Time for the Bright Offensive Mind to Live up to the Title

The Atlanta Falcons may have to wait until February 2nd to announce Dan Quinn as their next head coach, as is widely expected but it would appear that the Falcons do have a new offensive coordinator. Although the appointment has not yet been made official several sources are reporting that Kyle Shanahan will be running the offense in Atlanta in 2015. It would certainly appear that Quinn requested that Shanahan be his OC although the two have never worked together before.

The other name in the running for this gig was Broncos OC Adam Gase who also interviewed for the Falcons head coaching position. It is understandable that Quinn would not want to hire someone who originally interviewed for the job Quinn is expected to get. Quinn could also see Gase a short term appointment as he has had interest around the league for head coaching jobs and if Gase gets the Falcons offense rolling his name will be come up again this time next year.

Quinn and the Falcons will at least get stability in the hiring of Shanahan, who would need two or three years of producing a consistently good offense before he will be considered for a promotion. 2015 will be Shanahan’s eighth year as an offensive coordinator in the NFL, the Falcons previous offensive play caller Dirk Koetter left to join Tampa in a lateral move shortly after the season ended.

Kyle Shanahan, the Son of Mike Shanahan became the offensive coordinator for the Houston Texans in 2008, being promoted through the ranks from wide receivers coach to quarterbacks coach and then to OC. In his first season in the job the Texans finished 17th in total points scored, a drop of five places from 2007.

Former Falcon Matt Schaub was in his first year as a starter in 2008 and threw for 3043 yards and 25 TD’s in a run first offense that got 1282 rushing yards out of little known running back, Steve Slaton.

In 2009 the Texans jumped up to 10th in points scored thanks to 9 TD’s and 1569 yards from stud receiver Andre Johnson. The running game was less productive getting 371 less yards than the previous year. In both years the Texans ran a West Coast style offense.

In 2010 Kyle left Houston to join his Father Mike who had just been named the new head coach in Washington. The Redskins starting quarterback in 2010 was a declining Donovan McNabb and the offense finished the season 25th overall in points scored. McNabb was eventually benched in favour of Rex Grossman.

Between the two of them they threw for 21 TD’s and 19 interceptions. The running game was largely effected by the loss of Clinton Portis who only started five games.

In 2011, Rex Grossman was now the starting QB and again they had no running game to speak of. The Redskins ranked 26th in Points scored. As in Houston, Shanahan ran a West Coast style offense in both 2010 and 2011.

2012 and the Redskins give up the house to get Robert Griffin III in the draft. With the dual threat of Griffin’s strong arm and his ability to run with the ball the offense would be a lot more read option in design but still keeping an element of the west coast style. The offense not only got the shot in the arm from Griffin but fellow rookie, running back Alfred Morris got 1613 yards and 13 touchdowns on the ground. Griffin would throw for 3200 yards, 20 touchdowns and only 5 interceptions. The offense ranked 4th overall in points scored.

Perhaps the defining moment for both the Shanahan’s tenure in Washington came in the playoff game at home to Seattle. An already less than healthy Griffin further injures his knee late in the first quarter and is clearly seen to be limping around. Later in the game Shanahan still calls a designed quarterback run even though Griffin can clearly not do exactly that, run.

Griffin is able to stay in the game but late in the 4th quarter his knee finally gives out putting his career in jeopardy.

In 2013 Griffin is able to play but is clearly not the same player and the offense struggles as a result finishing 23rd overall in points scored, a drop of seventeen places from the year before. The offense still manages to put up over 2000 rushing yards.

In 2014 after his Father was fired in Washington Kyle is not retained and joins the Cleveland Browns. With Brian Hoyer at quarterback the Browns rank 20th in passing yards and 17th in rush yards with an overall rank of 27th in points scored. For the record, the Falcons finished 11th in points scored in 2014.

Although this does not sound overly impressive the Browns were missing their best offensive player for most of the season, wide receiver Josh Gordon. They managed to get 824 yards receiving from Andrew Hawkins and a further 568 from Miles Austin, an impressive feat.

In the running game both running backs were rookies. West a 3rd rounder and Crowell and undrafted free agent. They combined for just over 1200 yards behind a very good offensive line that includes two of the best in their respective positions Joe Thomas at left tackle and Alex Mack at center.

After the season was over Shanahan resigned, reportedly due to a disagreement with head coach Mike Pettine over starting Johnny Manziel, as Shanahan did not want to do so and judging by Manziel’s short (no pun intended) body of work, suggests he was right in wanting to stick with Hoyer.

It’s fair to say that Shanahan’s career as an offensive play caller to this point have not been overly impressive but it is also fair to say that he has not had a great deal to work with. The quarterback list of Matt Schaub, a 34 year old Donovan McNabb, Rex Grossman and Brian Hoyer does not exactly invoke excitement or confidence. Shanahan was able to get one really good year from Robert Griffin III in 2012 but the player has not got anywhere near that form since.

Perhaps the opening question should really be will Shanahan run a West Coast style offense in Atlanta with an offense that was supposedly built for the long passing game? Shanahan will have the best quarterback he has ever had in Matt Ryan and the best group of receivers led by Julio Jones, although the offensive line still needs an upgrade at Right Tackle.

When Shanahan watches the tape of this offense he should notice that it performs at its best in the no huddle and he would be foolish to, not only keep using this but use it much more frequently than Dirk Koetter did last year.

With a few upgrades on the offensive line and some changes at the running back position this offense should really rank in the top five when it is all said and done and only time will tell if Kyle Shanahan is the man do it, as of now it’s fair to say that this Falcons fan will   remain sceptical. It is time for the man once described as being the next bright offensive mind to finally prove he can be just that.

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