The current Falcons offensive coordinator was widely criticized for his last few seasons with RGIII. The offensive struggles in Washington were pinned on Kyle Shanahan, as well as head coach Mike Shanahan.
Kyle Shanahan moved on to mastermind Atlanta's prolific offense, while RGIII has been benched by another coaching staff. Sally Jenkins of the Washington Post discussed the mistake made by the team. Her terrific column is full of background on Shanahan.
It was untenable, of course, for Shanahan to stay in Washington as offensive coordinator after his old man Mike was fired. But what didn’t have to happen was the trashing of his reputation during the dysfunction-plagued seasons from 2010-2013. If Shanahan wants revenge for that this Sunday, he isn’t saying. A combination of a geneticist, behaviorist and child psychologist couldn’t crack the safe that is his head and spill what’s inside of it this week. Washington better hope he is distracted by revenge, as opposed to the detached mastery he has brought to destroying defenses during a 4-0 start for the Falcons.
As I mention in our upcoming score prediction thread, Shanahan has almost assuredly circled Sunday's date on the calendar. He was given a talented roster in Atlanta, and through four games, has been the creator of something very special. He can show the Washington fans and media that the earlier problems originated with everyone but himself.
The revenge aspect of this article may be the least interesting part. For years, the Falcons coaching staff has stubbornly stuck to their game plan, and refused to make changes across quarters, games, and even seasons. Shanahan may be the complete opposite.
He is seen as flexible, willing to create a new plan in mid-contest. Take what happened in a 39-28 victory over the Dallas Cowboys. The Falcons were forced to punt on three of their first four possessions and fell behind by 28-7. Shanahan made revisions in mid-game, and the Falcons scored on five of their next six drives.
"He has such a knack of how to attack," Quinn says, "and he can go from one play to the next play, set one up, go to the next one. . . . During all of the chaos of a game, he’s able to keep the focus where some people can’t."
Shanahan appeared to have gotten hired in part because his offenses are tough to game plan and understand.
Quinn says coordinators find themselves scratching their heads, saying, "Okay what is the system?" People can’t figure him out – a rare thing in a league that prides itself on analysis.
Back in 2011, Shanahan said, "I keep getting asked about my system. You know, I really don’t know what my system is. It’s whatever the weakness of the defense is."
Shanahan is exactly what Atlanta needed. Someone with creativity and adaptability that can match up with any team in the league. Not only has his uncanny ability to make adjustments lead to success, so has his relationship with the offensive personnel.
In Atlanta, Shanahan has earned respect for his scanner-like intelligence, and intuitive offensive grasp. And he has the loyalty of Matt Ryan, who was desperate for success. "The relation between him and Kyle Shanahan is so good because they both keep trying to push it further," Quinn says.
One of the things very apparent from the Dan Quinn regime is the closer relationship between coaches and players. The players appear more motivated, and happier, to be playing. Ms. Jenkins gets the impression Shanahan may feel the same way.
Watching Shanahan’s offense, you get a sense of love of craft, and that here is the real thing. The further he gets from Washington, the more his rookie-of-the-year work with Griffin looks like a marvel, especially given the backbiting environment. Just maybe the once-in-a-generation talent in that partnership was Shanahan. He is only 35, and it appears that he’s on course to cause Washington truly stinging embarrassment for years to come.
That is very impressive praise Shanahan has received, but based on his start for the Falcons, he earned every bit of it.