Kyle Shanahan was the offensive coordinator for Cleveland in 2014, and game 3 against the Baltimore Ravens had a lot of interesting things going on, for Niners fans. Brian Hoyer had held off rookie Johnny Manziel for the starting QB job, and the play action pass was working beautifully. Ravens fullback Kyle Juszczyk scored his first NFL touchdown on a short pass. And Shanahan dialed up a brilliant trick play.
Though Hoyer was the clearcut starter, Manziel came in on first down for one snap. After a loss of a yard, it was 2nd and 11 at Cleveland’s 38 with 5:57 left in the 2nd quarter. Manziel had come in for just one play earlier in the season, and the announcer told viewers that “Shanahan likes to do this.”
Then Hoyer returned as Johnny Football jogged toward the sideline and stood there chatting with Shanahan. What the Ravens didn’t notice what the the rookie never stepped out of bounds — a different Brown left the field unobtrusively.
The OC and the QB kept chatting earnest until the ball was snapped — when Manziel took off down the sideline for a 39 yard catch and run.
On the replay, you can actually see Shanny wave his clipboard to say GO!
Unfortunately, running back Terrance West was flagged for an illegal shift and the play was called back. Cleveland end up losing narrowly (23-21) but it was a surprise that the Browns — 4-12 the previous year — gave Baltimore that much of a game.
Really, this play reflects badly on the Ravens as much as it flatters Shanahan. Whoever was calling plays on the defensive side for Baltimore should have noticed that there only appeared to be 10 players on the offense, since Manziel was obviously not noticed. But that’s part of the planning. A good coach (or quality control assistant) notices any less than fundamentally sound tendencies on film and plans trick plays to take advantage of them.
In any case, it’s fun. And for Niners fans, it’s a taste of Shanahan’s cleverness, something to look forward to this year.