HOUSTON — It’s the sort of thing that could happen only at Opening Night at the Super Bowl, that awful combination of the old Media Day and a concert with fireworks afterward. Kyle Shanahan, the offensive coordinator who led the Falcons to the eighth-highest-scoring season in NFL annals, lost his backpack while speaking with media members — a backpack containing his team’s Super Bowl game plan.
Full disclosure: I was sitting in the stands at Minute Maid Park typing a little something about Devonta Freeman; Shanahan, who will be named the San Francisco 49ers’ head coach as soon as the Falcons are done playing, was seated 20 feet in front of me, perched on the rail of what would have been the third-base seats were the Astros playing. He was ringed by media members. As his session was about to end, I walked down and shook his hand.
I noticed he was looking for something against the fence. (You know how baseball fans seated in Row 1 lean over to try to grab a foul grounder? That fence.) I wish I could say I’d thought to ask, “Lose something? Like, maybe the game plan?” Because that was indeed the case.
According to Jarrett Bell of USA Today, Shanahan was scurrying to find a backpack containing the Super Bowl game plan. “I’ve got to find it,” Bell reported Shanahan as saying. (You cannot make this stuff up.)
Just when you were thinking, “Aha! Belichick!” and concocting the greatest conspiracy theory since Tonya Harding/Nancy Kerrigan, reality intervened. Turned out Art Spander, the longtime columnist for the San Francisco Examiner, had picked up Shanahan’s backpack by mistake when he finished intervening the soon-to-be minted 49er HC. Spander realized this only when he walked upstairs to the work room and was contacted by a colleague. The computer Spander believed to be in his bag wasn’t there — because the bag wasn’t his.
Spander returned Shanahan’s backpack to NFL security, who returned it to the Falcons’ OC. “That would have been bad,” Shanahan messaged USA Today to say. And it would have. But I need to ask: Was it a great idea to bring a backpack containing a game plan to a public event when you know Patriots people will be in the house, too?
Indeed, an hour after Shanahan had vacated his perch along the third-base line, the area was filled with New England coaches doing their media rounds. Only at the Super Bowl, kids.