*Please note – all quotes in this piece are from Mike Shanahan
The NFL has a slogan: Football is Family. When it comes to the Shanahan family, that saying is absolutely true. I had the opportunity to talk exclusively with Mike Shanahan about his son and the head coach of the San Francisco 49ers, Kyle Shanahan, 49ers’ general manager John Lynch, and what it takes to be a successful coach in the NFL.
The Early Years with the Red and Gold
Long before Kyle Shanahan was the toast of the town in San Francisco, his father Mike Shanahan was the offensive coordinator for the 49ers and was a major force in the team’s win in Super Bowl XXIX. His offense shined that entire season, capping it off with the ultimate victory, making it even more special that his son’s first head NFL head coaching job is with the red and gold.
“When I was with San Francisco, Kyle was at the 49ers training camps in Rocklin. He stayed with me at camp and we talked about football every night. He had the opportunity to experience an organization that had won four Super Bowls in nine years. He also had the opportunity to be around some great people and leaders. He still tells stories and talks about people like Steve Young, Joe Montana, Harris Barton, Tom Rathman, Jerry Rice, John Taylor, Deion Sanders, and many others. What a great experience to see how these men handled themselves on and off the field.”
After his tenure with the Niners, Mike Shanahan went on to coach the Denver Broncos to two Super Bowl wins, and while he was the head coach of the Washington Redskins, Kyle was his offensive coordinator.
“You really don’t know how any coordinator, let alone your son, will do until he gets in front of the offensive team and installs your eight-day installation scheme. Players and coaches know very quickly if a coach knows what he’s talking about. The next test is how well you can implement a game plan or adjust your game plan during a game. The next test is how you adjust your offense to your personnel and injury situations.
I really thought Kyle’s best coaching job was with the Redskins in 2012 with six new starters on offense, a rookie quarterback, rookie running back, and new offense scheme.”
Considering Mike’s Shanahan’s success, that’s saying something.
The elder Shanahan knows firsthand what it is like to go from coordinator to head coach, which is an experience that can only be a benefit to his son.
“Kyle had been in five different NFL organizations in 13 different NFL seasons, and every organization does things differently. When you’re a head coach for the first time, it’s up to you to set the culture and direction of the whole organization.
What’s your philosophy on offense, defense, and special teams? What characteristics are you looking for in your players? What are the weaknesses and strengths of the organization? What are the qualities of a Super Bowl winner?
You’re looking at every facet of the organization, knowing it’s up to you, your GM, and the owner to make sure you all are on the same page and speaking the same language. Players see holes in organizations very quickly.”
The Benefit of the John Lynch Factor
Making the transition smoother for Kyle is the relationship between him and general manager John Lynch. Being like-minded and open communication will make this new regime work and work well.
Going along with that is the benefit of having a GM who played in the NFL and has experience in various aspects of the game.
“I don’t think the 49ers could have hired a better general manager than John Lynch. He’s an extremely bright person and a natural leader. I saw it every day in Denver when John was with the Broncos. He knew what offenses would be doing before the ball was snapped. He was a coach on the field. That’s why he was a captain throughout his career. He was also a QB at Stanford under Bill Walsh, having the background to understand how offenses attack defenses. John knows how to prepare.”
In addition to his time on the field, Lynch’s time as a broadcaster with FOX Sports forced him to study parts of the game in a different way, a way that will serve him well as a GM.
“And then to be in the broadcast booth for nine years, John has had the opportunity to talk to some of the best head coaches, coordinators, position coaches, and players in the business; understand their beliefs and philosophies. He is also smart enough to know what he doesn’t know and will not be afraid to hire the best supporting cast. I have known John and Linda for over 15 years and don’t know one person that doesn’t like both of them.”
49ers fans everywhere agree.
49ers fans also agree that one would be hard-pressed to find a person who understands the game better than Kyle Shanahan. He is not only a student of the game; he is an honors student of the game.
“He loves the game and knows it inside and out. My advice to him is to never lose the drive to study the game as he’s done over the last 13 years. To stay in the NFL as a head coach and have success for any length of time, you must never lose your drive to teach and stay abreast of what the top teams are doing every year. Offense, defense, special teams. You must be able to coach all positions to really understand the whole game.
Nowhere does that apply more than coaching in the Super Bowl. Kyle Shanahan certainly experienced the lowest low of football when the Atlanta Falcons lost to the New England Patriots in this last one. The Falcons were up with 25 points with 18 minutes left in the game, before the Pats scored 31 points, forcing overtime and winning maybe the greatest Super Bowl ever.
But, the show must go on and a coach can do nothing but learn from what happened and apply it in the future.
“Own it. Give the reason for why you called it. Move on. Learn from it. I can tell you from personal experience that my lowest low in all of football was getting blown out in my first three Super Bowl appearances. You never know if you will get another chance.”
Are You Ready for Some Football?
Well, it’s a new day, a new team, and a new season on the horizon. It’s going to be a lot of new for Kyle, because it’s not just the offense anymore. He has an entire team to take care of, and that’s not easy. But Mike’s not concerned. Kyle’s got this.
“As a head coach, you must make sure that everyone knows how important their role is within the organization. Whatever role you have, you must be the best at what you do. To win Super Bowls, that is a must. That’s why the 49ers won four Super Bowls in nine years and five in 14 years. Everyone knew their role and their goal.”
I would imagine that’s pretty cool to have been a successful head coach in the NFL and now watch your son take
on his first year in that position. But it’s probably even cooler to know that you’ve raised not only a good coach, but you’ve raised a good man.
“He’s a great father, a great husband, and has a lot of terrific friends. He takes pride at his job and wants to be the best at what he does. I don’t believe he will leave any stone unturned in his preparation.”
Mike Shanahan falls under the Bill Walsh coaching tree. Kyle Shanahan comes from the Mike Shanahan coaching tree. Faithful, we’re gonna be alright. Go Niners!