Sean McVay Vs. Kyle Shanahan: Analyzing Who Is The Superior NFL Coach In 2024

Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

In 2013, Sean McVay and Kyle Shanahan were on the same coaching staff with the Washington Redskins. Shanahan was the offensive coordinator and McVay was the tight ends coach. They would ultimately be two of five coaches from that staff to eventually be named head coaches throughout the NFL 10 years later during the 2023 season.

Little did McVay and Shanahan know that within the next 10 years, both would be the head coaches within the same division and be guiding their teams to their two Super Bowls.  

In Sean McVay’s second season in 2018, he helped the Los Angeles Rams a 13-3 regular season record and took down Dallas and New Orleans to reach the promised land for the first time as a head coach before losing to New England 13-3 that featured just one touchdown between the two squads.

The following season, Shanahan led the San Francisco 49ers to that same regular season record the Rams had, which came with a trip to the Super Bowl before losing 31-20 to Kansas City.

Two years later, McVay (along with Raheem Morris. who was also part of that 2013 Washington staff) was part of a Los Angeles team that went 12-5 during the regular season, despite losing to Shanahan’s 49ers in both meetings. However, the Rams made their way through the playoffs, including meeting up against the 49ers in the NFC Championship.

Kicker Matt Gay recorded two field goals from 40 and 30 yards out, respectively, to help the Rams take the lead and get the win, 20-17, to advance to the Super Bowl for the first time in three seasons.

The Rams were also looking to win their first Super Bowl since 2000 when they defeated Tennessee 23-16 which was fueled by a last-second, game-saving tackle at the 1-yard line by linebacker Mike Jones.

Los Angeles faced the Cincinnati Bengals in Super Bowl LVI on their home field inside SoFi Stadium. 

In the season that wide receiver Cooper Kupp was named AP Offensive Rookie of the Year, he showed his offensive prowess in the biggest game of the year by logging eight receptions for 92 yards and two touchdowns, en route to being part of a Rams’ 23-20 victory and being named Super Bowl Most Valuable Player.

Two years after the Rams hoisted the Lombardi Trophy, Kyle Shanahan and the 49ers found themselves right back in the Super Bowl inside Allegiant Stadium against the Kansas City Chiefs.

A low-scoring first half that was highlighted by wide receiver Jauan Jennings throwing a 21-yard touchdown pass to running back Christian McCaffrey led to more fireworks in the game’s final 30 minutes of regulation.

Jennings, who recorded four receptions for 42 yards, caught a touchdown pass in the third quarter to join Philadelphia’s Nick Foles as the only two players in Super Bowl history to throw and catch a touchdown.   

However, a missed extra point limited the lead to three. As a result, Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes then led his team down the field getting into the red zone. Kansas City played it safe and kicked the field goal with six seconds left, leading to overtime.

Also Read: 4 Cornerbacks For The Los Angeles Rams To Watch At The NFL Combine

Then came one of the biggest decisions in the game: the coin toss. The 49ers won the toss but chose to receive, rather than defer, giving Mahomes and the Chiefs the exact knowledge of what they had to do.

After a field goal from the Niners, Mahomes led the Chiefs on a drive to remember that concluded with a 3-yard touchdown pass to Mecole Hardman to defeat the Niners 25-22 in overtime over Shanahan and the 49ers.

What Set Sean McVay Apart From Kyle Shanahan During The Super Bowl

NFL: San Francisco 49ers at Los Angeles Rams | Sean McVay vs Kyle Shanahan
Oct 30, 2022; Inglewood, California, USA; Los Angeles Rams head coach Sean McVay meets with San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan following the game at SoFi Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

When comparing the 2021 Super Bowl Championship Rams team to this year’s 49ers team, there are things that definitely stand out both in similarity and in difference.

This year’s 49ers defense was filled with superstars from Nick Bosa, Trent Williams, Charvarius Ward, Arik Armstead, Fred Warner, Randy Gregory, and even Chase Young, who was acquired at the trade deadline from Washington.

For Los Angeles, Aaron Donald and Jalen Ramsey were the two stars while having their own strong supporting cast in Troy Reeder, Leonard Floyd, Von Miller, Eric Weddle, and rookie Ernest Jones

During the Super Bowl, both the Rams and the Niners each lost a key piece due to injury. Two years ago, it was wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., who tore his ACL while trying to catch a pass. This year, it was linebacker Dre Greenlaw who tore his Achilles Tendon.

Before the Beckham Jr. injury, the skillset of the wide receivers were pretty similar. Cooper Kupp, Beckham Jr, and Van Jefferson for the Rams. Brandon Aiyuk, Deebo Samuel, and Jennings for the 49ers. The additional volume of McCaffrey and tight end George Kittle rounded out this strong receiving attack.

But the difference between Sean McVay and Kyle Shanahan was the one choice that was going to determine who was going to win and who was not.

One key difference between this past Super Bowl and the Rams Super Bowl was the utilization of the tight ends. Kittle, who was a First-Team All-Pro this year, was limited to just two receptions on four yards. For the Rams, who played their championship matchup without Tyler Higbee, relied on Brycen Hopkins. He caught four receptions for 47 yards, the third-highest mark in receiving yards for Los Angeles.

The other difference was getting that stop when not having the ball on the final possession of regulation. Both the Rams and 49ers had a three-point lead and were faced with having to play defense in the final minute of the fourth quarter.  

However, one team got the stop to hoist the trophy and the other let the game go to overtime and eventually lost the game.