BEREA, Ohio (AP) The Browns offensive MVP so far this season wears a headset on Sundays and never strays from the sideline. Except when Kyle Shanahan tries to chest bump one of his players after a touchdown.
In his first season as Cleveland’s offensive coordinator, Shanahan has the Browns moving at a record pace.
His quarterback-friendly, run-grounded system has helped the Browns (3-2) improve across the board statistically, and may be the biggest reason behind their early success. They are one of three teams to score at least 21 points in each game, and Cleveland is averaging 26.8 points – the team’s highest average since 1968. Utilizing a zone-blocking scheme Shanahan had success with for two seasons in Houston and four with Washington, the Browns are getting 146.4 yards rushing per game, ranking them third in the NFL after finishing 27th a year ago.
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After a contentious 2013 season, which ended with him and his father, Mike, being fired by the Redskins, Shanahan seems be enjoying himself.
Or not. He knows success can be momentary.
”I don’t have much fun to tell you the truth,” Shanahan deadpanned before smiling after practice on Thursday. ”No, I think I’ve been in this league long enough to realize that … there’s a long, long way to go. I enjoy myself after the year. I usually relax a little bit after the season and kind of unwind and look back at the year, but I don’t ever feel comfortable in the seasons.”
Described by his players as ”intense” and ”a perfectionist,” the 34-year-old Shanahan has been responsible for quarterback Brian Hoyer’s strong start. Hoyer, despite not having suspended Pro Bowl wide receiver Josh Gordon and throwing to a receiving corps stacked with undrafted free agents, is thriving in Shanahan’s scheme. The two are developing a strong relationship.
Hoyer, who is picking up a league-best 13.6 yards per completion, said he and Shanahan become more in sync each week. As a backup in New England, Hoyer remembers how close Patriots quarterback Tom Brady was to former coordinator Bill O’Brien, now Houston’s head coach.
”They would talk on the phone, and we’re not there yet with Kyle,” Hoyer said. ”I think that comes with time. Right now, for me, I feel like I’m still learning the system. I just try to do what Kyle tells me to do, but I think in the same sense I’ve seen him open up and be forthcoming with asking me questions.
”You know, `How do you feel about this? When you see this, what do you think?’ When you have a coordinator who’s willing to do that and doesn’t just put it all on himself and lets the quarterback have some input, I feel more comfortable going into a game knowing that he knows exactly where I stand with everything,” he said.
Shanahan had that rapport with Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III before things took an ugly turn.
Shanahan’s game plans and play calling helped RG3 set league rookie records in 2012, when the Redskins made the playoffs. But last season, things got frosty between the Shanahans and Griffin, who partly blamed some of his injuries on the way he was used.
Kyle Shanahan has moved on and enjoying a fresh start with the Browns.
”They really don’t care who gets the credit or who gets the blame,” Shanahan said. ”Everybody just wants to win.”
Shanahan’s commitment to the run – and the unpredictability of his play calls – has helped him win over the offensive linemen. They’ve embraced the zone scheme and appreciate Shanahan sticking with the run even when the Browns are behind.
Right tackle Mitchell Schwartz said Shanahan’s attitude is that the Browns can score from anywhere.
”We’re trying to score on every play,” he said. ”That’s kind of the mindset he’s brought to us. If he thinks a play’s going to be good enough for a touchdown, he’ll call it regardless of down or distance or situation.”
If the Browns keep winning, Shanahan is bound to get head coaching consideration. He’ll follow his father’s footsteps, but make his own path.
”It’s always been my goal,” he said. ”Everyone wants to be at the top of their profession and head coach is the top of the profession – unless I could ever own a team, but I don’t think that’s an option.”
Notes: Browns defensive coordinator Jim O’Neil said head trainer Joe Sheehan addressed the team earlier this week about Ebola, ”just to kind of ease everybody’s minds with it.” … Browns coach Mike Pettine said RG John Greco will likely starter at center, replacing Pro Bowler Alex Mack, who broke his leg last week. … Johnny Manziel isn’t playing, but Shanahan still believes he’ll be a quality starter. ”That’s why we drafted him,” he said.
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