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Kyle Shanahan explains why he is ready to become a head coach, what he brings to the job

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The one-time 49ers ball boy could take on a huge role in the next two weeks.

Potentially soon to be San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan is in the midst of a mass of Super Bowl preparations this week. He is getting his offensive game plan together for the players to begin their studying of the Patriots. He will be meeting with the San Francisco 49ers this weekend to discuss the head coaching job, but in the meantime, he had an interesting podcast interview with MMQB editor Peter King.

In the interview, he talked about why he thinks he is ready to be a head coach, and talked about some of his background that led to this point. He talked about growing up around football, which is where we learn that he was a ball boy for the 49ers when his dad was offensive coordinator. This is not surprising, but a cool little fact I don’t think I knew.

Shanahan is clearly very confident in his abilities, and provides some ideas on what we might expect from him if he does in fact become the next 49ers head coach. In the audio above, he opened talking about the Falcons preparations for the Super Bowl. The transcript starts after that as he got into his work toward becoming a head coach.

On what has helped him the most to get to this point:

I think everything. There’s not one step of my career that I would have skipped if I had to do it all over again. I had a lot of early successes in Houston. Being able to start out as a coordinator with Matt Schaub and a bunch of good players there. And then going to Washington and having to work through a bunch of different rosters, a bunch of different quarterbacks, and finding different ways to do things. Even having Robert and having to go to a zone-read type of scheme. It really helped me grow as a coach, realizing I couldn’t do everything I did in Houston, and had to learn. And then going through the things I did in Cleveland. We did a lot of good things there too, I felt. And making the decision to try to get out of there and come here to Atlanta. We started out 5-0 last year, went on a six-game losing streak, went through a lot of adversity in Atlanta our first year, but we finished seventh in offense, and I felt we were a lot closer than people thought. And to be able to bounce back and get better this year, and to be where we’re at, every step has helped me. Sometimes it was hard, and I wasn’t always enjoying everything. But when I look back, I feel what I’ve been through has really made me battle-tested. I feel I can handle anything. I’ve been through a lot of situations that really forced me to adjust, and in the long run, I think it’s made me a better coach, a better person, and a lot more confident.

On if he was destined to be a coach from a young age:

I guess so, I mean you’re a product of your environment. I’ve grown up around football my entire life. Always watching, being around my dad’s teams, and being a ball boy for the 49ers. And being able to be close to guys like John Taylor and Jerry Rice and Steve Young and Harris Barton. Going over to Thanksgiving at people like John Elway’s house and stuff like that. Growing up I’ve just lived and died with football, and I’ve always been around it. And I had a goal for so long to play, which I did work really hard at, and I did get a chance to play in college.

But once I decided to get into coaching, it definitely was a lot easier than playing. I was a little more natural at it. My genes were definitely better for coaching than they were for playing. A lot of things came easy at first, but definitely had to work for a while, and I’m happy where I’m at.

On being around Mike Shanahan at a young age, compared with Bill Belichick and his dad allowing him in if he remained quiet:

Yes, there’s no doubt about it. I remember from an early age, being at an install meeting back even with the Niners when my dad was the coordinator there and I was a ball boy. I remember … throughout high school when my dad was the head coach being able to sit in throughout draft meetings and on draft day. Just sitting there, I was always watching stuff because I wanted to play, and just watching players and everything. But sitting there and absorbing everything in, you start to understand the urgency of the NFL, what’s expected. I’ve kinda lived it my whole life, and it’s really all I’ve known. And once you get into it, you realize right away, this is something that’s not new to me. It’s something I’ve been around, and even though I didn’t always realize I was studying to be a coach, once you get into that position, you realize you’ve kinda been trained for this your whole life.

On why he thinks he is ready to be a head:

I’ve believed it for a while. You always want the right opportunity, but I think it starts with, I’ve been battle-tested. I think I’ve gone through a lot of situations that a lot of coordinators in this league haven’t. I think I’ve had to handle some situations or gotten some attention, mostly negative, that usually only head coaches have to deal with. So I think that’s helped me prepare, from that standpoint.

On the RG3 situation and the press:

It wasn’t just that, it was four years of Washington. Every time they talked about the head coach they’d put an S at the end of the name, they’d call it the Shanahans. That’s when I realized I was in a different spot because I was just the coordinator.

On realizing he needed to go off on his own from his dad:

Well yea, that was the thing. I had done that before that. People thought I had coached with my dad before Washington, but I never had. I’d been at UCLA, I’d been at Tampa, I’d been at Houston. It was one thing, when he got fired from Denver — when I got into coaching when I was younger, I always told my dad I wanted to coach with him some day. And we both made it a point that I’d go in a different direction, and I wanted to prove myself first. And once I had a chance to prove myself, that’s when I wanted to coach with him. When he got fired from Denver, kind of unexpectedly, and he had that year off, I remember telling him — and I was the coordinator in Houston at this time, we’d just finished third in the league, things were going really well in Houston, and my dad was taking the year off and just got fired — I remember telling him that, “Dad, when you get back, whether it’s next year or ten years from now, whether it’s college, whether it’s NFL, I’ve realized that you’re not going to be a head coach forever, and it’s important to me that we coach together some day. So whenever you get back, I’m gonna go with you. If I can.” He happened to come back the next year, and it was Washington, and it really didn’t matter to me. That was something that I wanted to do, and I went there and I’d never take it back.

On if it was worth it given the issues in Washington:

There’s no doubt it was worth it. If my dad had ever passed away and I had never coached with him before, that’s something that would’ve been real hard on me because that’s something I wanted to do my whole life. And I got that opportunity. I wish it could’ve gone a little bit better, but I think it was something I needed to do. Even though it was hard, it made me stronger, and I wouldn’t take it back for anything. My dad and I have always been close, and that was my first time I really got to see him as a coach, being a coach, and he’s a hell of a coach and I don’t regret anything there.

On explaining to 49ers fans (or any other fans) what kind of are you going to be in the NFL:

I’m going to try and be what I’ve always been. I live and die football. I love football from an Xs and Os standpoint, from a personnel standpoint. Really, everything that I do in my life is about my wife and my kids, and then it’s about football. I always work as hard as I can, study as much as I can. And gonna always develop an opinion, work with other people to get that opinion, and whatever you think’s right, we’re gonna do that, and we’re gonna try and do it for the right reasons. So you can always count on me to, I’ll make the hard decision, but I’ll always try to make the right decision. And not everyone’s right, you mess up a lot, but you’re gonna get a guy who always works hard, and is always thinking, “what’s best for the organization, what’s best for the football team, and what’s gonna help us win games now and down the road.”

On needing to institute culture, and if it’s intimidating:

Not really. You got to look into every situation for what they have, what they’re saying. And it’s something, I got to talk to them a couple of weeks ago, I’ll be allowed to talk to them again this week. We’ll see what their plans are – don’t really know, yet. But that definitely that’s something that’s enticing and you hope to have an opportunity because everything takes time. But you gotta make sure you got that.