The Relatable Pain Of San Francisco 49ers’ Super Bowl Collapse

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Dear San Francisco 49ers fans,

I know you’re having a tough time right now. I mean, how could you not? After such a dynamic and storied season, a bye week with dominant playoff wins, being crowned NFC Champions and representing the entire conference in the Super Bowl, things were all going so well.

Until you lost.

The Kansas City Chiefs pulled of a surprising, thrilling, and dominant comeback win in the final minutes of the game, ultimately besting your team 31-20.

It’s the worst to have come so close and have failed. It’s something that Seattle Seahawks fans everywhere understand completely and intensely. 

Our own Super Bowl collapse continues to loom large in our minds as the signature disaster in recent sports history. And so too will this loss for you.

I wish I could tell you that the tectonic pain you’re feeling right now will dissipate as recency-bias wears off, but it won’t. For years to come, you’re going to feel the deep, visceral sting of watching your beloved team lose in the final moments of a game you had believed in your heart-of-hearts was secured in victory. February, 2nd, 2020 will haunt you—annually.

I wish I could tell you that you won’t let a shred of doubt enter your mind this offseason about your team, coaches, or players and who precisely is responsible for your collective sorrow, but you will. You’ll join the 49ers faithful in California and across the country in dissecting the play-calling of head coach Kyle Shanahan and/or the under-pressure-play of quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. Every dollar of his contract will bring questions of worth and an ability to win when it matters most.

I wish I could tell you that you’ll be back next year and that the extraordinary collection of young players you’ve constructed will develop and take you over the top in the next Super Bowl, but you won’t. Or, very likely won’t. Getting there once is a remarkable achievement but winning it the year after you lose is next to impossible.

In NFL history, only five teams have made it back to the Super Bowl after losing it. And of the 1972 Miami Dolphins, the 1991, ‘92 and ‘93 Buffalo Bills, and the 2018 New England Patriots that have delivered on that lofty prospect, only the ’72 Dolphins and ’18 Patriots were actually able to win their redemptions.

Adding to those stacked odds, you need to be realistic about the divisional opponents you must get past just to make the playoffs next season:

The Los Angeles Rams might be your easiest opponents next year. They looked mostly-cooked this season (after suffering their own Super Bowl collapse in 2018), seemingly unable to utilize their offensive weapons to effectively move the ball due to inefficient play from their high-profile but suspect-under-scrutiny quarterback. However, their head coach is renowned for creative scheme and play-calling, which might be enough to overcome roster contract barriers and very limited draft picks. It’s hard to know what the fall will bring for the Rams, but I wouldn’t count them out.

The Arizona Cardinals will be significantly better next year. They struggled in the first half of last season but started to gel in the second, almost beating your 49ers at home and on the road. Fortunately, that was their plan this year. With a rookie quarterback-head coach combo—each drafted and hired, respectively, based on their successful collegiate relationship—last year served as proof of concept to fans and ownership. It’s hard to imagine anyone in Arizona feeling bad about the state of their team-on-the-rise or their prospects next year.

The Seattle Seahawks are already rebuilt and ready to reclaim their place atop the division. After stumbling into the playoffs, costing them a bye week (you’re welcome, btw), the Hawks won a playoff game but failed to go beyond that, at least partially due to a staggering series of injures. However, the Hawks have the best quarterback in the division (if not the conference), a core of young playmakers, and plenty of draft picks and payroll to construct a fearsome contender. While they might not be preseason picks to win-it-all, the Seahawks are positioned to surprise anyone who doubts them.

Adding insult to injury, your opponent schedule next year should measure out as one the toughest. It won’t be the toughest, as that will go to the Super Bowl Champion Chiefs, who beat you, but your schedule will be tougher than anyone else in your conference.

But cheer up, it’s not all bad. Your rise from an embarrassing 2018 season to a dazzling 2019 season was spectacular. Plus, you’ve rekindled the best rivalry in sports between the 49ers and the Seahawks, which makes football even more fun for everyone, no matter who wins. Right?

I know it’s hard to process, but this loss will harden your fandom and solidify any us-vs-them feelings floating around the edges of your broken heart. We Seahawks fans know this because we’ve been through it ourselves. And ours was arguably worse, given the totality of the loss condensed into a single and still-confusing play call. But this isn’t about us, it’s about you, the loyal 49ers’ fans and your catastrophic loss to the Chiefs in the Super Bowl.

Oh, my San Francisco friends, dry your eyes and take heart in the victory you almost had. Coming in second place is an incredible accomplishment in and of itself. I know you wanted to win it all, but just getting there is worthy of celebration. Not a parade, obviously, but a smaller, consolation party for sure. You deserve that.

My sincere condolences, 49ers fans, I don’t mean to throw salt in your ultra-fresh wounds. Well, maybe just a dash. Go Hawks.

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About Author

Jon Aiken

Born and raised in Seattle, Jon developed a deep love for the Mariners and Seahawks and continues to watch, analyze, and discuss them on a daily basis. As a professional advertising copywriter, the blending of these two loves (sports/words) seemed like a natural creative evolution. He recently moved south to Tacoma, fully embracing his new hometeam, the Rainers.

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