San Francisco 49ers: 7 Reasons Why Kyle Shanahan Is the Best Fit for Head Coach

San Francisco 49ers CEO Jed York is on the hunt to find the right man to be the new 49ers head coach. One thing is clear – York has to nail this hiring. Today, Niner Noise points out why Kyle Shanahan is the best fit for 49ers HC.

Jun 17, 2015; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Falcons offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan coaches during minicamp at Falcons Training Facility. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Jun 17, 2015; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Falcons offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan coaches during minicamp at Falcons Training Facility. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Atlanta Falcons offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan is the best candidate to be the new 49ers head coach.

That statement may seem bold, but it is not. He is young, talented and hungry. And he has a proven track record working with four different teams.

Yet, for all of his success, he also has an equal amount of controversy. Ask any fan and you may hear:

“He got RG3 injured!”

“He couldn’t control Johnny Manziel.”

“He is riding his dad’s coat tails”

That last statement really haunts Shanahan. Kyle, son of legendary coach Mike Shanahan, has had his surname thrown at him since he entered the league as an assistant in Tampa Bay.

The younger Shanahan had to work very hard to prove his ability. His dedication paid off. He became the Houston Texans offensive coordinator under former head coach Gary Kubiak, making him the league’s youngest OC at the age of 28.

Working for Kubiak hurt his image. Kubiak has ties to Mike Shanahan from their time together in Denver. If working for Kubiak was an image issue, Kyle Shanahan’s next stop put the cherry on there proverbial cake. Let’s tackle some of the negative detractors following Kyle.

Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Working For Dad

Mike Shanahan came back to coaching as the HC for the Washington Redskins. Older Shanny hired younger Shanny to be the team’s OC. His time in Washington ended with aplomb.

After an ugly falling out with Washington ownership, both Shanahans were fired.

Older Shanahan’s stock was hurt so much that he has been unable to get any consideration for any other HC opening.

Kyle’s reputation was also stained from his time with the Redskins. His only  option to remain a team’s OC came from the Cleveland Browns.

May 5, 2016; Dallas, TX, USA; Johnny Manziel leaves the courtroom after he made his first appearance for his misdemeanor assault charge at the Frank Crowley Courts Building. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Quitting on Cleveland

The Browns, also known as the Factory of Sadness, assigned Kyle Shanahan the responsibility of turning Johnny Manziel into a starting NFL quarterback. Shanahan disagreed that Manziel had the potential to be an NFL starter.

Again, Shanahan had another quarrel with another team’s front office.

Before things got to nasty, Shanahan requested that he be released from his contract. The Browns agreed. In 2014 the Atlanta Falcons took him on to be the team’s OC under HC Dan Quinn.

In his first season as ATL’s OC, Shanahan took plenty of criticism after the team struggled to perform. The team’s biggest issues came from its failure to score in the red zone.

These are the facts. If Shanahan was in court defending his position as to why he deserves to be a team’s HC, this is what the prosecution would use against him.

However, as it is often the case, there are two sides to every tale.

Jul 29, 2016; Flowery Branch, GA, USA; Atlanta Falcons offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan reacts during training camp at the Atlanta Falcons Training Facility. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Kyle Shanahan, University of Texas, Wide Receiver

Like many former players, turned coaches, Kyle Shanahan follows in the same path that many former successful coaches have taken. These coaches learned the game first as players and then as coaching assistants before moving on to more prominent coaching roles.

If you need an example of that, look no further and former 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh.

Harbaugh played quarterback for Michigan and then as a pro.

Kyle Shanahan played wide receiver for the University of Texans in the early 2000s, per During his time with the Longhorns, Shanahan played with QBs Chris Simms, now an analyst with Bleacher Report. Interesting fact, Simms and Shanahan are best friends.

In fact, Simms has “K. S.” tattooed on his leg.

Shanahan has learned early on as a player how football locker rooms are and what teams are. Shanahan understands football culture very well. So well, he made his QB his best friend and get a tat with is initials. That’s not nothing.

Shanahan started his football career being a ball boy for the Denver Broncos, per ESPN. He has literally been engulfed by the game since the day he was born.

Jan 23, 2015; Scottsdale, AZ, USA; ESPN broadcaster and Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Oakland Raiders former coach Jon Gruden at Team Irvin practice at Scottsdale Community College in advance of the 2015 Pro Bowl. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Coaching Influences

Kyle Shanahan started his NFL coaching career working for none other than current ESPN broadcaster Jon Gruden.

Gruden is a well-known coach who continues to receive heavy head coaching consideration himself. This is due to his time coaching the Oakland Raiders and Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

According to Pro Football History, Shanahan was in charge of quality control of the team’s game planning. He was also charged with helping to break down the opposing team’s defense.

From there he went on to work for Gary Kubiak in Houston. In Houston he worked as a wide receivers coach and quarterbacks coach before being promoted to offensive coordinator, per Pro Football History.

Finally, and what is is his biggest knock, his father’s influence. Let’s face it, Mike Shanahan should be Hall of Fame candidate for a reason. He has won multiple Super Bowls as an OC and as a HC. It is odd Kyle Shanahan is punished because he is the son of a coaching great.

If his father influenced his coaching philosophies it could only be considered a plus.

Jan 1, 2017; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan (2) passes against the New Orleans Saints during the first half at the Georgia Dome. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Proven Track Record

If nothing else has convinced you yet, then check this out:

An article written by on October 6, 2016 pointed out Kyle Shanahan had led six out of nine different offenses to be top-10 offenses, and four of those offenses were in the top five. That was at the quarter mark of the 2016 season.

Since then, Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan has gone on to win the league’s MVP award. The Falcons are again in the playoffs. Oh, and the Falcons ended the season as the league’s No. 1 offense, according to Pro Football Reference. Playoff teams need to be concerned facing an Atlanta squad that can seemingly score at will.

All of this is because of Shanahan. Need more evidence? Well how about having the No. 5 rushing offense with an average yards-per-carry mark of 4.6? Or, how about 38 passing touchdowns?

While this may all seem like recent success, the truth is he has been successful wherever he has been. In Houston, he made Matt Schaub a Pro-Bowl QB. He did the same with Robert Griffin III in Washington. Not to mention he had to change his offensive schemes to match the abilities of the players he coached.

Jan 1, 2017; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Cleveland Browns quarterback Robert Griffin III (10) scrambles against the Pittsburgh Steelers in overtime at Heinz Field. The Steelers won 27-24 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Learning from Mistakes

As a Sergeant First Class in the United States Army, I have experience with leadership. One thing that I learned from those who came before me was that everyone fails. I was once told this, “Failure is inevitable, all you can do is learn from it”.

What is being used as a negative against Kyle Shanahan is actually a positive. Has he made mistakes? Sure. Things with RGIII ended poorly. If nothing else, the decision to play an injured RGIII has been as much a part of his reputation as being his father’s son.

Yet, at every stage of his career he has excelled. He has changed his offense. He has incorporated lessons that he learned in Washington and Cleveland. Last season in Atlanta was tough.

Changes were made, and now? Best offense in Pro Football.

Sep 10, 2015; San Francisco, CA, USA; Vince Lombardi Trophies from San Francisco 49ers Super Bowl victories on display at Justin Herman Plaza. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports


Kyle Shanahan is hungry. There is no denying that. More importantly, he is hungry and young.

At the age of 37, Shanahan has the stamina to push a franchise into greatness. He is going to need every bit of that youthful energy to surpass his father’s legacy and push the 49ers storied franchise to its rightful place as the best franchise in football.

Shanahan did not enter the NFL’s coaching ranks to be the lesser Shanny. No, he wants to overcome his father’s shadow. He wants to make a name for himself. Mike Shanahan’s time as a team’s HC might be over, but his time involved with football is not.

Many great coaches have had mentors that have helped them flourish. Mike will do the same for his son. Bill Walsh and Bill Parcells have their coaching trees. Yes, Shanahan is from the Walsh tree, but it would be hard to argue Kyle is a disciple of the Walsh coaching tree too.

No, any success had by Kyle Shanahan will be attributed to Mike, which would then create a new coaching tree — the Shanahan coaching tree. And the best place for that to start is right where the first Shanahan won his first Super Bowl ring — with the San Francisco 49ers.

Shanahan is the right fit. He is young, talented and hungry. He has a proven track record working with four different teams. Now, all York needs to do is prove to Shanahan that the 49ers are the right fit for him.

For more 49ers commentary, follow me on Twitter at @EricGamboa01 or on Facebook at @EricGamboaNinerNoise.

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