Kyle Shanahan, left, with Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III
Kyle Shanahan knows plenty about what it takes for an NFL offense to be highly productive.
For that reason, alone, he’s a good choice to become the Browns’ new offensive coordinator. What’s not to like about someone who, in six seasons in that capacity with two teams, has had offenses, passers, receivers, and running backs generate gaudy numbers?
But there are a couple of other reasons this hire makes sense.
And both relate to Kyle Shanahan’s somewhat turbulent four years as offensive coordinator with the Washington Redskins, who fired him at the end of the 2013 season.
Griffin’s tendency to run, and be exposed to repeated hits that eventually caused him to suffer a serious knee injury at the end of his rookie season, plus his sharp decline in 2013 reflected poorly on the Shanahans. Griffin apparently didn’t feel he had the younger Shanahan’s support, and their disconnect worsened throughout last season.
Was it all his fault? Probably not. RGIII, who felt empowered by his lofty draft status and considerable popularity with fans and close friendship with team owner Daniel Snyder, certainly had to accept some culpability. Close observers of the team also believed that Mike Shanahan should have done more to help repair the relationship between his son and the quarterback.
In 2010, the Shanahans’ first season in Washington, there was another problem that the father and son had with their quarterback, Donovan McNabb, who joined the Redskins that year in a trade with the Philadelphia Eagles. The biggest issue then was McNabb’s desire to run a different offense than the one the Shanahans were using, and that, coupled with the quarterback’s declining skills, led to McNabb’s benching in favor of Rex Grossman and eventual departure after one season.
Yet, through all of the turmoil, the Redskins’ offense still managed to set a franchise record in completions (349), while registering the team’s third-highest passing yards. The Redskins recorded a touchdown pass in 15 consecutive games for the first time in club history, and led the NFL with nine completions of at least 50 yards.
But the bright side of both unhappy coach-quarterback experiences is that it likely will give Kyle Shanahan a feeling that he has something to prove in his new gig.
He will want to show that he not only understands how to work well with a quarterback, but that he also is more than capable of maximizing his skills. He will learn from where things went wrong with McNabb and RGIII and build upon what went right.
Additionally, Kyle Shanahan’s joining the Browns gives him the chance to exit the large shadow cast by his father, who won two Super Bowls as head coach of the Denver Broncos.
The younger Shanahan no doubt will want this next phase of his career to be about what he can do without dad’s influence. And, although much of what he knows about the game and offense is from his father’s teachings, he no doubt will be determined to want to make an impact based on ideas and philosophies that he has developed on his own.
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