The San Francisco 49ers will be interviewing Atlanta Falcons offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan on Friday, the second of their head coaching interviews. Shanahan is reportedly hoping to land the Broncos job, but clearly he is willing to consider other options.
Shanahan has had a great 2016 season with the Falcons offense, but he has had a bit of a bumpy career at times. Early in his career there were suggestions of nepotism. He got his start as a grad assistant at UCLA, and then after two years as offensive quality control coordinator in Tampa Bay, he joined Gary Kubiak’s coaching staff four four seasons. He served as wide receivers coach and quarterbacks coach one season apiece, and then two seasons as offensive coordinator. Kubiak had served as offensive coordinator for Mike Shanahan in Denver.
Following his time in Houston, Kyle joined his dad’s staff in Washington as offensive coordinator. He served there from 2010 to 2013 and left when his dad was fired. He served as Cleveland Browns offensive coordinator for a year, but left abruptly with some complaints about front office meddling. He joined Dan Quinn’s staff in Atlanta in 2015.
I decided to check in with two of our bloggers to get thoughts on Kyle Shanahan’s recent career. First up, I spoke with Chris Pokorny of Dawgs By Nature. I was curious what Shanahan was able to do in Cleveland, and what happened that led to Shanahan’s departure after only one year.
My perception is that Kyle Shanahan is a very good play-caller and implementer of the zone-blocking run scheme when the right talent is already in place. However, if the talent isn't there (i.e. a key player gets injured), he is poor at finding ways to accommodate for the drop off in talent. For example, in his season as the Browns' offensive coordinator, our running game was fantastic for the first four or five games. When center Alex Mack suffered a season-ending injury, our running game suddenly performed like the worst in the NFL for the rest of the season. I get that Mack was an important player, but isn't there something Shanahan could've coached up to not have such a drastic decline for the final 10-11 games?
There was also a bizarre storyline about him putting together a 32-point PowerPoint presentation to former head coach Mike Pettine about why he wanted to be let out of his contract. That came after Johnny Manziel's first season, so maybe he was just so turned off to the thought of coaching him another year (and in hindsight, I don't blame him). However, given the stories we heard from his Washington days, I'd chalk it more up to him just not getting along with others the best.
I followed that up by talking with Jeanna Thomas from The Falcoholic. Obviously the Falcons are slightly happier with how things have turned out with Shanahan. She offered up this on his strengths and weaknesses.
Shanahan's weakness is probably his emotional intelligence, which, after Chip, may make the 49ers a little wary. He had a lot of conflict with the receivers in particular in his first season in Atlanta. I will say, though, he seems to have resolved that this season. The players have really grown to respect him, and I think those relationships are a lot healthier this season.
His biggest strengths, in my opinion, are his abilities to anticipate and adjust to defenses and his creativity. He has developed a comprehensive understanding of how to best feature the receiving talent Atlanta has to exploit defensive weaknesses, and his adjustments have been solid this season.
One interesting thing about Shanahan is that he can be abrupt as hell. I think he hates talking to the media, which I don't really hold against him. If you get him talking about his offense, though, he's really engaging and it's clear he's brilliant. I actually have really enjoyed covering him and I'll be disappointed when he leaves. He'd be a great choice for the Niners.