By Max Harper

In the first 29 Super Bowls, the 49ers won five and lost none. In the next 29, they lost three and won none. Throw in coach Kyle Shanahan’s role with the Falcons in an epic loss after blowing a 28-3 lead to the Patriots in Super Bowl LI, and a narrative has emerged that Shanahan and the 49ers can’t win a big game.

The narrative is palpable. A Tuesday article in the Wall Street Journal had this title: The Brilliant Coach Who Can’t Stop Losing Big Games.

So is it just bad luck, or does something go haywire for Shanahan when the brass ring, and the silver trophy, are within his grasp?

“I mean, you’d love to fix perception because I would love to win one for what I know about football and I know if I fixed perception that means I did everything I wanted to do, which isn’t to fix perception, it’s to win a damn Super Bowl,” Shanahan told reporters on Tuesday. “But I also know when you say ‘big games,’ we’ve had to win a bunch of big games to get to Super Bowls. We’ve won a lot of big games here. We’ve won a lot of big games to get into playoffs. The fact that we keep getting there shows you guys how much we’ve been able to win big games and I think you guys are aware of that. But these two Super Bowls have been tough losing to Kansas City. But to think that if we win that, it means I can win a big game? No, that means our team won the Super Bowl. That’s what I understand. You guys can have any narrative you want, but the success or the failure, it comes down to one game and I hope that I can be a part of a team that wins a game at the end of the year, but to say that the Niners can’t win a big game would be an extremely inaccurate statement.”

The answer might be as simple as this: Shanahan’s biggest failures have come against the two best quarterbacks to ever play the game. Tom Brady seven years ago, Patrick Mahomes four years ago, and Mahomes again three days ago.

The problem for Shanahan is that he’ll potentially keep crossing paths with Mahomes for the next 10 or 15 years. And Shanahan quite possibly will continue to be stymied by the fact that Mahomes always seems to thrive in moments where he’s walking on a tightrope over a piranha tank while balancing himself with a pole that is burning at each end and the flames are creeping toward his hands.

Can Shanahan change the narrative? Absolutely. To do it, it would help to have a quarterback like the one he could have had with the second overall pick in the 2017 draft.

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