KYLE SHANAHAN AND HIS 49ERS WOULD HOST THE CARDINALS AT THE AZTECA STADIUM IN 2022
By Omar Ureña
CHICAGO, IL., January 31st, 2022. October 2nd, 2005 was a historic day for football in Mexico. It was a memorable game at Estadio Azteca that saw Alex Smith as the Niners’ bomber, and the Cardinals that exploded with Anquan Boldin, who sealed the victory with a lightning touchdown.103,467 fans witnessed Arizona’s 31-14 win over San Francisco in what was the first NFL regular season game outside of the United States.
Sixteen years later, the 49ers will return to Estadio Azteca, according to Grafico Sports sources, the Bay team will play a regular season game in Mexico for the second time, this time being the local team. The odds of it being a rematch of that 2005 game against the Cardinals are huge. That trip was a fun experience for the Niners if the loss is ignored, and now in the time of the NFL’s international marketing plans, both the 49ers and the Cardinals were assigned to Mexico as the land where they will be able to carry out marketing activities, and connect with their fans. It’s the 2022 NFL market and the rewards will be great after Covid punched Mexico. The Forty Niners will return to Aztec land my brothers!
At the NFL Combine in Indianapolis in February 2020, just before the pandemic, I asked 49ers General Manager John Lynch if they were contemplating playing a game in Mexico and he immediately said “yes”, it was clear that he would like to bring the team back to the Aztec Stadium.
“I would love to go there, to be in Mexico City, it would be fun. We’ll see where that goes. I’m not responsible for those things, but I’m always staying fresh on my Spanish so I’ll be ready to go.”
A month earlier the 49ers were defeated in Super Bowl 54. After losing to the Chiefs, Coach Kyle Shanahan escaped to his beloved Cabo San Lucas, Mexico to stay away from it all and to find peace in the iconic corner of South Baja California. T.E. George Kittle and F.B. Kyle Juszczyk were on vacation there. Perhaps that was when Juszczyk decided to stay with the team when he became a free agent. Coach Shanahan’s unique system features a powerful fullback whose catching numbers in 2021 were 30 receptions for 296 yards, averaging 9.9 receiving yards and 1 touchdown. They threw themselves into the Cabo adventure to clear their minds of football while they toured the golf course like good comrades.
Coach Kyle was not yet old enough to enter the bars in Cabo San Lucas, when I met his father, Coach Mike Shananhan, it was a few days after the Broncos beat the Packers 31-24 in Super Bowl 32 in San Diego, when I had the honor of shaking his hand as I welcomed him to the cool and colorful bar where I was working at the time as security manager, the world famous ‘El Squid Roe’, a place of relaxation for stars and NFL players .
Three years later, Kyle returned to Cabo San Lucas as WR for the Texas Longhorns. Shanahan played in 13 games in the orange and white uniform from 2000 to 2001, posting 14 receptions for 127 yards.
The Gráfico Sports correspondent in L.A. and Cabo, Odin García, was manager of ‘El Squid Roe’ at the time and talked with him about his experience in college football and his future. “Prime Time” Garcia asked him if he was considering playing in the NFL one day.
“Are you kidding me? That’s impossible! No, I’m going to be a Coach like my dad, that’s how I’m going to get to the NFL.”
And there was yesterday Kyle Shanahan once again leading San Francisco in the battle to make it to Super Sunday against the L.A. Rams at the SoFi Stadium.
Going back to my interviews in Indianapolis in 2020, the same day I spoke with John Lynch, Kyle Shanahan shared with me that he was ready for an adventure with the 49ers in Cabo San Lucas. Not only do they want to play at the Estadio Azteca, but they are ready to take on the Los Cabos Marlins. The Shanahans have a history of loving this place surrounded by sea, cactusi and dunes, so when I asked him what he thought of the first professional football team in the city, he expressed with some humor visualizing his team playing ball with the Marlins.
“I just got back from there. There are a lot of Niners fans out there and they really are hard core fans. We fully support Cabo. Hopefully, we can talk to the owner soon and set up a scrimmage there or something in the off-season. If he gets us all there, that would be amazing.”
It took more than 2 years but the effort of the FAM-YOX league is here, Sigfrido Muñoz, owner of the Cabo Marlins is preparing everything so that his team is ready for the 2022 season and to host Kyle Shananhan and his 49ers at the right time.
First we will have to see how the Santa Clara team heals from yesterday’s loss in the NFC Championship game. The Cabo Bowl between the 49ers and the Rams was a dog fight at the beach. Yesterday the powerful 49ers were diminished by an outstanding and hungry Rams defense and of course, number 9 Matthew Stafford, the guy from a true Hollywood script. The Rams beat the 49ers 20-17 and will play the Super Bowl at home.
Last january in Cabo San Lucas the forty-niner attack was good but not good enough against the Rams because in this desert battle, at the same time that Kyle was planning the deal to acquire Matthew Stafford, coach Sean McVay right there in Cabo already had the ticket to paradise ready for Matthew Stafford: the Rams, SoFi Stadium, Hollywood and now the chance to play Super Bowl 56 at home man! The Rams’ deal with the Lions’ #9 came as sea lions strolled near cruise ships to watch the sunset. Shanahan wanted to surf but the waves were tough on the Pacific Ocean side and Mc Vay jumped on the Jet Ski that was going at full speed. It was in this majestic fishing town where the Rams beat the 49ers in the maritime competition to take down the big fish, today’s star of Southern California.
“That was frustrating. I was in Cabo,” Shanahan said about the Rams’ acquisition of Stafford.
So here’s the quarterback who will lead the Rams into the Super Bowl. Stafford’s numbers in the playoff game in Tampa Bay were 28 of 38 passes, for 366 yards and 2 touchdowns, in the season he threw for 4,886 yards and 41 touchdowns. On the other hand, Coach Kyle’s QB is the always brave Bay Area gladiator Jimmy Garoppolo, who in the win over the Packers completed 16 of 25 passes for 172 yards and 1 interception. Garoppolo’s numbers in 2021 were 3,810 yards, 12 touchdowns but an awful amount of 12 interceptions. Yesterday Stafford threw 31 of 45 for 337 yards and two touchdowns and intercepted once. Garoppolo was limited to 16 of 30 for 232 yards and the same two TDs, in this case his interception came at the moment the Rams defense was craving for the Super Bowl ring when the veterans Donald, Van Miller and Ramsey were avid and hungry for that Super Bowl ring, they still are, they really want to make the Bengals their prey and take it all at the Rams House.
It was vital that the 49ers’ offensive line played at the highest level against the Rams. Powerful tackle Trent Williams was brought by Mike Shanahan to Washington, then made his way to Cabo in March 2021 and was with his old coach 24 hours before free agency began.
“Kyle is like family to me. I literally went and sat with his dad, coach Mike Shanahan while I was on vacation in Cabo San Lucas.”
Kyle took him aboard the San Francisco ship. Before the playoff game at Lambeau Field, Trent Williams played in only two playoff games of his career, losing both to Washington. The giant lineman had an impact performance against the Packers. The stoic image of a warrior limping with an injured right ankle, bandaged up and back in the game. In the NFC Championship game it was hard for Williams to hold the pain, so after the loss he knew he gave everything he got on the field.
“We finished last place last year, and here we are, two minutes away from having a Super Bowl trip. I’m proud of this organization, I’m proud of this team”.
A trip for the 49ers to Cabo San Lucas would be something special. The ocean and the desert, the activities for all its visitors. A scrimmage or a ‘tochito’ with the 49ers and the Marlins means an adventure that will show the world that there are no walls in football between Mexico and the US. California is an open door for football, there are college football teams in the upper part of Baja California like the Mexicali Zorros, and now professional football that is at the end of the peninsula with the Marlins and the other professional FAM-YOX teams that will play in the desert. This 2022, the Cabo Marlins will host the Monterrey Parrilleros on May 7, followed by the Querétaro Pioneros, the Ciudad Juárez Rarámuris, and then they will face former NFL running back Trent Richardson and the Chihuahua Caudillos. Yes sir! ! Ay Chihuahua! It is exciting what is being prepared around pro football in Mexico.
he Marlins have already had their mini camp, players like former Titans RB Antonio Andrews have been connecting with tour companies, fans and local business groups. Head Coach César Martínez is already bringing in talent from Mexican college football teams like WR Jorge Luis Suárez, and Jesús Palomera from the UANL Auténticos Tigres.
The 49ers-Marlins scrimmage would be great, simply because this is Los Cabos and it’s a wonderful place. The 49ers deserve a trip here. This is paradise, it is a place of healing. Just imagine if Shanahan’s team showed up at Estadio Koll, even if it was just for a flag football game, we would see their incredulous fans, supporters from all over California, from Upper California in Napa Valley to Baja California in Valle de Guadalupe. Get your red wine, margaritas and coconut oil ready because it all depends on whether the Niners plan a trip to Cabo after being defeated by the Rams yesterday at SoFi Stadium. They punched the Rams in the regular season. Yesterday the 49ers fantastic defense couldn’t stop Cabo Bowl star Matthew Stafford when they needed it.
The fate of the 49ers in their fight to get to the Super Bowl was strong enough to visualize us, being there, at Medano Beach, sitting in ‘The Office’ with a beer in hand, watching the waves and hoping that when that scrimmage happens It will be one of the majestic moments in the history of Pro Football in Mexico. The Arch, the Sea of Cortez and the Cabo Marlins are ready to welcome Kyle Shanahan’s San Francisco 49ers. There is a reciprocal love for this land and its people, there is chemistry for the colors scarlet and gold. There is the sea, the beach, the calm, the mahi-mahi tacos, the golf courses as well as the heart and spirit of pro football in calm and majestic places in Mexico.
Follow Omar Ureña on Twitter: @omarurena_