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The Schein Nine

Big-picture takeaways from Super Bowl LVIII: Chiefs are a dynasty, Kyle Shanahan isn't stupid and more

The beginning of Super Bowl LVIII was ... meh. The final quarter and overtime provided pulsating, unforgettable theater.

In between, Usher was terrific, and the commercials were great. My favorite ad? The "DunKings" spot starring Jennifer Lopez, Ben Affleck, Matt Damon and Tom Brady, among others.

But what are my hottest big-picture takes coming out of the final game of the 2023 NFL season? Let's dive in, Schein Nine style.

1) Chiefs a dynasty? OF COURSE!!

Not even sure why this was a topic in certain quarters on Monday. Over the past six seasons, Kanas City has made six AFC Championship Games and four Super Bowls, nabbing three Lombardi Trophies along the way. That's dynastic stuff, folks -- no doubt about it.

When I credit New England as the greatest dynasty in sports history, I always cite the Pats' 13 Championship Sunday appearances this millennium, including eight straight from 2011 through 2018. Making the final four in a single-elimination tournament is extremely difficult. And yet, Patrick Mahomes has accomplished the feat in each of his six seasons as Andy Reid's starting quarterback.

Did I mention that the Chiefs just became the first NFL team to go back-to-back since the 2003-04 Patriots? There's no debate here: Kansas City is a bona fide dynasty.

2) Most impressive Mahomes/Reid title

You shouldn't rank your kids. Or your titles. But Mahomes didn't hesitate after Sunday's comeback win over the 49ers, telling ESPN's NFL Primetime crew, "It's the most special one I think I've ever gotten. To battle through that adversity, and then to come through that and be better on the other side."

Hard to argue with Pat there. The Chiefs were underdogs in each of their last three games. They lost at home on Christmas Day -- to the Raiders! Not to mention, they suffered prime-time setbacks to the Broncos and Packers where Kansas City just didn't look capable of making a run. But man, did this team ever flip the switch ...

In Mahomes' first two true road playoff games, the Chiefs knocked off Josh Allen and the piping-hot Bills and then upended MVP Lamar Jackson and the elite Ravens defense. Pretty damn impressive, given the roster's shortcomings. Take out a pen and rank the league's 32 WR rooms. Where do you rank the Chiefs' receivers? I have them vying for rock bottom. Think about that.

Then came the Super Bowl rematch with San Francisco, which certainly didn't start off in Kansas City's favor. The Chiefs' first seven drives of the game: punt, punt, fumble, punt, field goal, interception, punt. Travis Kelce was screaming at Andy Reid, and this felt like a team on the brink of coming apart against arguably the best roster in the NFL. No matter. In fact, Super Bowl Sunday wound up being a microcosm of K.C.'s season: shocking futility ... followed by brilliant execution when it mattered most. Mahomes was surgical and magical in overtime, going 8-for-8 while also devastating the Niners with critical scampers of 8 and 19 yards. Another special performance from an all-time great.

3) Patrick Mahomes = Second-greatest QB

Last year at this time, I put Mahomes in the top five. Now, he's No. 2, behind only TB12. Mahomes has leapfrogged Peyton Manning, John Elway and, yes, Joe Montana. Shoot, Pat's been a starting quarterback for six NFL seasons, and he already has the third-most playoff wins ever, behind only Brady and Montana. He's 15-3 in the postseason, including 9-2 in games where he trailed by at least seven points. Absurd.

He's the fifth quarterback in league history to win three-plus Super Bowls and third player with at least three Super Bowl MVPs. Add that to his two regular-season MVPs, and this 28-year-old is wildly decorated.

Mahomes piled up 210 passing yards and 59 rushing yards after halftime on Sunday, carrying Kansas City to the NFL mountaintop once again.

Never hate on No. 15. Always appreciate the sheer greatness of a majestic player/leader who has a knack for flourishing at winning time.

4) Andy Reid's on Coaching Mt. Rushmore

Reid just became the fifth head coach in league history with at least three Super Bowl wins. I've always argued that the offensive innovator had a Hall of Fame-caliber run in Philadelphia, but he just couldn't get over the hump to hammer home his Canton candidacy. Now he's an absolute lock, having won 71.3 percent of games (playoffs included) and three rings in Kansas City.

It's easy to view Reid as a fun-loving, cheeseburger-eating, mustached grandfather on the sideline, but the man is tough as nails. He is prepared, disciplined, preaches hard work and accountability and still believes in toughness in the trenches. He's as creative as they come as an offensive play-caller, routinely influencing league trends.

Bottom line: Reid is one of the four greatest coaches to grace the NFL.

5) Kyle Shanahan's OT decision was fine

It's easy to pile on Kyle and feel sick for the 49ers, but the backlash he has caught for taking the ball first in overtime is over the top. San Francisco's defense was gassed at that point, having just been gashed by Kansas City in the game-tying field goal drive at the end of regulation. You still want to establish tone and trust your offense. You want the ball third if the game remains tied after each team's possession. And you can't cite analytics because they don't exist: That was the first playoff game to go to overtime since the new rules were implemented in March of 2022.

Now, I was flat-out stunned to hear multiple Niners players admitting they didn't know the rules. That's on Kyle. And that rightfully impacts perception in the broader topic.

As an aside, I don't like this rule change. I wasn't offended when Josh Allen didn't get the ball in overtime at Kansas City two postseasons ago, a development which clearly fueled the rule change. I don't like when sports have different rules in the postseason.

Having said all of that, though ...

6) 49ers did plenty of cringeworthy things

I love Kyle. I think he's fantastic. I was all for him to change the narrative around his postseason performance. But yikes.

Forget overtime. I was beyond offended he didn't use all three timeouts at the end of the first half to get the ball back and try to rack up more points. The 49ers controlled the first two quarters of action, but only went into the break with a 10-3 lead. You knew that'd come back to haunt them.

And despite the fact that Christian McCaffrey finished with 30 touches for 160 yards, strangely, it still felt like the Offensive Player of the Year was underutilized during stretches of the game, especially as a runner. Yes, his opening-drive fumble was tough, but I sure would've liked more CMC runs, especially in the third quarter, when the tide started to turn.

San Francisco had two "Oh, noooooooooooo!!" moments in the second half, things that kill you against a team like the Chiefs:

  • Late in the third quarter, with San Francisco leading 10-6, the 49ers' defense forced a three-and-out, seemingly giving the offense an opportunity to change momentum and extend the lead. But Tommy Townsend's punt bounced off the leg of unwitting 49ers special teamer Darrell Luter Jr. Return man Ray-Ray McCloud couldn't scoop it up on the ricochet, and Kansas City's Jaylen Watson pounced on it. On the very next play, Mahomes hit Marquez Valdes-Scantling for a go-ahead touchdown. That just cannot happen against that team in that spot.
  • On the ensuing San Francisco possession, the 49ers put together a 12-play, 75-yard touchdown drive to retake the lead at 16-13, but Jake Moody's extra-point attempt was blocked. It appeared that the rookie kicker's trajectory was just too low. Another brutal turn which loomed quite large when the Chiefs got the ball with under two minutes remaining, trailing by three points -- not four. Harrison Butker ultimately sent the game into overtime with a field goal in the final seconds of regulation.

The 49ers were my title pick last offseason, in the preseason and at the end of the regular season. I loved this team. The defense was strong on Super Bowl Sunday. San Fran held a 10-0 lead midway through the second quarter. This was a gut punch and baseball bat to the head at once.

I'm heartsick for the Niners and the Faithful. If not now, when? You suddenly doubt everything. This will sting forever.

7) Brock Purdy played quite well

Despite entering the game with a bevy of naysayers questioning his viability on football's biggest stage, Purdy showed he is indeed capable of winning the Super Bowl. He played solidly, delivered off-script throws and didn't make any mistakes, completing 23 of his 38 passes for 255 yards and a touchdown. And that was despite the fact that Kansas City constantly applied pressure on the second-year signal-caller.

It wasn't eye-popping or Mahomesian, but Purdy's performance was worthy of winning the game. Unfortunately, his teammates' miscues -- and the Chiefs' championship mettle -- kept Purdy from glory.

8) Chris Jones is special

Kansas City's 6-foot-6, 310-pound game wrecker is a Hall of Famer. No question. When discussing this dynasty, he deserves prominent mention right alongside Mahomes, Kelce and Reid. On Sunday, Jones just kept annihilating San Francisco's offensive line and disrupted Purdy's timing on a number of potential touchdown throws, including the one on third down right before the overtime field goal. This is who he is and what he does. That's exactly what he did on the second-and-9 in Buffalo before Tyler Bass' missed field goal.

I know Jones is a pending free agent and getting a little long in the tooth with his 30th birthday coming up in July. But I hope Jones and the Chiefs can keep this special partnership together. Chris Jones equals winning.

9) Steve Spagnuolo is special

That's now four Super Bowl titles, the most in NFL history for a defensive coordinator. He designed the Giants' brilliant game plan to beat the undefeated Patriots in February of 2008, arguably the greatest upset in Super Bowl history. And now he's been Reid's right-hand man in three Chiefs championships.

With all due respect to Reid and Mahomes, Kansas City's defense truly carried the Chiefs this season. Spags' combination of aggressiveness and savvy lifted the unit to new heights. Give the man his due.

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