Friday Dec 02, 2022

MMQB: Kyle Shanahan Leans Into 49ers-Cowboys History Before Wild-Card Win – Sports Illustrated


Early last week, Kyle Shanahan had his video director, Michael Bracken, pull coaches tape of the 1994 NFC title game between the 49ers and Cowboys. Shanahan was 15 for that one, a freshman in high school, and his dad was the Niners’ offensive coordinator. He figured he’d have time, at some point, to check it out before his own team played Dallas on Sunday. That time came on Thursday night, after he’d had trouble getting to sleep.

He got out of bed, went to his home office, and there were Troy Aikman and Steve Young on the screen, like he was a teenager again.

“I just wanted to watch that game for fun,” he said, early Sunday night from Dallas. “And I was just watching it, and it was just so cool because I haven’t watched that old of tape like that. And watching Michael Irvin and Deion [Sanders] just going at it one on one, watching all the players, there were so many. I was kinda having my own nostalgic moment just watching it.

“But there were so many clips that were cool in it, that I wanted to show the guys the next day.”

So right then and there, Shanahan hatched his own impromptu project, picking 10 plays from that game to cut up, with a very pointed message to go with the clips.

On Friday, he delivered that message.

“These guys were my heroes growing up,” Shanahan continued. “And I go, ‘The crazy thing is when I look back at it, all these guys are you guys’ age.’ I didn’t realize that at the time, but it was these playoff games that made these guys heroes to people and inspired everybody. And I was just like, ‘Guys, that’s what Sunday is for you. Deion and Michael, they were probably 25 at that time, just like you guys are. Ricky Watters wasn’t even in San Fran that many years, but what he did in the playoffs is why you see him at every event. That’s why he’s in the Niners’ Hall of Fame.’

“And even though those guys don’t know the rivalry, this is what the moment’s about. Our guys definitely understood the moment.”

Now, Niners 23, Cowboys 17 may have lacked the aesthetic flair, and stakes, that the ‘94 Niners’ win had. It didn’t have a play quite like Eric Davis’s pick-six to open the game, or a dramatic touchdown like Jerry Rice’s 28-yarder to make it 31–14 with eight seconds left in the first half. But that doesn’t mean the message stemming from Shanahan’s spur of the moment midnight film session didn’t wind up getting through.

In fact, if you saw the Niners gut Sunday out, it sure looked like they heard it loud and clear.

Jayne Kamin-Oncea/USA TODAY Sports (Shanahan); Jamie Germano/Rochester Democrat and Chronicle/USA TODAY Network (Allen); Kim Klement/USA TODAY Sports (Brady)

It’s the playoffs! And we’re down to nine teams …….


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