Earlier this week, Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan sat down with CBS Sports analyst Pete Prisco to discuss the Super Bowl loss, and how the team is moving forward. Ryan had some pointed comments about Kyle Shanahan’s play-calling. He was not a fan of the plays called, but he also was critical of the time it took to get the plays in. It prevented him from audibling out of them.
Shanahan met with the 49ers media on Thursday, and naturally Ryan’s comments were mentioned. Shanahan was asked if there was validity to what Ryan said about the timing of getting plays in. He was also asked about needing to be more cognizant of play-calling timing given all his other game-day responsibilities as head coach.
Shanahan acknowledged he can always improve on timing, but he also prides himself on getting plays in relatively quickly during his time in Atlanta. As Shanahan pointed out in his comments, the Falcons did not have a single delay of game penalty during his two years as offensive coordinator. Matt Maiocco tweeted that the 2016 Denver Broncos were the only other team during the past two seasons to go all year without that penalty. The 49ers had one last year under Chip Kelly, and two the year before under Jim Tomsula.
Delay of game penalties are the easiest measurement when it comes to speed of getting plays in, but there is plenty more to consider. A play could get in with enough time to run it, but not enough time to audible or get a full read of the defense at the line. It’s a little more difficult to track that kind of thing, but it is plenty important in executing an effective offense.
Shanahan talked about Ryan’s comments, and that dovetailed into a discussion about the leeway Brian Hoyer will have when it comes to audibles.
Perhaps you’ve heard Atlanta Falcons QB Matt Ryan had some comments. I’ve got a two-part question for you as far as he talked about the timing and the play calling. One, is it valid, and two, now that you’re a head coach and also the play caller, do you have to be cognizant of being on top of it even more than you had because you’ve got so many other responsibilities this year in addition to play calling?
KS: “Yeah of course. Any play caller that you talk to that’s usually one of the most important things and something I pride myself on a lot, is how quick can you get a play call into a quarterback. And the quicker you do the more comfortable it is, not just for him but the entire offense. They’re not panicked, they’re being able to move to the line. And with me as a coordinator personally, I try almost every situation to get it in as fast as possible. And I can be honest, there’s sometimes I do better than others. There are sometimes I don’t do it as good. There’s sometimes I do it real good. That’s something that we all work at and one thing I can say about our two years in Atlanta that I was happy with and happy with the whole entire offense that we were the only team in the NFL that went two straight years without one delay of game. I’ve never done that in my entire career and I don’t think many other teams have. There were times we did better than others, but what I was really proud of those guys on offense, which is a lot of credit to Matt and the rest of the guys, that regardless when we did get it in, two years straight without a delay of game and being the only team to even do that one year I think was a pretty impressive task. We did a good job of that as a whole.”
Is there any way you could give your quarterback, how much leeway will you give Brian to change the call and what’s the process for that?
KS: “Yeah, there’s two different types of systems and I think people make a huge deal about it, but some people get right up to the line and they don’t ever move. They have a play call that’s premier versus specific coverage. They don’t have as many hot routes built in. They have guys blocking in and they are all deep routes. So, if you don’t get the right looks you have to check and audible. That’s stuff you guys see [former NFL QB] Peyton Manning do every single play of his career. It’s stuff you’ve seen Matt do a lot of his career. Then there’s the type of systems that you have certain plays designed where if it’s not the premier look you have another answer. You’re supposed to go to the guy on the backside. There’s a quick route right there. There’s a guy in the flat. There’s some type of other answer. It depends on how you build your system. There’s no right or wrong answer. Both have their pluses and minuses. I believe in playing fast and not having to get up there and sit at the line forever and have to look at all these things and get yourself into the perfect play. As a play caller, I always try to call the perfect play, which doesn’t happen all the time. If it’s not the perfect play, there’s usually four other options that you’ve just got to adjust to and either get an incompletion or get a smaller gain. But, it’s not, ‘Hey, if I don’t call the perfect play, you check and get us into the perfect play.’ I’ve been in systems like that and it’s just what your opinion is and there’s really no right answer, but I was pretty happy with how our system worked in Atlanta and I’ve been confident with players playing fast and not putting so much pressure on them to fix every play that the coordinator calls. I like to put a little more on myself and I want them when I do call a bad play, we’ll give you an answer. Just get rid of it and go right there.”
In other words, so if the audible is built into--?
KS: “There’s certain plays in a game, we don’t have as many of them as other people where, ‘Hey, all these guys are blocking. You don’t have any quick answer versus these three looks that they’ve shown on tape. So if you get there and it’s these three looks they’ve shown on tape, we’ve got to audible to this. However, usually those plays in our system, I just call two plays and I say if you get that look change it to the other play. So, just depends how you do it.”