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Kyle Shanahan enters 2016 in the eye of the storm

There are many things Shanahan has to worry about it in 2016, and approximately zero of those will loom if the offense just plays well.

Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

It's easy to forget, now, but after five weeks of the 2015 season, pundits were talking about Kyle Shanahan as a legitimate head coaching candidate. He had the Falcons' offense humming, Devonta Freeman was a one-man wrecking crew, and the Falcons were undefeated. And then the wheels came off, and Shanahan's name became a vile curse among fans.

It's still that way today, but there's enough distance from the Falcons' 2015 season (and enough hope for 2016) that the hatred for Shanahan has died down to a low roar. While I'm certain that Shanahan himself isn't losing a ton of sleep over what fans think of him, there's no point in denying that this is the quiet time for him, before the Falcons' play on the field determines whether he's forgiven for some of the quirks of 2015 or figuratively (maybe literally) run out of Atlanta on the rails.

You can see that Shanahan has genuine influence in the building, because the Falcons went out and picked up some fairly major pieces on an offense that features Matt Ryan, Devonta Freeman, Julio Jones, and Jake Matthews this offseason, including free agent center Alex Mack, free agent receiver Mohamed Sanu, and rookie tight end Austin Hooper. You can pick your side of the debate here, but clearly Shanahan felt the team needed added talent on offense to be what he wants it to be, and he was able to secure that despite a laundry list of needs on defense for Atlanta. The question is whether that will translate into increased success, and there's a lot riding on that for a team still lacking a great defense and facing a tougher schedule.

It doesn't matter what goes wrong or how, because if the offense struggles again in 2016, the vast majority of fans (and many analysts) are going to hold Kyle Shanahan responsible. I hope he's enjoying the relative peace and quiet of May, and I hope the offense is so good that we're having the head coaching conversation again this year, and not, uh, the other one.