Tough road ahead for Shanahan
It’s normal to turn to dear, old dad for some sage advice on career moves.
When the dad is a two-time Super Bowl-winning coach, a son contemplating a major move in his coaching career might sprint to pops for words of wisdom. You can only think that’s exactly what new Browns offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan did when he was tossing around the idea of accepting the post offered by coach Mike Pettine.
Shanahan’s father Mike, who led the Denver Broncos to Super Bowl wins in the 1997 and ’98 seasons, should have told his son to be very careful. It’s rare when a coach runs the gauntlet that is being a Browns coach without emerging on the other side a little worse off.
When Kyle was introduced to the media Thursday, he sat between new defensive coordinator Jim O’Neil and special teams coordinator Chris Tabor, a member of former coach Rob Chudzinski’s staff. Of the three men, Kyle was undoubtedly sitting on the warmest seat.
Being offensive coordinator of the Browns is one of the most scrutinized jobs in Cleveland, following that of the head coach and mayor, in that order. Fans, as they are in all NFL cities, are unforgiving and impatient. If the offense puts up just two field goals in the first game of the 2014 season, radio talk shows will have a surge in ratings all day Monday because of criticism from angry fans.
It could be worse for Kyle than it was for Norv Turner, who held the job for one season before exiting after Chudzinski was fired. Turner had the advantage of being respected as one of the best offensive minds in the NFL.
Shanahan brings 10 years of experience at the tender age of 34, and there have been some successful moments. Most notably, the 2012 Washington Redskins were fifth in total offense under his direction, an accomplishment made more impressive because the stars – quarterback Robert Griffin III and running back Alfred Morris – were rookies.
When Kyle breaks down tape of what he has to work with next season, there won’t be many wow moments once he’s done studying receiver Josh Gordon. When he gets to the rest of the talent-depleted receiving corps, along with the running backs and quarterbacks, he might want to reconsider his commitment to the Browns.
No one knows at this time who will line up at quarterback when the season opens. Odds seem to favor Brian Hoyer, who had a short but successful two-game run before suffering a knee injury last year. Then again, it could be one of the hot-shot rookies expected to be drafted early – perhaps Johnny Manziel or Teddy Bridgewater.
Kyle’s first challenge working with a rookie would be to learn from any mistakes he may have made in his dealings with RG III. Media reports have characterized the relationship as borderline frosty, a situation that was made worse when Kyle’s dad benched Griffin late in the season in favor of Kirk Cousins.
“Robert and I did some good things together. I’m really proud of that first year,” Kyle said. “He challenged me because I had to do some things I hadn’t done before.
“Going into that second year was a challenge. Anytime you go through a 3-13 season, it’s a challenge for your relationship. With a high-profile guy there’s a lot more stuff that comes out. We managed to keep our relationship through the year. I’m not going to say it was easy, but I believe going through it, it will make Robert and I better in the long run.”
The crazy thing is that dealing with RG III might seem easy after one year of working with “Johnny Football.”