Super Bowl 2024 Gameday Guide: Steve Spagnuolo vs Kyle Shanahan, Patrick Mahomes' pursuit of greatness, Taylor Swift, Usher, Steven Frayne and predictions

It is Super Bowl 58 on Sunday. In Las Vegas. With the San Francisco 49ers and the Kansas City Chiefs. Patrick Mahomes will be there. So will Brock Purdy. Taylor Swift should be there. Usher will definitely be there. Probably worth a watch. If you're into that kind of thing...

If Brock Purdy is to achieve the unthinkable as a Mr Irrelevant-turned-Super Bowl champion, Steve Spagnuolo is going to make him work harder, play smarter, read the field clearer and be better than ever before in his young, staggering, developing NFL career.

Chiefs players of late have sported 'In Spags We Trust' t-shirts in reference to their beloved defensive coordinator, who has been as much a face of Kansas City's path back to the Super Bowl as Patrick Mahomes, Andy Reid or any member of the defending champions. Without Spagnuolo and his defense, their Super Bowl defence would be long over.

Come Sunday night, it might be as much a case of Kyle Shanahan vs Steve Spagnuolo as it is Shanahan vs Reid or Mahomes vs Brock Purdy. It was Spagnuolo who called the shots to nullify Tyreek Hill and Mike McDaniel, it was Spagnuolo who called the shots to nullify Josh Allen, it was Spagnuolo who called the shots to shut down Lamar Jackson. What can he do against Purdy, Christian McCaffrey, Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk and George Kittle?

"We love playing for Coach Spags, we absolutely love him, couldn't be more proud to play for him," Chiefs edge rusher George Karlaftis told Sky Sports NFL.

For so long the norm has been Mahomes mastery inciting offensive supremacy as the Chiefs steamroll their way to postseason contention. The norm changed in 2023, Spagnuolo's unit shouldering responsibility in the face of a hobbling attack as the shape-shifting concoction of confusion baiting quarterbacks into mistakes and frustrating the most talented of weapons.

Sky Sports have spent the week with magician Steven Frayne, formerly known as Dynamo, as he boggles the minds of players and celebrities amid the enchantment of Las Vegas and its adoration for illusion. Spagnuolo promises his own clinic in sleight-of-hand perplexion.

His Chiefs ranked second in the league in total yards allowed and points allowed, while ranking fourth against the pass as the team's driving force. He would meddle with the appearance of his defensive front through personnel changes to offer varying weight and skillset challenges for offensive lineman to deal with, he would rotate his coverages pre and post-snap with yo-yoing safeties to muddy the quarterback's field diagnosis as effectively as any defensive director in the league, he would disguise blitzes to create pressure from his defensive backs, he would license L'Jarius Sneed with press freedom to wrestle and jam the league's best receivers at the line of scrimmage.

Asked what makes Spagnuolo so important, Chiefs defensive lineman Chris Jones joked: "He's Italian. He's amazing. His resume speaks for itself, I think he's the only (defensive coordinator) who was able to go to the championship with two different teams. He's been very successful in the scheme of defense that he's ran over his span in the NFL. It's Spags, man. What can you say?"

Spagnuolo's Chiefs have blitzed quarterbacks at the fourth-highest rate in the league this season, but will come up against a player in Purdy who has flourished against five or more pass rushers such has been his level of anticipation and the speed at which he gets the ball out. It beckons as a game of moving parts between Spagnuolo's fidgeting defense and a 49ers offense that dialled up a shift or motion at the second-highest rate in the league this season. Makes for quite the chess match.

Victory would mark the latest instalment of a fascinating career for Spagnuolo, who hopped between college coaching roles and spells in Europe with the Barcelona Dragons and Frankfurt Galaxy in the 90s before heading to the NFL. He has since become the only coordinator in history to win a Super Bowl with two separate franchises, having lifted the Lombardi during his time with the New York Giants.

Somehow he has floated undetected and overlooked during annual coaching cycles since arriving in Arrowhead in 2019; the Chiefs won't mind. Reid would have no other man beside him on Sunday.

Spagnuolo is a perfect fit for Vegas trickery, some of which the 49ers might have already experienced after their hotel fire alarm mysteriously went off at 6am on Thursday morning. Welcome to Super Bowl week.

"You don't want to wake the sleeping bear. But Christian (McCaffrey) was not happy too," said 49ers tight end George Kittle.

The written-off Chiefs and the nearly-team 49ers, primed to meet again in a rematch of Super Bowl LIV. The season comes down to this.

Isiah Pacheco, RB, Chiefs: His running style is as animated, as pound-the-ground, as watchable as any back in the NFL, but behind the jokes of Isiah Pacheco's on-field aesthetics is solid production as one of the most instrumental figures to the Chiefs playoff run in 2023. He has proven a worthy executioner of Reid's gap scheme runs, punching lanes with conviction and carrying bodies in tow to the tune of 254 yards and three touchdowns in the postseason. The 49ers were torched on the ground during their playoff wins over the Green Bay Packers and Detroit Lions. Will Pacheco and the Chiefs enjoy similar success on the ground?

Trent McDuffie, CB, Chiefs: Something tells you Spagnuolo has had bundles of fun working with Trent McDuffie since the 2022 first-round pick's arrival. He has become a perfect cog within his defensive coordinator's rolling coverage system, emerging as one of the league's most impactful nickel corners against the run game and thereby positioning himself as one of the keys to containing a McCaffrey-led ground assault. The first-team All-Pro corner recorded five forced fumbles this season as one of the chief contributors to Kansas City's hard-nosed blitz-heavy defense, his late bursts from the second level fuelling Spagnuolo's art of disguise.

Brandon Aiyuk, WR, 49ers: The 49ers might not be here were it not for Brandon Aiyuk's stunning catch off the helmet of Detroit Lions cornerback Kindle Vildor, setting his side up at the five-yard line before his touchdown grab three plays later to reduce the deficit to 24-17 in the NFC Championship Game. It was a stroke of fortune and a defining moment in the Niners' season, across which Aiyuk has starred as perhaps the league's most unsung lead receiver. The 2020 first-round pick enjoyed a career year with 1,342 receiving yards at 17.9 yards per catch and seven touchdowns, and will now be tasked as the man to test the downfield coverage skills of the Chiefs' acclaimed defensive backs.

Dre Greenlaw, LB, 49ers: You cannot talk about the influence of Fred Warner without too shining a light on the value of Dre Greenlaw in Steve Wilks' 49ers defense. His speed, range and ability to read concepts has been among the best in his position this season, pitting him alongside Warner as two of the defining blockades to Mahomes' efforts to find Travis Kelce. He will be central to bottling a Chiefs offense that will dare him to maraud downhill in support of stuffing Isiah Pacheco, while also dragging him east-to-west in accordance to Mahomes' play-extension and challenging him to cover the league's best pass-catching tight end.

Rashee Rice, WR, Chiefs: Mahomes lied in wait for somebody to arise from his under-staffed, error-ridden core of young wide receivers this season; Rashee Rice answered the call. The second-round rookie has become his quarterback's favourite and most-trusted target not named Travis Kelce, finishing the regular season with 938 receiving yards and seven touchdowns before spring-boarding the Chiefs' playoff campaign with 130 yards and a score in their Wild Card win over the Miami Dolphins. Rice finished the season ranked third in yards-after-catch (653) behind only Amon-Ra St. Brown and CeeDee Lamb, becoming Mahomes' go-to zone-coverage-beater.

Christian McCaffrey, RB, 49ers: Don't be shocked to see an outright rushing raid from the 49ers in a bid to unlock the Chiefs defense in the early exchanges of Sunday's Super Bowl. The Bills threatened ominous signs with their running game only to come unstuck against the champions in the Divisional Round, before the Ravens bizarrely neglected their own ground threat amid a Spagnuolo masterclass at the AFC Championship Game. In Christian McCaffrey the 49ers boast the NFL's most influential two-way running back, whose slide-and-cut explosion in Shanahan's zone attack presents the greatest of lateral tests for Kansas City up front. The league leader in scrimmage yards has all the makings of a Super Bowl MVP as a dream cushion to Purdy.

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Chiefs safety Trent McDuffie on what has given his side the edge in the postseason: "Playoff Patrick is a different Patrick Mahomes, I love to watch it because that man is a magician."

Chiefs defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo on Brock Purdy: "This is not a quarterback that is managing and all of those tags they put on him. He's for real. He makes all the throws and is really, really smart. And then what I didn't know, because I hadn't seen enough of it, is how athletic he is."

49ers running back Christian McCaffrey on the hotel fire alarm going off at 6am: "I think there's no way it's random. It's part of it. It's just more wood thrown on the fire."

49ers offensive tackle Trent Williams on the prospect of winning the Super Bowl after his cancer scare in 2019: "It would be like one of those fairy tales. It's like something you can only dream about. It's hard to even describe what that feeling would be like because I've never felt that feeling before. But I imagine it would be a memory that we would remember for life."

Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes: "I think I just like winning. If you win a lot and that causes you to be a villain, then I'm OK with it. But at the end of the day, I'm going to enjoy playing the game and try to win as much as possible."

49ers quarterback Brock Purdy: "The keys weren't just given to me or anything, it had to be earned. Coming in Day One, just trying to learn Kyle's system, his playbook, and earn the respect of my teammates. over time I've been able to step into that role and be ready for my opportunity. At the same time, I have a lot of help around me, and it's allowed me to develop, and I'm going to continue to develop with the help and the cast I have around me."

Las Vegas Raiders edge rusher Maxx Crosby on his hopes for the Super Bowl: "Selfishly, I want the Chiefs to win so we can be the ones to take them down and take them off that pedestal."

Former Carolina Panthers head coach Matt Rhule: "I think Brock Purdy is an amazing player, played against him at Iowa State," Rhule said. "When I was in the draft room at Carolina, I brought his name up. I said he should be on the Draft board. I got vetoed on that one."

The NFL did not see Brock Purdy coming. Not even the San Francisco 49ers saw him coming.

He should not be here, not really. The last pick of the NFL Draft? Pulling the strings to the NFL's best offense? Fulfilling the masterplan of a generational offensive architect? Going head to head with the greatest quarterback of his generation? In the Super Bowl? He couldn't. He wouldn't. He is. He might.

The 49ers do not make it this far without Kyle Shanahan's quarterback-friendly system or their envied entourage of superstar weapons, but nor do they make it this far without Purdy. He is not a superstar, but his ability to accentuate his strengths has turned him into the player Shanahan needed.

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Watch Super Bowl LVIII - the 49ers against the Chiefs - live on Sky Sports NFL on Sunday February 11. The game starts at 11.30pm. You can also stream Sky Sports' live Super Bowl coverage with NOW