Lawrence: Super Bowl Redemption Awaits, Regardless Of Who Wins

Andy Reid and Kyle Shanahan both have unfinished business to tend to in Super Bowl LIV in Miami

Amy Lawrence
January 21, 2020 - 9:44 pm
Andy Reid Chiefs AFC Championship

USA Today Images


We all love the feel-good stories in sports, the ones with happy endings and likeable heroes, the ones that move us. Even in the early stages of preparation, Super Bowl LIV is shaping up be a feel-good story, no matter who emerges victorious.

For starters, this championship game is full of "fresh blood" and new narratives. The 49ers are one of the NFL's most decorated franchises with five rings, iconic coaches, and a laundry list of Hall-of-Famers. But this marks only their second Super Bowl appearance in 25 years. They last won in 1995 when Steve Young was throwing passes to Jerry Rice, and Deion Sanders was patrolling the defensive backfield. Their opponent? The San Diego Chargers. But the Niners drought is nothing compared to the Chiefs, who haven't made it this far since Super Bowl IV against the Vikings at Tulane Stadium, a half-century ago!

Before these back-to-back conference championships at Arrowhead Stadium, Kansas City had just one playoff win since the early ’90s. Between their 1970 title and the time Patrick Mahomes was named starting quarterback, the franchise was 4-16 in the postseason with a single conference championship game to its credit (1994). Club founder Lamar Hunt was responsible for landing the team in Kansas City. He moved it from Dallas in the early ’60s when it was part of the American Football League as the Texans. After the merger between the AFL and NFL, Hunt wrote a letter to Commissioner Pete Rozelle in which he referred to their annual showdown as the "Super Bowl." Not only did he name the biggest event on the annual sports calendar, but his widow, Norma, has attended every one of them. Lamar Hunt passed away in 2006, but not before he left an indelible mark on the U.S. sports landscape. He's not only a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame (Class of 1972), but also the National Soccer Hall of Fame (1982) AND the International Tennis Hall of Fame (1993) for his contributions in making all three pro sports what they are today. Yet it took five decades for his team to hoist the trophy named for him.

The Chiefs are easy to root for because nothing's come easy. They haven't had a true franchise quarterback since the days of Len Dawson. With 28,507 passing yards and 237 touchdowns, he's the franchise leader in both categories. Dawson was under center for their "glory days" and named MVP of Super Bowl IV. But since he retired, the Chiefs have cycled through dozens of different starters. From Joe Montana in the twilight of his career to Elvis Grbac to Trent Green to Matt Cassel and Alex Smith, stability at football's most impactful position has been short-lived in Kansas City. Only five of the 38 starting QBs in franchise history have ever won a playoff game! But Mahomes is writing a new script. With his cannon arm, uncanny elusiveness, creativity, and moxie, the Chiefs' first ever NFL MVP has infused new energy, hope, and skyrocketing expectations.

Of course, Mahomes needed the right coach; and three years after the Chiefs traded up to select the Texas Tech product 10th overall, Andy Reid has proven to be the perfect man for the job. It would be tough to find a more respected and well-liked member of the football community. With nearly 30 years of NFL experience, he's adapted his style and philosophy to keep up with the league's offensive trends and fit a variety of different QBs. As head coach in Philadelphia and Kansas City, he has more than 200 wins to his credit. Miami offers his second shot at a ring and his first in 15 years. No doubt, he will serve as the sentimental favorite for many colleagues, players, and fans.

San Francisco's head coach may not have the same lengthy track record, but Kyle Shanahan has certainly been through the ringer. No one will ever forget his role in the greatest collapse in Super Bowl history when he was the offensive coordinator of the Falcons against the Patriots. The first Super Bowl to require overtime was also the lowest point of his career. And he didn't immediately chase those demons when he departed for the Bay Area. While it's only taken him three years to get back to the championship game personally, he represents the latest chapter in a rebuild that dumped the franchise at rock bottom.

After Jim Harbaugh's falling out with the front office in 2014, the Niners finished in the basement of the NFC West three consecutive seasons. Shanahan was their fourth head coach in four years! Jim Tomsula never should have had the job, and the Chip Kelly hire backfired in stunning fashion. When Shanahan arrived, there was no quick fix. Team brass needed to give him space and patience while he found the right personnel for his system, lost the first nine games of the 2017 campaign, traded for a franchise QB and then waited for Jimmy Garoppolo to rehab his torn ACL in 2018. Despite the slow start, by all accounts, Shanahan and GM John Lynch were slowly changing the culture and resetting expectations. They wrote down their vision statement for everyone to see. It lists the qualities they want on their roster: passion, contagious competitiveness, dependability, mental toughness, football IQ, and accountability. Through setbacks and adversity, the plan is finally coming to fruition.

Experience is a valuable teacher and often paramount to reaching the promised land. Shanahan won't forget the tough lessons learned in that other trip to the Super Bowl when Atlanta failed to protect a 25-point lead deep in the second half. No, the primary takeaway wasn't when to run the ball instead of pass! What he will never do again is get complacent during a game, no matter how comfortable the cushion. When the Niners were blanking the Packers 27-0 at halftime of the NFC Championship, he told the locker room they were not taking their foot off the gas. At least the pain of Super Bowl LI wasn't all for naught.

As human beings, we can relate to the process of trying and failing, pouring our hearts into pursuing our goals, overcoming obstacles, and navigating disappointments before FINALLY standing on the mountaintop after a long and arduous journey. The Chiefs and Niners embody that evolution. They earned every inch of their trip to Miami. And as the last teams standing, each offers a classic redemption story for Super Bowl LIV.

A well-traveled veteran of sports radio and television, Amy is the passionate host of CBS Sports Radio’s late-night program, After Hours with Amy Lawrence, from 2-6am ET on the nation’s largest 24/7 major-market radio network. Listeners can tune in from Canada and overseas, thanks to SiriusXM, and the CBS Sports app. Amy has also handled basketball play-by-play and color duties for various radio and TV outlets over the past 15 years. Amy graduated from Messiah College with bachelor’s degrees in Communications & Accounting before earning her master’s in TV & Radio from Syracuse University. She is a native of Concord, NH.