10 Bold Moves That Put 49ers, Chiefs On Road To Super Bowl

The Chiefs-49ers Super Bowl LIV matchup came to be because of several seminal decisions by each conference champion. Kansas City’s ascension came after years on the precipice, and the 49ers completed one of the more remarkable rebuilds in NFL history.

Going into this era-defining matchup, here are five bold moves that shaped each franchise:

49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan hoists the George Halas Trophy after defeating the Packers in the NFC Championship Game. Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports 

SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS (15-3)

1. Forming an unusual partnership

In 2017, San Francisco became the first team in nearly 40 years to have back-to-back one-and-done head coaches (Jim Tomsula and Chip Kelly). Then the team hired Kyle Shanahan as head coach and shocked the football world by pairing him with stealth GM candidate John Lynch, a Fox TV analyst without personnel experience. Each received a six-year contract. The 49ers went 10-22 from 2017-18 but only started QB Jimmy Garoppolo in eight of those games. (He missed 13 games last season because of a knee injury.) After the lengthy grace period, Shanahan and Lynch have the franchise in its seventh Super Bowl. The 49ers are the first team since the merger to follow four straight double-digit-loss seasons with a Super Bowl berth.

2. Adding foundational piece

The leadup to the 49ers’ Garoppolo acquisition remains a mystery. A trade candidate for much of 2017, the Patriots’ contract-year quarterback may or may not have beenjettisoned against Bill Belichick’s will. Despite the Browns reportedly willing to offer an early-first-round pick for the passer, Belichick instead contacted Shanahan in October 2017 and agreed to take a second-rounder for Tom Brady’s seldom-seen backup. Shanahan was planning a 2018 Kirk Cousins pursuit, as the parties worked together in Washington. Garoppolo’s 5-0 record in 2017 as San Francisco’s starter convinced the 49ers to give him a then-NFL-high $27.5 million-per-year deal – albeit a front-loaded, team-friendly pact. Buoyed by a strong run game and resurgent defense, Garoppolo went 15-3 this season and posted a 102.0 passer rating, well above the league average. 

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Originally posted on Yardbarker | By Sam Robinson  |  Last updated 1/19/20

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