The San Francisco 49ers will be looking to welcome Kyle Shanahan in as their next head coach following Super Bowl 51. Once he is formally hired as head coach, Shanahan will begin the formal process of building out his coaching staff. Rumors are already circulating, and that will turn into a steady roar next week.
One position that will be interesting to track is offensive coordinator. Shanahan has spent his career as an offensive coordinator, and will have his specific ideas for the 49ers offense. The logical question then is whether or not Shanahan will be calling the plays. And even if the offensive coordinator handles the in-game play-calling, who has what say in shaping the offense? That will be one of many questions Shanahan gets in his first press conference as head coach.
I bring this up because on Thursday, in his final pre-Super Bowl media session, Shanahan talked about play-calling in Atlanta, among other things. After discussion about Matt Ryan’s skills and what he has done to improve, Shanahan was asked if Dan Quinn ever vetoes plays the former has called in. Shanahan said Quinn does not overrule them, which makes sense given Quinn’s focus on defense.
Shanahan said he has been lucky on this throughout his career, including with Mike Pettine in Cleveland. That remains me of this fantastic reaction Shanahan had when Pettine had a play suggestion back in 2014.
Here’s a transcript of some of Shanahan’s Thursday comments.
(on what he sees in QB Matt Ryan that makes him a great player) “Just his determination. Everybody is going to struggle in this league at some time, how are you going to react to that? Matt, to me, whenever he does struggle, he gets better the next week, he gets better the next practice. How do you handle adversity? Matt is a guy that’s always getting better. He definitely is tough, mentally. He can handle the pressure. He’s obviously very talented but it means a lot to him. He’s going to do whatever he can to fix any situation.”
(on if QB Matt Ryan made big step this year) “Definitely. I think he’s made a huge step it’s tough to make a huge step when you’ve had as good of a career as he has. Matt’s put the work in. He started working on this year, I want to say back in January last year. It showed the first time I saw him in OTAs. He’s attacked this year as hard as anyone I’ve ever seen attack a year and it’s really cool when you see someone put that much in and you get the results.”
(on New England’s ability to take away the top threat of opposing teams) “There are two mindsets. First thing is that other people need to step up. You have to make them pay for gravitating to one guy and stuff like that but also as a coach, that doesn’t mean you just want to ignore your best player the entire game. There’s a fine balance between that. You try to get a guy a ball but you also know that if you beat your head against the wall, that’s exactly what they want you to do. You have to mix it up. You have to attack coverages. You have to hope people step it up when you get it into the right spot when the opportunity is the best. But we also have to get him involved. So you have to see how the game’s going to play out and what you have to do to get him involved. The main thing is, it’s not so much up to Julio (Jones), it’s going to be up to the rest of the guys.”
(on the ability of Atlanta’s running backs and tight ends in the passing game) “It’s huge. It’s what makes things easier. Just as a coach and as a quarterback, you can call plays and truly focus on attacking coverages as a play caller and as a quarterback. The only way you can do that is if you have confidence that other guys can win the matchups. If you take away your best guy and you have confidence in a tight end winning his matchup, four other receivers can, both of our backs can – then it allows you not to ever feel handcuffed to anything. That’s what we’ve done throughout the year. Our guys have stepped up. People double teaming Julio and try to take him out of the game definitely isn’t something new to us. It’s something I’ve learned since I got here last year and this year. People get pretty creative with it. They should. Julio definitely deserves that respect. They’ve made us go other places and this year, guys have done a great job with it.”
(on sticking to what Atlanta has been doing and not changing) “You have to. Everyone kind of just does what they do. You don’t want to reinvent the wheel. This is such a sound, good scheme that we’re going against with very good players that you have to take what they give you and you have to see how it works out. People overrate all of this. It’s not as complicated on both sides of the ball as people make it out to be. It’s going to be a tough game, both from the run game and in the pass game. We’re going to have to play very well. This is the biggest challenge we’ve had all year. I think everyone can see that, numbers wise, that the Patriots are the best defense in the league numbers wise. If you turn on the tape, you see exactly why. They’re tough to score against, they make you work for everything and you have to be on.”
(on if Head Coach Dan Quinn ever vetoes plays that Shanahan calls during the game) “He really doesn’t, I promise. It’s actually unbelievable. If I was in your shoes, I would think I was lying also. Dan’s one of a kind. He trusts people, he’s extremely genuine, he’s got a lot of confidence in people and he lets you go. If he starts talking, he’ll be like, ‘Hey, I’m sorry. I don’t want to mess you up. You go.’ He’s been great with it. He trusts the preparation we do on offense. He trusts how we work with it. He’ll always talk and help and we have a ton of discussions. It’s made me a better coach. When game day comes, he’s really as good as you can be around.”
(on how unusual it is for a head coach to always agree with what an offensive coordinator calls in game) “I think it is pretty unusual. I haven’t been a ton of places. Every situation is different but I’ve been fortunate where I’ve been. I didn’t get that in Washington at all and (Mike) Pettine was really good about that in Cleveland too. Dan (Quinn) has really never done it, so he’s been the best so it’s been great.”