clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

No, Kyle Shanahan is not getting fired, but he needs to make changes

The Atlanta Falcons are scuffling on offense, and a lot of fingers are pointing toward Kyle Shanahan.

Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

The calls for Kyle Shanahan's head have gone from quiet murmurs to 75% serious in the space of a week, and while it's utterly ridiculous to think the Falcons might cut ties with Dan Quinn's hand-picked offensive coordinator nine weeks into his first season with Atlanta, the anger is understandable.

We've cycled through a series of explanations for why Matt Ryan and the passing game haven't been clicking all season long, but the simplest might be this: Ryan isn't playing as well in Kyle Shanahan's scheme, his secondary receiving options are either hurt or ineffective, and Shanny's scheme may be exacerbating both Ryan's poor throws and the disappearing act we've become accustomed to for Roddy White.

That's to say nothing of the ground game, which had been Shanahan's one unmitigated success in 2015. It was obvious the 49ers were going to load up and make stopping Devonta Freeman a priority, but Shanahan didn't attempt to ameliorate that as much as he just began to phase out the run. Freeman only wound up with 12 carries—and you can understand why Shanahan wasn't feeling too enthused, given that those went for just 12 yards—but the team's insistence on a pass-heavy attack and the complete lack of Tevin Coleman felt odd.

The net effect of these decisions and the attrition of the receiving corps is that the passing game is undeniably one-dimensional, and teams are going to prioritize stopping Freeman in the very accurate hope that the Falcons will continue to throw to their three most obvious targets over and over again. When everything's firing, Shanahan looks like a genius, because you can't cover three competent receiving options and stop a hard-charging running back behind an effective line all day. When it's not—and when the Falcons' receiving corps consists of Julio Jones, an aging Roddy White, two injured guys, a rookie, and a super scrappy Nick Williams—he looks like a man whose entire plan is to feed Julio Jones and pound the rock, and aside from the occasional Jacob Tamme hot read, there's not much of a Plan B.

To be clear, Shanahan enthusiastically embracing his inner Dirk Koetter and allowing Ryan more control with the no-huddle isn't going to fix every issue on this offense. The pass protection is still middling after a hot start, Roddy White isn't going to transform back into the tremendous option he was for so many years in Atlanta, and Matt Ryan's not going to magically stop forcing the ball to Julio Jones just because he has the option not to. Roddy wants more targets and undoubtedly should get more looks than he's getting, but after watching every game this season, I don't think anything less than a concerted effort to get him the ball is going to lift him up to his previous levels. This offense, as Allen Strk has frequently noted, desperately misses Leonard Hankerson as a second threat.

There's also little question that Shanahan is here for a while, unless some team wants to show a little leg and a lot of money and hire him away this offseason. The best thing for all parties is to figure out how to meld what's worked for Matt Ryan, Roddy White, and this passing game in the past with Shanahan's carefully crafted offense, which is designed to feed the ball to playmakers first and foremost. Bigger fixes will have to wait until the offseason, when the Falcons can add more talent to their receiving corps.