Kyle Shanahan is no stranger to a challenge. In fact, he embraces challenge.
And in becoming the new offensive coordinator for the Cleveland Browns, Shanahan is looking forward to the challenge of mentoring an offense that scored 182 of the team’s 308 points in 2013.
“You see some talent on the team,” Shanahan said at the coordinators’ press conference Thursday. “You see some young players. The organization’s committed to winning. They’re going to do whatever they can to win. When you get the right people in the right places, I feel it’s as good of a situation as any. I’m very excited to be here.
“Growing up a coach’s son, I learned a ton. I understand it’s part of the NFL. You’ve got to succeed and win games to stay places. Unfortunately, they haven’t done that enough here, and when that does happen, people make changes. That’s part of the business. That’s what you expect getting into this business.”
As part of his transition from the Washington Redskins to the Browns, Shanahan plans to “evaluate everybody” on the roster and then, figuring out what the team is strongest at before identifying what system he wants to utilize.
“That’s my job to do that, do that as best as I can and give an honest opinion,” Shanahan said. “You work hard, you look at a lot of tape and you give them your true, honest opinion. Then, the people that make those decisions decide off that.
“There’s lots of ways you can win in this game. There’s lots of ways to move the ball, lots of ways to score touchdowns. Everybody does it differently. I’ve been a coordinator for six years, played with seven different quarterbacks, and each guy’s been a little bit different.
“The main thing is, you’ve got to be able to adjust. You’ve got to put in a scheme that is flexible and you’ve got to do what your quarterback is best at. You don’t need a certain type of quarterback. You just need a good quarterback.”
In studying quarterback Robert Griffin III after Washington drafted him with the No. 2 overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft, Shanahan learned that running an adjusted version of the shotgun formation, known as the pistol, was beneficial for the entire offense.
“What the pistol gives you is the threat of the zone read,” Shanahan said. “It doesn’t mean you have to run the zone read out of it, but you can run the rest of your offense out of the pistol, where you can’t always in shotgun.
“The great thing for us was we ran everything we have always done. It just happened to be that you could run the zone read out of it. You want that threat and it makes the defense account for another person on the field.”
Shanahan learned the ability to tailor a system toward the players’ strengths from his father, Mike, the former head coach of the Denver Broncos and Washington. The elder Shanahan was known for the zone-blocking scheme where several players, whether they were first-round picks or late-round selections, became 1,000-yard rushers.
“You want to get the best O-linemen possible,” Shanahan said. “You want guys who can come off the ball, guys who can run numbers-to-numbers, but you want those guys as big as possible while they’ve still got some quickness, reach people and create space for a back.
“You’re not always looking for a home run. It’d be nice to just keep feeding a guy, feeding a guy. I just want a consistent running game where you’re never getting into third-and-longs, always trying to be in a manageable down-and-distance where the defense can never really tee off on run or pass. It’s really tough to block those guys when they know what you’re doing.”
Despite coaching on other staffs for several years, Shanahan was asked Thursday about his ability to work without the help of his father, who was Washington’s head coach at the same time he was serving as the offensive coordinator.
“I’m looking forward to it,” Shanahan said. “I’ve worked a lot of years in the NFL. I started out my career away from my dad. That was always my goal, to prove myself before I ever coached with my dad. I started out at UCLA and then, went to Tampa and had four good years in Houston.
“I felt that I had proved myself. It was something I always wanted to do in my life. I wanted to coach with my dad at one time. I enjoyed it. We went through some ups and downs, but it’s something I wouldn’t take back for anything. I’m excited to move on, be done with that part of my life. It’s something that made me better, and something that I’m glad I did.”