As Vaughn McClure noted in a recent piece, the Falcons can’t afford to get distracted by Kyle Shanahan’s impending move to San Francisco (well, Santa Clara) to be the new coach of the 49ers. Shanahan will have a ton of power there, the #2 pick in the draft, and the chance to bring a marquee franchise back to relevance, though there are obviously major risks. I hate that he’s going, but I understand it.
The Falcons understand it, too, and they’ll do their level best not to be distracted by it. The reality is that they’ve probably planned for this contingency, given Shanahan’s popularity as a coaching candidate through the first half of last year and most of this season, and so there’s probably a plan in place they can execute on after their season ends, whenever that may be. While I don’t want to dwell on what that plan may be, given that the Falcons are about to play one of the biggest games of my lifetime, I do want to note a couple of things.
- The candidate will likely be promoted from within, assuming Kyle Shanahan does not take all his buddies with him;
- The candidate, if he does end up being promoted from within, will not have any NFL game-calling experience
The latter point is an important one. We assume that the Falcons will want to keep as many of Shanahan’s concepts intact as possible, and one of the ways to do that would be to keep around staff who have worked with him in the past. The problem is that Shanahan has had coaches like Matt LaFleur and Mike McDaniel on his staff for a long time, and will almost certainly take one of them with him to serve as his de facto offensive coordinator, even if Shanahan is going to call plays himself.
So who are these candidates? Here’s four McClure highlights in his latest piece, plus one more suggestion.
Given his rapport with Matt Ryan and long experience with Shanahan, current quarterback coach LaFleur makes a ton of sense if the Falcons want to promote from within. The problem, of course, is that Shanahan may want to bring LaFleur
McDaniel has been a hot name after McClure, Britt McHenry, and Ian Rapoport all separately reported he’d be the team’s top choice if Shanahan were to leave. A bright guy and longtime offensive assistant under Shanahan, McDaniel would be an unorthodox choice to leap up to coordinator. If he’s as bright and creative as he’s reputed to be, though, he could be a good one.
In many ways, Morris would be a weird choice, given that he’s coached offense for just one year as the team’s receivers coach. He is, it is known, extremely close with Dan Quinn and well-regarded by the team as a coaching mind, so I don’t view it as a huge longshot that he’d be considered for the gig. You would need to surround him with experienced offensive coaches, however, which would be difficult if Shanahan poaches staff members.
The only non-Shanahan connection here outside of Morris, Morgan is a longtime offensive line coach with deep ties to the Seahawks and Quinn. He doesn’t have any play calling experience, but then again, neither does anyone else on this list, really.
The team’s running backs coach is highly regarded and has done terrific work with Devonta Freeman, Tevin Coleman, Patrick DiMarco and even Terron Ward. He’d be an interesting choice because he’s insanely experienced as a running backs coach, has been part of quality offenses at nearly every stop, and has coordinator experience from his days at Purdue in the early 90’s.
The truth is that we don’t know who will be up for the gig, just that given this coaching staff’s history and emphasis on continuity and development, they’re more likely than not to promote from within. My best guess—emphasis on guess—is that it’ll be either LaFleur or Morris, but do share your best guess with us.