Kyle Shanahan and his dad Mike Shanahan have both coached teams in the Super Bowl
San Francisco 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan and his father, Mike Shanahan, almost made NFL history in 2024 when they tried to be the first father and son head coaches to win the Super Bowl — suffice to say, football runs in their blood.
Although Kyle's team lost the 2024 Super Bowl to the Kansas City Chiefs, Mike has still shared his pride for his son. In Mike's own career, he took home the trophy twice as the head coach of the Denver Broncos in 1998 and 1999. The 2024 game was also a full circle moment for the Shanahans, as Mike received his first Super Bowl ring with the 49ers as their offensive coordinator in 1995. Mike's roster of players included wide receiver Ed McCaffrey — whose son Christian McCaffrey is the star running back on Kyle's team.
That's not the only way Kyle was hoping history would repeat itself. Like his father — who lost two championships as the Broncos’ offensive coordinator before winning during his third Super Bowl appearance with the 49ers — Kyle also had two championship losses on his record, the first as the offensive coordinator of the Atlanta Falcons in 2017 and the second as head coach of the 49ers in 2020. Although the head coach was hoping the third time would be the charm for him like it was for Mike, he also gets advice from his dad on how to handle tough losses.
“I remember seeing my dad after those Super Bowl when he was a coordinator in Denver when I was younger and how hard it was on him,” Kyle told reporters in Las Vegas before the big game. “So I think any time you get that close and you lose the last one, that’s definitely the hardest.”
Having grown up with the guidance of an NFL legend, Kyle said learning from his father has been an incomparable experience.
“I took everything from my dad ... You guys see my son up here all the time and that’s how I was,” he told reporters in a 2022 post-game interview. “I feel like my [coaching] style is more like my dad’s not because you’re naturally trying to, because that’s just what I was around all the time and I respect the hell out of him.”
From 2010 to 2013, Kyle and Mike even worked together for the Washington Commanders (then the Redskins) as the offensive coordinator and head coach, respectively. Through this experience, the elder Shanahan said he was impressed with Kyle and could see big things in his future.
“I was shocked to see how relaxed he was at his age. Then I started thinking about it. The first time I got in front of a team was coming out of college. I was about 30 years old. He’s in that time frame," he told The Washington Times in 2011. "In high school, he was on the sideline in the Super Bowl. He’s been through it.”
Here's everything to know about Kyle Shanahan's father, Mike Shanahan, and their football-focused bond.
He suffered a career-ending injury in college
Growing up, Mike had his eyes set on playing in the NFL. The Chicago native was the star quarterback at Eastern Illinois University, however, a near-fatal injury during his time there resulted in him giving up the game for good — at least as a player.
A powerful collision with another player burst Mike’s kidney and his heart stopped beating for the better half of a minute. Miraculously, he recovered and was able to redirect his skills and passion for football into coaching.
He and his wife Peggy Shanahan are college sweethearts
Kyle's parents met while studying at Eastern Illinois University in the 1970s. While it wasn’t exactly love at first sight, Peggy said it didn’t take long for her to know she wanted to spend the rest of her life by Mike’s side. The coach's fast-moving career also played a big factor in the rapid progression of their relationship.
“We didn’t date that long, and I think the reason we did get married so quickly was because he was going to start coaching,” Peggy admitted during a 2022 appearance on the Hidden Pearls podcast.
Two years older than Peggy, Mike graduated in 1972, and when the offer to help coach the University of Oklahoma’s offensive team came in, they decided to get engaged. Peggy transferred to the university for her senior year, and they were married the following year.
He also has a daughter named Krystal
Mike and Peggy welcomed their first child, Kyle, on Dec. 14, 1979. A few years later, their family grew again with the arrival of their daughter, Krystal.
She married her husband, Michael Sachs, on July 4, 2009, in Denver. The bridesmaids wore blue, and Krystal incorporated blue and white into her decor as a nod to her father and his time with the Broncos.
Kyle's sister can occasionally be spotted cheering on her big brother from their family’s stadium suite, though she and her husband keep their life predominantly out of the spotlight.
He worked in the NFL for almost 30 years
Prior to the NFL, Mike coached a number of college football teams in Oklahoma, Minnesota, Arizona and Florida, along with his alma mater in Illinois. In 1984, after nearly 10 years of coaching college football, Mike entered the NFL as the Denver Broncos’ wide receiver coach. With his help, the Broncos competed in back-to-back Super Bowls in 1987 and 1988, though they weren't victorious in either game.
Despite the losses, his skills caught the eye of the Raiders, who hired him as head coach for the following season. However, he was fired during his second season with the team as a result of their losing record.
Mike went on to coach offense for the San Francisco 49ers, where he won his first Super Bowl. In 1995, however, Denver called him home. Mike was named the head coach of the Broncos that year and coached the team to two consecutive Super Bowl wins in 1998 and 1999. He was later inducted into the Colorado Sports Hall of Fame in 2010.
Mike eventually retired from the NFL in 2013, after spending the last three years of his career as the head coach of the Washington Commanders (then the Redskins). He remains heavily involved in the sport as the father of the 49ers’ head coach — and he has said the game-day jitters are just as intense, if not more so, as a parent.
"You're much more relaxed as a coach," Mike told The Associated Press in 2020, per Fox Sports. “But as a father watching from the stands, you have no idea what's going to happen. Well, you have a little idea, but you don't know for sure. So, it's a lot more nerve-wracking being a dad than it is being a coach."
He and Kyle coached together
During his three-season run with the Washington Commanders, Mike had the privilege of coaching alongside his son. He served as head coach from 2010 to 2013, while Kyle operated as the team’s offensive coordinator. Speaking with The Washington Times, Peggy admittedly thought the father-son pairing was a “crazy” idea.
“I actually thought they were both crazy when they wanted to do it,” she said, adding that she was happy to be proven wrong. “But it was obviously so different than that. It’s really a treat for both of them.”
Mike added, “Kyle has got a lot of football in his background; what I mean by that is we’re on the same page. We talk a lot of football; the running game, the passing game. It’s pretty easy to be connected because we spend so much time together talking ball.”
Kyle told the outlet that the set-up came with both positives and negatives. “Sometimes I’d maybe be a little more nervous to piss the head coach off. It’s a little easier for me to ask him a tough question than maybe it has been [with other coaches] in the past," he said. "That has been nice because I can always ask that question. And definitely being his son, he probably gets more pissed off at me than he does with most people. So it goes both ways.”
Kyle often looks to his dad for feedback and advice
Mike has been retired from the NFL for over a decade but remains involved on the coaching side of things for his son. In a 2020 interview with NBC Sports, Kyle said his dad is one of the first people he turns to for feedback — revealing that Mike often looks at 49ers practice footage and tunes into leadership meetings from his at-home film room.
“It’s kind of neat for me to have it where when he watches something or sees something, he tells me, ‘Hey, you guys should’ve done this or that.’ ” Kyle said. “I look into what he says. And it’s nice to have another set of eyes. Where, ‘Hey, I missed that.’ I’ll go back and check that. Sometimes I agree with him, sometimes I don’t.”
For Mike, it’s a way to bond with his son and stay involved with the sport, while also keeping his hands clean.
“I really enjoy watching football, so this is kind of the best of both worlds to be able to sit there and watch meetings, watch practice, watch drill work ... It’s been a lot of fun for me,” Mike told NBC Sports.
He is Kyle’s biggest champion
Kyle got his first taste of the Super Bowl at a young age. He was named one of the ball boys in the 1995 Super Bowl when his dad was serving as offensive coordinator for the 49ers. Over two decades later, Kyle made his Super Bowl head coach debut, and this time it was Mike who was cheering from the sidelines.
"To think about him 25 years later being the head coach of the 49ers in the Super Bowl, in Miami, it's amazing," Mike told The Associated Press at the time. "I'm obviously very proud of what he's done and what he's accomplished.”
Under Kyle’s leadership, the 49ers ended up losing to the Kansas City Chiefs in 2020, but Mike previously stated that his son would always be a winner in his book.
"One of the biggest things you want in life is seeing your kids succeed at whatever it is they do," he said. "To see him on this journey that he's had, it just makes me real proud of what he's been able to do in his profession. It's not easy. You've got to believe in yourself and work through tough times because if you don't, you won't last."
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