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Christian McCaffrey explains what makes Kyle Shanahan such an impressive coach

Shanahan is the first established offensive mind to coach McCaffrey in the NFL

New Orleans Saints v San Francisco 49ers Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images

For as successful as Christian McCaffrey has been during his NFL career, this past season was only his second playoff run. McCaffrey, who turns 27 this June, had never played with an established offensive coaching mind in Carolina. Sure, Matt Rhule has that label, but he went 11-27 and wound up back at the college level after three seasons.

McCaffrey joined Pro Football Talk Live Wednesday, and spoke about how Kyle Shanahan is on a different level than any other coach he’s met:

“I’ve had some great coaches, and when I came to San Fran, I felt like a full rookie again. The things that I learned in the meetings, that I’m still learning in the meetings, and watching him watch tape is one of the coolest experiences I’ve had as a football player and to do that every day.

And when people say he’s a genius, and multiple people say he’s a genius, it’s not shocking to me because that’s the word I would use. To do what he’s done and to be able to string together different plays that are sustainable constantly in all of his years in the NFL is impressive.”

Shanahan has earned the genius title. For a while, the sub .500 record was used as a reason why he’s not a good coach. The 49ers just made the NFC Championship with a 7th-round rookie quarterback.

Aside from that, when you look at Shanahan’s offensive structure, he’s found a way to deceive opposing defenses by running what feels like six combined plays, just window dressed in dozens of different ways.

Chris Simms asked McCaffrey for something specific that impresses him about Shanahan:

“I think the first thing I learned is he understands all 22 positions and everyone’s job on every single play. He can teach you about the defense just as well as he can teach you about the offense.

And he knows exactly where the ball is supposed to go on each play. And there’s a purpose to every play, and sometimes the purpose might be to set up another play. And it’s the timing in which he calls the play, and it’s who he’s getting the ball to, and it’s when he’s getting the ball to me.

And that’s why you can be on your third-string rookie quarterback and still go on a huge run. It’s a sustainable offense. It’s one that works, and it’s one that’s worked for a long time, and I’m just extremely happy and revived to be a part of it.”

Shanahan has cross-trained his coaches on both sides of the ball. For example, Bobby Slowik, who is primed to become the Texans offensive coordinator after serving as the 49ers passing game coordinator this past season, was defensive quality control coach for two years under Shanahan.

Football becomes much easier, or maybe a better way to phrase it, much clearer, when you’re aware of everyone else’s job. It sounds like common sense, but not everyone approaches the game this way.

So from the coaching to the play designs to the play calls, McCaffrey joins a long line of people that’ve been impressed by Shanahan.