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Sunday, October 20, 2019

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

LANDOVER — For Kyle Shanahan, justice was served.

Family honor was avenged.


Payback was delivered.

A 9-0 shutout Sunday of Washington at the annual Alumni Homecoming game may not have been the way that San Francisco 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan envisioned punishing the team that sent him and his father, former Redskins coach Mike Shanahan, packing in 2013.

The younger Shanahan’s dreams, no doubt, ran more to a 35-0 beatdown, maybe even snatching away the homecoming king’s crown and presenting it to his dad, Mike Shanahan, on the field, all with Redskins owner Dan Snyder watching from his fortress of solitude at Ghost Town Field.

But victory is victory — especially when it comes at the expense of a hated enemy you believe wronged your family.

And make no mistake, the Shanahans — Kyle Shanahan was offensive coordinator here under his father — believe they were wronged during their four-year sentence here in Washington, damaged in the Robert Griffin III war that left everyone scarred.

After everyone else had asked the questions about how the pouring rain affected the field, or how the 49ers defense stepped up, or how difficult it was for quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo to get a passing game going, I wanted to hear Kyle Shanahan in his postgame press conference talk about something a little closer to the bone.

“Against this opponent, on this field, with everything that happened while you were here,” I asked. “Did this game seem more magnified than a regular season game at any point?”

I mean, otherwise, this was a drama-starved game, with an undefeated 5-0 49ers team coming to Washington to face the 1-5 Redskins. The weather reflected the dullness of the affair — rain falling constantly on a half-filled stadium, with many of the drenched fans in attendance rooting for the 49ers.

Why else would you care about San Francisco playing Washington except for this being a Shanahan blood game?

Washington opened up the contest with an impressive 60-yard drive, led by Adrian Peterson rushing for 49, and it appeared, briefly, that the script would flip, that Shanahan might have to leave the city without avnging his family honor. Then the Redskins, dutifully, reverted to form.

Dustin Hopkins missed a 39-yard field goal, and the Redskins squandered two other opportunities with a fumble and a failed 4th-down conversion.

San Francisco struggled with the sloppy conditions that limited their offense, not scoring until late in the third quarter, when Robbie Gould hit a 28-yard field goal to give the 49ers a 3-0 lead. They would add two more field goals, but three points was all Shanahan needed to be able to stand up in the press conference and claim victory for family honor.

This was the 39-year-old coach’s answer to my question:

“I’ve been in a number of buildings and not all of it always ends good. But it had nothing to do with the game. Everyone’s a little more sensitive, being that things involve your family, so that’s why I’m always a little more sensitive to this with my dad here, and that’s why it was nice to get the win. But it definitely had nothing to do with the game, nothing to do with the score, but you always want to take care of things the right way when you’re bothered by some things that happened to a family member.”

It had nothing to do with the game, but you want to take care of things the right way.

Not exactly Michael Corleone, but he made it clear that you don’t go against the family.

Shanahan smiled when he was answering the question, as if he was waiting for someone to ask it, and was more than happy to let the world know that in the ugly battle that resulted in his father being fired, this was the Shanahans coming back to exact a small measure of revenge.

This wasn’t the son’s first time back as the 49ers’ coach — he was here in 2017 when the Redskins won 26-24. But that was his first year, coaching a losing 6-10 team. The Redskins were considered a playoff contender that season, though they would finish 7-9, just one game better than San Francisco.

This year, Shanahan may have the best team in the NFC, with the 49ers remaining undefeated now at 6-0, while the Redskins wallow at 1-6, having fired the coach who replaced Mike Shanahan, Jay Gruden.

This time, it felt like more than a game.

This time, Shanahan presented the game ball to his father Mike. In lieu of Snyder’s homecoming crown, it would have to do.

⦁ Hear Thom Loverro on 106.7 The Fan Wednesday afternoons and Saturday mornings and on the Kevin Sheehan Show podcast.


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