFL MVP quarterback Patrick Mahomes — with his favorite tight end: Travis Kelce.
Shanahan made an interesting point: It’s not just figuring a way to block Spagnuolo’s multiple blitz looks when you play Kansas City. It’s making sure you capitalize on however many chances you get offensively, because you know Reid and Mahomes are so good at capitalizing on theirs.
“With Patrick,” Shanahan said, “it’s about the way he creates, the time he buys, the way he throws so fluidly, so confidently, from all platforms. Every game he’s like a Barry Sanders highlight reel. And Kelce, I know he’s had a couple of drops, but to me he’s got the best hands in football. Their chemistry is so great.”
Still, most of King’s conversation with Shanahan was centered on San Francisco quarterback Brock Purdy. That’s to be expected when Purdy — who became 2022’s “Mr Irrelevant” when he was selected with the final pick of the NFL Draft — will be starting in his first Super Bowl.
“Last pick in the draft,” said Shanahan. “Takes us to the conference championship game twice and this Super Bowl in two years. Getting talked about for MVP. And the dude, he doesn’t have to work at not listening to it or trying to stay humble or trying to not get caught up in how life is changing. You know why? He doesn’t care. He really has a true foundation and knows who he is and who he wants to be. That is rare for any human. He’s a special player. But this stuff… he’s a special guy.”
Sunday is going to be quite a game.