Kyle Shanahan, the coach’s son, has endured jabs

The advantage to having “Shanahan” as a last name is every other coach knows your lineage. Without his more famous father, Kyle Shanahan probably would not have made it past the secretary when Jon Gruden was hiring a quality-control coach at Tampa Bay 11 years ago, the assumption being that X’s-and-O’s don’t fall far from the coaching tree.

But that door swings both way.

Pampered. Enabled. Brat. Obnoxious. Know-it-all.

Is there anything that wasn’t said about the son of Mike Shanahan, usually from double-secret sources in the shadows?

“You better be good at what you do,” Kyle Shanahan, the Falcons’ new offensive coordinator said Tuesday. “When you coach with your dad, you realize quickly if you don’t do good, it’s going to be tough. People asked me in Washington, ‘Well, when you were in Denver.’ But I was like, ‘I was never in Denver. This is my first year with my dad.’ Nobody knew that. Nobody really cared. To any coaches who will coach with their dad, I’d probably say, ‘That’s all right. But you better go win the Super Bowl.’”

The Falcons have a lot of to prove after the past two seasons. Their new offensive coordinator is right there with them.

After ups and downs and nuclear meltdowns in Washington and Cleveland, Kyle Shanahan landed in Atlanta with Matt Ryan as his quarterback and Julio Jones and Roddy White as his top two receivers. The Falcons were 4-12 and 6-10 the past two years, but to Shanahan this looks like the football version of Ray Kinsella’s cornfield.

In Cleveland, he was saddled with Johnny Manziel, a draft pick seemingly forced on the Browns’ coaching staff by their owner, Jimmy Haslam. Manziel has been a disaster on the field and is now in a recovery program off of it. Receiver Josh Gordon also missed most of the season with a drug suspension.

In Washington, Shanahan worked for Dan Snyder (think: Haslam after several Red Bulls) and coached an offense with a worn Donovan McNabb, Rex Grossman and Robert Griffin III (whose meteoric rookie season was exceeded only by his spectacular sophomore crash). Shanahan’s offenses had two strong years in Houston and some success with Griffin, but grease fires in D.C. and Cleveland eclipsed that in the minds of critics.

But Quinn intended to hire Shanahan last year when he was interviewing for head coaching jobs, and he contacted him again when it was clear he would land a top job after this season. Both are proponents of the zone-read offense. Shanahan also has shown an ability to design successful big passing plays. Despite Cleveland’s problems, it led the NFL at 12.6 yards per completion.

Expect two things from the Falcons’ offense: Linemen “are going to run a lot more than they ever have before,” Shanahan said, and plays designed to blow the top off a defense.

Shanahan said leaving Cleveland was a difficult decision. I think he said that to be nice. Multiple reports said he actually presented Browns coach Mike Pettine with a 32-point presentation on why he wanted out of his contract.

“A lot of that is speculation. I had my reasons,” he said Tuesday.

Thirty-two reasons?

“No. There weren’t that many. I talked to coach Pettine and he understood. It wasn’t anything personal. If they didn’t let me do it, I would’ve made the best out of it.”

He denied there was an overriding reason for wanting out. He denied the NFL’s current investigation into whether a Browns executive sent text messages to the sideline during games was a reason.

“That didn’t pertain to me,” he said. “There were things but nothing I can get into.”

He didn’t hide his feelings on the personal attacks in Washington, particularly in 2013, when the team finished 3-13 and father and son were fired. There were stories of power struggles, with the Shanahans on one side and Griffin and Snyder on the other. A story painted an unflattering picture of the franchise in general, but Kyle Shanahan in particular. A former team employee said, “Kyle bitches about everything, and then his father has to fix it. He bitches about the food in the cafeteria, he bitches about the field, he bitches about the equipment. He complains and then Mike takes care of it. Kyle is a big problem there. He is not well-liked.”

I’m not sure what the salad bar has to do with football, but welcome to the world of bitter ex-employees and unnamed sources.

Shanahan and I were in a quiet office at Falcons’ headquarters Tuesday, following his introductory news conference, when I recounted that quote to him.

“I know that article,” he interjected quickly.


“You deal with it,” he said. “It’s tough, especially when people question who you are as a person. People don’t know you. When you’re a coordinator, you’re a boss to a lot of people. It’s hard to do your job the right way for a long time and hold people accountable and have everybody love you. I’ve worked hard. I would say 90 percent of the people I’ve worked with feel the same way. The other people who you’ve had to move on from take it personal.” They’re going to come back and get you at some point. It’s not the end of the world.”

Shanahan acknowledged the personal attacks were difficult to deal with, but said, “I feel hardened to that stuff. You’re not happy because someone writes a good article about you. You’re not unhappy because someone writes a bad one. If the good one makes you feel like you’ve made it, you’re going to get crushed when the bad one comes out.”

He attended training camps with his father since he was in the second grade. Coaching was in his blood. But he wanted to prove himself before coaching with his father, so he went to Houston first, and the Texans’ offense ranked third and fourth in two years.

In Atlanta, he’ll work for a Quinn, not a Shanahan. He’ll coach an established starter, Ryan, not a train wreck. “There’s a lot of good quarterbacks on this planet, but there’s probably only five, maybe eight (in) a given year that people aren’t trying to replace,” he said.

It’s a comfortable starting point. We’ll see where the team and the name go from here.