Former Atlanta Falcons offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan had a prolific year in Atlanta, orchestrating an offense that put up historic scoring numbers in the 2016 season - but in the span of one game, he became one of the least popular people in Atlanta after the Falcons blew a 28-3 lead in the second half of Super Bowl LI and lost to the Patriots in overtime.
After the game, many analysts and fans were fiercely critical of Shanahan's playcalling late in the game, when Atlanta seemed to have a championship all but sealed. The Falcons ran the ball just four times after opening a 25-point lead, and didn't score on a crucial drive with just a few minutes left despite having the ball on the Patriots' 22-yard line. Former Falcons wide reciever Roddy White went as far to say earlier this week that he would have fought Shanahan on the sideline.
On Thursday's episode of Undisputed, Cris Carter explained why solely blaming Shanahan for the loss is misguided.
Kim KlementKim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Roddy White: "I would have fought him"
“I’m glad I wasn’t a part of that team because I probably literally would have fought him. Like, you destroyed a dream for a city. It’s way bigger than me. The city of Atlanta needed that championship, and they had it. It was right there. Arthur Blank needed that championship. He deserved to win that game. Through everything that he’s been through, it was finally our time to win. It just hurt me that we didn’t get it done.”
Kelley L CoxKelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports
Nick Wright: Shanahan hasn't received enough criticism
“I’m not sure if there’s enough [criticism]. This was an all-time… both these things are true: Tom Brady and the New England Patriots put together an all-time great comeback, and Kyle Shanahan and the Atlanta Falcons put together one of -- if not the biggest -- all-time gag jobs we’ve seen. I don’t like to say guys choked. I don’t like to throw that word around, but from a playcalling perspective, what Kyle Shanahan did was so irrational. Someone needed to grab him and shake him and say ‘we have the game won!’
How about with four minutes left? It’s one thing [when] you’re up 16, there’s eight minutes left, you have 3rd-and-1 and you decide ‘you know what, we’re going to do a five-step drop, we’re gonna trust Devonta Freeman to block, we’re going to try to keep the offense moving.’ That didn’t work. Dont’a Hightower comes around, forces the fumble, all of a sudden before you know it it’s an eight-point game."
Jason GetzJason Getz-USA TODAY Sports
Nick Wright: The Falcons never should have lost after Julio Jones' phenomenal catch on the sideline
"Once that happens, that’s got to be your moment of clarity. And once Julio [Jones] makes that catch and you know ‘we’re up eight, there’s four minutes left in the game. If we go up 11…’
Postseason history, teams up 11 with four minutes or less left: 182-2. Matt Bryant, by the way, didn’t miss a field goal all year from any distance if he’s kicking from the middle of the field. When Julio picks that up, you can take three damn knees and you’re the champions! The Patriots had no timeouts left. It’s game over!
Instead, Kyle Shanahan not only wanted to win the Super Bowl, he wanted to win a Super Bowl *his way*."
Mark J. RebilasMark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Cris Carter: If players don't do their jobs, every play is a 'bad' play
"See, this is what I don’t like about former players, because they keep their mindset as players. They never want to criticize their teammates. There was a bunch of missed assignments. When someone tells you to do something… none of the plays are good if you don’t block, you don’t catch, you don’t throw. If you don’t do your job, every play that they designed is not a good play.
So even if [Shanahan] had called a safe play, when guys are getting defeated - when you break down your principles - people don’t bring those things into account.
Roddy White, your last year, playing in Atlanta, you averaged 21 points a game. You guys were 21st in the league. Now Kyle Shanahan was the offensive coordinator. This year they went up to 33 points, 8th all-time in scoring. So, what part are you going to give him credit [for]? Now, I know what part you’re going to blame him, but which part are you going to give him credit?"
Mark J. RebilasMark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Cris Carter: You can't give Kyle Shanahan all the credit for the offense, and you can't give him all the blame either
"During the regular season, what’d they throw the ball? 57.7 percent of the time. In the Super Bowl, what’d they throw the ball? Only 2.3 percent more, they threw the ball 60 percent in the game.
How they lost the game was on the pick-six that Alford had, that was the 12th play of that drive.
Do you know what happened after that? The Patriots drove 11 more plays. So that defense was on the field 23 straight. Of course they were gassed, what else are you gonna be? You can’t play great defense without running to the ball. So that had a lot to do with the comeback. But not doing your assignment… you can’t blame it all on the offensive coordinator. I didn’t give Kyle Shanahan all the credit, so when they lose I’m not gonna give him all the blame."
USA TODAY SportsDan Powers-USA TODAY Sports
Cris Carter: The Falcons were calling the best plays to attack Pats' defense
Nick Wright: That’s true, but what’s also true is this. You are up eight in the Super Bowl. On the opponent’s 22, with the kicker that had only missed once from inside the 40 all year.
Cris Carter: Yes, you have to try to get those points. Why do you think he called the plays? You think that he wasn’t trying to get those points?
Nick Wright: I think that they wanted to win their way, instead of just win.
Cris Carter: I hate people when they say that. You want to try to attack the defense. They called the best play for the defense, but that play is predicated on human beings doing their job. Kyle Shanahan already has a job! He does’t need to impress anyone.