DENVER — For the first time, Kyle Shanahan will coach his San Francisco 49ers in a regular-season game that will be held in the city where he grew up, against the team he long rooted for.
Kyle’s dad, Mike Shanahan -- who coached seven years for the Denver Broncos as a top offensive assistant and then 14 years as a head coach -- and wife Peggy will be watching from on high inside Empower Field at Mile High.
“We bought us a suite for the game,’’ Mike Shanahan said in a phone interview Wednesday with 9NEWS. “Friends that we’ve had and built for a lot of years will be in there. I think we have a suite that has about 19 people in it.”
If his suite is on the west side of the stadium, he can look across at the Ring of Fame sign that bears his name on a ringed facade, an honor he earned for leading the Broncos to back-to-back Super Bowl titles in 1997-98 and averaging just shy of 10 wins and six losses per regular season in his 14 years as head coach.
“I’ve always felt very strong with the Broncos because of my relationship with Pat,’’ Shanahan said, referring to the Broncos’ late owner Pat Bowlen. “It’s very easy for me to look back at my days in Denver and feel pretty good about it.”
But make no mistake, Shanahan’s allegiance Sunday night will not be torn. Blood is thicker than everything else. Will all 19 people in his suite be rooting for Kyle’s 49ers?
“Well, if they want to stay in the suite they better be cheering for the 49ers,’’ Shanahan said with a laugh. “No, I’m just joking with you. I’ve got people who we’ve known forever that are friends here and they’re Broncos fans and they’ll be 49ers fans as well. When you have one team in the NFC and the other in the AFC it makes it a lot easier.’’
Although this is the ninth consecutive NFL season that has gone on without Shanahan serving as a coach, he has been an unofficial coaching consultant for his son Kyle since the latter became the 49ers head coach in 2017.
There was a little to-do about the Shanahans in 2019 when Kyle and the 49ers were here for a joint practice and preseason game. But Sunday night will be for keeps.
So far, Mike has attended the 49ers’ season-opener in Chicago (a 19-10 loss in soggy, rainy conditions) and last week in Santa Clara against the Seattle Seahawks (a 27-7 win). The Broncos’ game Sunday will be three out of three that dad personally attends this season.
“I don’t always do that,’’ Mike Shanahan said. “It all depends on what we have going as a family. We go back and forth. It all depends on how the season is going, and where they’re playing, and flights, and all that kind of stuff.
“I always listen to their meetings. I’ve been doing that since he’s been there. So I get a chance to watch that every week so I stay involved without being involved.”
How does Mike see the matchup between the 49ers and Broncos that will be played on Sunday Night Football (on 9NEWS) with kickoff at 6:20 p.m.?
“Oh, I haven’t studied the Broncos at all,’’ Shanahan said with his typical artful dodge. “I’m just starting to look at them right now.”
Shanahan knows Paul Hackett well from their past coaching encounters and is aware that Hackett’s son Nathaniel has been enduring a two-week firestorm for his struggles with decisions and game management.
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“He’ll get better, because he seems like a smart guy,” said Shanahan, who met Nathaniel Hackett once at his restaurant, Shanahan’s Steakhouse, in January.
Kyle Shanahan did coach the 49ers against the Broncos once before, but it was in 2018 at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California. Although the 49ers were 2-10 going into the game, they beat the Broncos 20-14 as tight end George Kittle had seven catches for 210 yards. In the first half.
Kittle is expected to return from injury this Sunday and play in Kyle Shanahan’s head coaching debut in Denver from the 49ers’ sideline. Dad will be there to see if his son can exploit a potential mismatch.
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