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Our weekly gamechanger post has featured a wide variety of topics. I went with "competition" the last time I wrote this piece. This week, I am going to go with one of our newest additions patrolling the sidelines. As big of a gamechanger as Mike Shanahan is, it is possible that his son is the bigger gamechanger in the family.
I don't put much stock in the premise that he is being groomed to succeed his father as our head coach. That scenario seems to fail more often than not. In fact, I would almost imagine guys would prefer to NOT be the "heir apparent". It is too easy to be swept out with the rest of the staff if and when things go sour.
What I do like about the "Kyle Shanahan Project" is that he seems kind of pre-destined to be a successful coach in this league. According to Bill Williamson, the Broncos beat reporter for the Denver Post back in 2006 (and now the AFC West blogger for ESPN), Kyle Shanahan "spent his life gearing toward coaching. X's and O's. O's and X's. It was the kid's life." Our current offensive coordinator is not a coach that was persuaded to take a job he wasn't sure he wanted (Sherman Smith), nor is he a coach that was persuaded not to retire (Greg Blache). Kyle Shanahan is exactly where he wants to be, in a job he has spent his life preparing to do. Given our struggles on the offensive side of the ball in recent years, I would say this is the kind of man we need at this post.
Here is a quote from Kyle Shanahan, transcribed by Bill Williamson of the Denver Post:
"I studied every potential X' and O's play and issue possible. I spent my whole life working on that. My goal was that any question a player could have about anything on the field, I'd be able to answer it. There's more to it. I'm learning that now. You have to communicate with your guys. The guys have to feel comfortable with you. They have to trust you, or they'll tune you out."
Add to that the emergence of Donovan McNabb on the sidelines and the communication between players and coaches would seemingly be already at a higher level than it was a year ago.
Even if things were not as bad as they were made out to be in recent years, it seems unrealistic to believe that there were no communication issues between the players and coaches. So I can appreciate Kyle's commitment to ensuring that players feel comfortable approaching the boss with questions and ideas, as well as the careful preparation for as many issues that could pop up as possible.
As for his coaching abilities, here are some facts I dug up for a previous post I wrote when we were rumored to be trying to hire him. He became the wide receivers coach for the Texans in 2006, and in 2008 he was promoted to the offensive coordinator position where he spent the last two seasons. As a fantasy football geek, I know how good the Texans' offense has been in that span, but most people don't realize how dominant they have been since they get overshadowed by the Colts. In his two years as offensive coordinator for the Texans they finished 3rd and 4th in the league in total offense. They averaged 22.9 points per game in 2008 and 24.2 points per game in 2009. This past season, they had the #1 passing offense...better than the Colts, Saints, and Patriots. They had the 4th highest total number of plays over 20 yards and the 4th highest total number of plays over 40 yards. Granted, their rushing offense was closer to the bottom than the top, but that only underscores the potency of their passing attack (as well as their reliance on it.) To be fair, Gary Kubiak deserves a ton of credit as well, and the combo of Andre Johnson and Matt Schaub is currently much better than anything we have going in D.C. But the year before Shanahan Jr. took over the offense it was 14th in the league.
So a Redskins team in need of great help on the offensive side of the ball gets not only an offensive minded head coach but also one of the hottest coordinators in the league.
Your Gamechanger of the week: Kyle Shanahan.