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Kyle Shanahan: ‘You have to go to a place that is committed to winning’

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The Falcons offensive coordinator met with the media on Wednesday. Here’s a transcript of his Q&A.

Soon to potentially be San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan met with the media on Wednesday in the run up to the Super Bowl. He might have one more media session on Thursday, but with the general head coach press conferences on Friday, this might be his last press session.

The NFL Communications department transcribes the press conferences, and I thought I would share Shanahan’s. On Wednesday, he talked about being considered a young coach, and the potential implications of becoming a head coach. The latter question led to him talking about his goals in potentially becoming a head coach. He talked about how his goal is to be a head coach for a long time, and the only way to do that is going to a place committed to winning.

I think we all hope and/or think the 49ers are committed to winning. If Shanahan does formally take the job next week, it’s safe to say he thinks the team is committed to winning. I mean, it’s not like he’d say, they’re a bit lukewarm right now, but I still feel good. We have one good hire thus far in Adam Peters (John Lynch could be, but obviously remains a blank slate), so hopefully things continue in the right direction.

(on being considered a young coach) “Not totally. I used to feel young. I don’t feel young anymore. This is my ninth year as a coordinator. When I started I was 28. Usually then I was younger than at least half of the guys. Now I’m 37, so I’m older than most of the guys. I think there’s a big advantage to being young. You can relate to the players a little bit more. Now at 37, I definitely don’t listen to all of the same music that they do, so I feel that I’ve aged a little bit. Some of it is still similar, but it’s different than the younger 20 guys.

(on potentiality of a head coaching job) It depends what your goals are. If I’m given the opportunity and things work out I would like to be a head coach for a long time. The only way to do that is you have to go to a place that is committed to winning. It’s not just the short term, but it’s the consistency over the long haul. You always want to look for a place is going to do everything it takes to win. What are their intentions? Is it to win a Super Bowl? Is it to market what it is? You have to look at all of that. Personnel plays a factor, but that changes year-in and year-out. You always want to look at the commitment to winning.”

(on maintaining balance of the Super Bowl and head coach interviews) “I’ve gotten used to it over the last month. It’s kind of been trying to balance both of them. I’ll tell you it has been easier for me in terms that we had a bye week. We had it going into the Seattle game and we had it after the Green Bay game, which getting that extra week and getting that couple of set days to deal with it has allowed me to not think about it at all. The two days that we’ve gotten off have allowed those opportunities to lock in those two days to days to deal with it. I can tell you that everything is great and I’m excited about everything, but when it comes to the Super Bowl – just growing up we went to six Super Bowls as a son of a coach. I remember going to all of those games. I remember crying afterwards when they lost and I remember crying after when they won. Those are memories that I’ve had for my whole life. They were my biggest moments and I was just a kid there watching it. The one thing that I know is that I’ll have no regrets about this Super Bowl. I’m 100 percent committed to thinking about this and I know from living my life and watching how it’s done from my dad that this game is something you remember forever and I would never do anything to jeopardize that.”

(on his evaluation of quarterback Matt Ryan) “Matt was one of the reasons I was most excited about the job. My first year as a quarterback coach was when Matt Ryan and (Ravens quarterback) Joe Flacco came out. They were both first round picks [and] I remember studying both of them real hard. One of the first guys I studied from out of college was (Ryan) and Joe (and they) were both such pure throwers and such good players. That’s kind of how I’ve seen every quarterback since then and there hasn’t been many like them, especially with Matt. I think Matt has been great. His entire career he’s been great. Coming out of college he was a guy that I always wanted a chance to work with and having this opportunity over the last two years, it’s been everything I’ve hoped for and more.”

(on the development of Ryan) “Anytime you have a guy who is just a pure, natural thrower [and] born to do that and who is definitely smart enough to handle it all and to keep his eyes downfield and a guy who is tough and hangs in the pocket and is really fearless – then just watching how he carries himself. The guy is impressive as a human being as you can be around. I think everyone notices that every time he talks. Whenever you have all of those attributes that’s kind of a coach’s dream. That’s what you look for. You know that he’s capable of doing anything and he’s got the passion and determination that he doesn’t mind the challenge and me there to push him to do more.”

(on whether he has spoken to his father Mike Shanahan about the similarities between their offensive schemes) “Sometimes. Those are things that I talk to my dad and my mom about my entire life. Growing up in high school, there is probably – you can ask my mom or my sister, but there is really not one dinner where eventually my mom or my sister was yelling at us to talk about something else besides football. Its been a process. Not only just preparing to be a coach, that’s always what I’ve naturally enjoyed. It’s something that I’ve looked at and talked about my entire life. Even though I wasn’t always a coach growing up I was just a kid like everyone else, but being around him and stuff I realized once I got into the league that a lot of those experiences is always talking and hearing about him. It’s helped me throughout my career.

(on whether he has spoken to his father Mike Shanahan about the similarities between their offensive schemes cont.) “I know when my dad went back to Denver and he had [Denver VP of Operations and General Manager] John [Elway]; he just won a Super Bowl at San Francisco where they were running a certain offense and that didn’t work the exact same way in Denver. There are things that John did differently than Steve Young and things that Steve Young did differently than John. You don’t always know that right away. You challenge guys and try to see what they can do and you start to realize that not everyone is the same that doesn’t make anyone better or worse. Everyone is different and you have to figure out what makes your players the best and the only way you can do that is you challenge them and you put them in situations that they’re not comfortable with. Then they get better at it as they go and sometimes you realize, you know what, this isn’t what he does best. Let me drop this and move to something else. It takes time.”

(on what he adapted from his father’s coaching style) “Working for my dad for the four years I did was a good experience. You always have an idea when you grow up of what I thought he was like. Then working with him for the first time in Washington you really get to see it and it was great. He was as good of a coach as I’ve been around. The thing that I respected the most about my dad [was that] no matter how tough it was he was always honest with people and he would shoot a player straight. He would come into his office [and] always let a guy know what he was thinking. He dealt with a lot of noise and stuff out there – whether it was in the media or whether it’s family members – whatever it is. People can go sideways with that so you always have to be able to address that stuff and call people in and speak to them one-on-one and let them know what you’re thinking. Most people that you deal with and that you’re honest with, most people respect you for that no matter how hard it is what you tell them. Players want to know the truth. They want to be coached hard and as long as you’re up front with people, I feel that really helps your relationships.”

(on how he would of handled being hired by the Denver Broncos) “I really enjoyed meeting with Denver. I hadn’t been around [President, Chairman & CEO] Joe Ellis and John Elway since high school. I definitely had a relationship with them then, but it’s been 20 years since then. I’m definitely different than when I was 15 [and] I think they were, too. It was nice to sit down with guys who I knew when I was younger and see how we’ve all changed. I spent five hours talking with people and you get to know those guys again. I thought it went great and I think they did, too. Obviously, they went with [Broncos Head Coach] Vance [Joseph] and I thought that was a great decision, too. I think that Vance Joseph is a hell of a coach. The whole thing with my dad having a history there, I don’t think that would have been as big of a deal to us as people say. I know that it would have been talked about a lot, but that really wasn’t what was exciting me about the place. It was more that their commitment to winning and what they’ve done over the last 20 years.”

(on adapting players to learn his offensive scheme) “You always do. You’re always adjusting. I don’t think we change much up at all from year one to year two. It’s more about sticking with it, continuing to teach, continuing to get better. Everything is difficult that’s new, whether it’s football or anything else, especially when you’ve been doing something else for a long time and have had success doing that. As people are trying to learn it you have to balance it out too. How can I keep challenging these guys to grow (and) at the same time, put guys in a comfortable position where they feel that they have done this a million time and will be successful. The more that you’re in an offense – especially the second year compared to a first year – it just gets easier. You have more reps, you have done it over and over again, you have done it against different looks. That’s how you grow. It’s going through those hard times and not completely abandoning what you’re not fully there yet at. Being able to adjust to give your players a chance to win, but continuing to push them so you can keep raising that ceiling.”

(on his chemistry with QB Matt Ryan) “I think it’s been like that throughout this year. We had times of it last year. We had a lot of success last year at times. Then we had some times where we hit some hard adversity. What got us to this point this year; it would have been harder to get here if we didn’t go through that last year together. You learn who people are when you go through adversity. We started out 5-0. Then we lost six games in a row. You lose two games in a row in the NFL and its Armageddon. We lost six. You really find out who people are during those times. To watch the pressure be on Matt, the pressure be on myself and to see how we handled it. It’s not all fun, it’s not all easy.”