Kyle Shanahan, center, with new Browns defensive coordinator Jim O'Neil, left, and special teams coach Chris Tabor
The insecurity of coaching in the NFL has never made Kyle Shanahan the least bit squeamish about the profession.
“I’ve grown up a son of a coach,” he said. “I’ve been in the NFL since I was four years old, so that’s really all I knew growing up.”
Along the way, Shanahan discovered that people in that line of work are fired as easily as they’re hired.
It was among the many lessons he learned from being around his father, Mike Shanahan, who has been fired as an NFL head coach three times, including twice since winning back-to-back Super Bowls with the Denver Broncos.
At 34, Kyle Shanahan finally got his first bitter taste of what it was like to be dismissed. That happened on Dec. 30, when the Washington Redskins let him go as offensive coordinator while also parting ways with his father, who was their head coach.
Yet, Kyle Shanahan plunged right back into those murky coaching waters earlier this week when he agreed to become the new offensive coordinator of the Cleveland Browns.
Shanahan insists he wasn’t at all dissuaded by the fact the Browns’ previous head coach, Rob Chudzinski, and most of his staff, including offensive coordinator Norv Turner, were shown the door only 11 months after being hired. Shanahan also insists that the one-and-done experience of his predecessor doesn’t cause him to feel greater pressure than he did during his two seasons as an offensive quality control assistant with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2004-05), the four seasons he spent as a receivers coach, quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator with the Houston Texans (2006-09), or the past four seasons as his father’s offensive coordinator in Washington.
“Not at all, and I can honestly say that,” he said. “This is my 11th year (as a coach in the league). I’m used to the NFL. There’s pressure in everything. You do understand in this league, and for good reason, if you don’t win, you’re not going to live there. You’re going to be moving somewhere else.
“That’s part of the business.”
It’s the part Mike and Peggy Shanahan no doubt had in mind when they did their best to talk their son out of following in his dad’s footsteps.
“But once they realized that that was not an option – I mean, that’s just who I was and there was no other choice in what I was going to do – then I think they were excited I got into it,” Kyle Shanahan said. “Because if you look at it that way and you’re ready for that type of life, you’re going to enjoy it. It’s done a lot of good things for me growing up and hopefully it can do the same thing for my family right now as my kids get older.”
Any anxiety he might feel over the thought of being fired again doesn’t overshadow the sheer exhilaration of building a productive offense that can help the Browns finally become a winner.
Shanahan embraces the enormous challenge that has gotten the better of Turner and his predecessor, Brad Childress, and the offensive coordinators and head coaches before them.
“You’ve got to be passionate about what you do,” he said. “You’ve got to enjoy football. Coaching’s not for everybody. You’ve got to be able to live and die it.
“I love football and I’m excited to be at a place where … the fans feel the same way. And I’ve been in cities where football’s big, but it’s not always the number one thing. My family is the most important thing in my life. But after that, there’s only one other thing, and that’s football.
“And I feel you’re in a city where a lot of people share that same passion. And what a better place to win than a place like this?”
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