Super Bowl the big prize for friends turned foes McVay and Shanahan

Friends turn foes when two of NFL’s youngest and brightest coaches renew their rivalry when Sean McVay’s Los Angeles Rams battle the odds against Kyle Shanahan’s San Francisco 49ers with a Super Bowl place up for grabs

  • The Los Angeles Rams face San Francisco 49ers on Sunday evening
  • Head coaches Sean McVay and Kyle Shanahan’s careers are intertwined
  • The 49ers are favourites for Sunday’s game with a Super Bowl place up for grabs 
  • They will lock horns at SoFi Stadium, Arsenal owner Stan Kroenke’s $4bn palace 

Two of the NFL’s youngest and brightest offensive minds renew their fascinating rivalry on Sunday, with a place in the Super Bowl up for grabs.

Sean McVay’s Los Angeles Rams lock horns with Kyle Shanahan’s San Francisco 49ers at SoFi Stadium, Stan Kroenke’s $4bn palace, which will also host Super Bowl LVI on February 13.

The histories of McVay and Shanahan are intertwined, the pair cutting their teeth on Washington’s wildly talented coaching staff from 2010-13.

Sean McVay’s Los Angeles Rams lock horns with San Francisco 49ers on Sunday evening

To get to the Super Bowl he will have to surpass Kyle Shanahan’s San Francisco 49ers

Both were appointed head coaches five years ago, Shanahan at the 49ers and McVay — then aged 30, the NFL’s youngest-ever — at the Rams.

‘I look like I’ve aged 40 years since then… I definitely feel like I’ve aged more than five years,’ said McVay, now 36.

Much of the premature ageing may be down to Shanahan.

The Rams and 49ers are in the same division, the NFC West, arguably the league’s toughest.

They play each other twice each season with Shanahan on top, leading 7-3.

Shanahan (right) is leading the head to head record with his friend turned foe at 7-3

Ominously for McVay, the 49ers have won the last six. The teams last met at the start of the month in the last game of the regular season. The Rams led 17-3 at half-time but contrived to lose 27-24 in overtime.

Asked if Shanahan was in his head on Wednesday, McVay replied: ‘No. What I do have is respect for these guys.

‘You look at the last time we played them, we didn’t finish the game off.’

When told about the question being asked, Shanahan said: ‘I think that’s kind of silly.’

Yet if McVay is to reach his second Super Bowl — the Rams lost against the New England Patriots in 2019 — he will have to overcome the NFC’s form team. After winning in LA, the 49ers manhandled Dallas and then a Green Bay team coached by Matt LaFleur, a third former member of Washington’s staff.

The Rams (pictured) will have to overcome the NFC’s form team to make the Super Bowl

Shanahan, 42, has Super Bowl history too. He was Atlanta Falcons’ offensive co-ordinator when they fell apart and lost to the Patriots in 2017.

Then two years ago, the 49ers were victim of a comeback against the Kansas City Chiefs.

A rematch may be on the cards, with the Cincinnati Bengals visiting the Chiefs in the AFC Championship game on Sunday.

But not if McVay upsets the odds.

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