What Kyle Shanahan is Really Like

Grant Cohn

Did a podcast Wednesday with my dad talking about some of the key personalities on the 49ers. Here is Kyle Shanahan.

In Kyle Shanahan’s head, there’s a football field, and he’s always designing plays on it. He can’t stop. He’s a creative artist, and decidedly inward, the way creative people are.

Shanahan lives in his head.

He is capable of being social, but would rather spend the day alone drawing plays in an office. Bill Walsh was the same way.

Shanahan probably is the 49ers’ most creative offensive coach since Walsh. Shanahan isn’t always a brilliant play caller -- he makes some strange decisions in the fourth quarter of Super Bowls when the pressure is on. But Shanahan certainly is a flat-out brilliant play designer. He might be the best in the NFL right now, even better than Chiefs head coach Andy Reid. No one gets players more wide open than Shanahan. Every coach worth his salt studies Shanahan’s offensive scheme and steals from it. That’s standard homework.

Shanahan is so into his offense, he may not want input from other people. Again, Walsh was the same way. He grew out of that mentality, and Shanahan may as well.

This offseason, Shanahan decided not to sign Tom Brady, who was a free agent. Shanahan had lots of reasons not to sign him, but one might have been Brady’s age and experience. Brady is two years older than Shanahan and has won six Super Bowls. Brady probably would want input on the scheme. He might tell Shanahan, “I don’t like this play; it doesn’t work for me.” And Shanahan might feel threatened. Just a theory.

Shanahan is complicated. He’s nice, but also extremely blunt and honest. Sometimes he comes across as negative, because he doesn’t coddle players. Most modern coaches are coddlers. Shanahan tells players the truth. And he tells the media the truth about his players. From a journalist’s perspective, Shanahan is a gift from God.

Most coaches obscure the truth. They say, “I have to look at the film first.”

Shanahan never would say that. It’s beneath him.

Comments (8)
No. 1-8
TommyKnockers
TommyKnockers

Good piece. I am surprised at how little criticism KS has attracted. In particular, the last two minutes of each half. I understood why he didnt want to give Mahomes the ball with time at the clock at the end of the first half but cant get the long bomb call to Sanders at the end of the game which would have given 1 and a half minutes to Mahomes to score back. Firstly its better to gamble when you still have a chance to recover, so going for it at the end of the first half makes more sense than going for it at the end of the game. Secondly if you are going for it at the end of the game, having gone for it at the end of the first half, your offense will be more keyed in. There was also enough time to run the ball a few times and get the yards in chunks. Coaches tend to want to show how brilliant they are in the big games, rather than rely on what got them there in the first place (eg not giving Gore the ball four times on the goal-line). KS, tactical genius, strategic, pupil?

Hackphx
Hackphx

Nice insight into a complicated guy. We all appreciate what he’s doing, but using his same standard, he has areas where he can get better. The first is the aforementioned inability to prevent snowballing when things are turning against his plan. Maybe he’s deaf to outside input.
The second is allowing the defensive coordinator to force players into uncomfortable roles. He’s wonderfully adaptive on offense, but has Solly wasting development opportunity on the Edge, like a Michael Bennett, for three years. There’s Moore wasting time learning the corner when he’s got Safety written all over him. Did anyone else feel that we carried Malcolm Smith well past usefulness. Could be that Spoon is in that same warp. Shanahan may well be one of the 5 best coaches in the league, but he too can improve...as long as we are talking truth.

Matt Solorio
Matt Solorio

radical, man

bbruneauca
bbruneauca

First of all we all know that three scores was the minimum to be safe from Mahonnes. We came so close. At the end of the first half, if the refs didn't call that insane offensive interference call we would have had at least another three but that wouldn't be quite enough. Did we have enough time for one more play? Really agree with Shanahan that a timeout before the end of game overthow could have made a huge difference. Shanahan made the calls but oftimes they weren't carried out successfully. I am very very happy that he is our coach.

Daniners
Daniners

Shanahan reminds me a bit of a young Bellichick. Defensively, Bellichick was a genius. Best in NFL during the '80s. Not a very charismatic guy. At Cleveland, he struggled. Had his moments, but struggled. Shanahan has had some struggles but overall done well. However, in SB's he's made big mistakes, costly ones. My hope, like Bellichick, is that he learns from them, improves and reaches his potential...to be a dominant coach in the NFL. I think he can. I think Bellichick thinks he can. Which is why he has such an affinity for him. Similar, obsessive creatures. Just like Walsh.

Footballfan55
Footballfan55

He is definitely a guy that likes to analyze and think about football internally. That's what makes it so great when we get that emotion out of him on the sidelines.

Grant Cohn
Grant Cohn

Editor

Thanks, Palo Alto Mike.

Palo Alto Mike
Palo Alto Mike

Very good article....most enjoyable.


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