Make no mis­take, this is Kyle Shana­han’s of­fence

The Hamilton Spectator - - SPORTS - MARK MASKE

The high-pow­ered of­fence of the At­lanta Fal­cons has got­ten them to the Su­per Bowl. It has landed a head coach­ing job in San Fran­cisco for of­fen­sive co-or­di­na­tor Kyle Shana­han. It could yield a league MVP award for quar­ter­back Matt Ryan.

It all has worked not only be­cause of the on-field bril­liance of Ryan and wide re­ceiver Julio Jones, but also be­cause of the of­fen­sive scheme taken to At­lanta by Shana­han. That sys­tem is a blend of the ver­sions of the West Coast of­fence learned by Shana­han from some of his coach­ing mentors — and his own fa­ther, Mike — with sig­nif­i­cant wrinkles added by Shana­han.

“You see Gary’s of­fence in it,” for­mer Washington Red­skins quar­ter­back Joe Theismann said. “You see Mike’s of­fence in it. Ev­ery guy takes parts from the guys he has worked with. What you see is an of­fence that has been de­vel­oped over time and adapted to Kyle’s per­son­al­ity and the per­son­nel that he has.”

Mike Shana­han’s of­fences gen­er­ally blended a tra­di­tional West Coast pass­ing game — the quick-hit­ting, stretch-the-de­fence­hor­i­zon­tal ly ap­proach pop­u­lar­ized by the Bill Wal­sh­coached 49ers dur­ing their glory days — with a run­ning game uti­liz­ing zone block­ing by the of­fen­sive line and “stretch” plays. That sys­tem pro­duced two Su­per Bowl tri­umphs for the Den­ver Broncos.

Ku­biak, a Mike Shana­han coach­ing protégé who was Kyle Shana­han’s boss in Hous­ton be­fore win­ning last sea­son’s Su­per Bowl with the Broncos, was par­tic­u­larly en­am­oured with putting his quar­ter­back on the move with roll­outs and bootlegs.

When Mike Shana­han coached the Red­skins and Kyle was the team’s of­fen­sive co-or­di­na­tor, they added col­lege-style el­e­ments to their of­fence — the pis­tol for­ma­tion and op­tion-style run­ning plays — for the rookie sea­son of quar­ter­back Robert Grif­fin III in 2012.

Yet both Shana­hans say that Kyle’s cur­rent of­fence with the Fal­cons is mean­ing­fully dif­fer­ent from what Mike Shana­han-coached teams tra­di­tion­ally did.

“Out­side zone in run­ning game is the same as be­fore ex­cept for wider land­marks,” Mike Shana­han said via text mes­sage. “QB keeps or bootlegs are the same as be­fore ex­cept for more vari­a­tions. Ev­ery­thing else is dif­fer­ent: drop-back at­tack con­cepts, play-ac­tion con­cepts be­tween the tack­les, for­ma­tion vari­a­tions and per­son­nel group­ings within a game plan, au­di­ble sys­tem, third-down at­tack, red zone at­tack and two-minute of­fence.”

Kyle Shana­han echoed those sen­ti­ments this week in Hous­ton.

“I think we’ve all grown from dif­fer­ent places,” he said. “I think the one thing we all have in com­mon is that the ba­sis, the per­cent­age of our runs are out­side zone. And we do some [quar­ter­back] bootlegs or keep­ers, what­ever you want to call them, off of that. Af­ter that, that’s about it.

“When I got to Hous­ton, it was my first time work­ing for Kub. I had spent all the time with Jon Gru­den [as a Tampa Bay Buc­ca­neers as­sis­tant] be­fore that. So we saw of­fence to­tally dif­fer­ent. We meshed a lit­tle bit first time to­gether. When I went to Washington, that was my first time work­ing with my dad. I thought we saw foot­ball sim­i­lar. But we quickly re­al­ized af­ter a few weeks that we thought dif­fer­ently. We grew to­gether. He gave me a lot of lee­way while I was there. It was fun to try a bunch of dif­fer­ent things, hav­ing to even in­cor­po­rate the zone read and stuff when we got Robert. But it’s al­ways grow­ing.”

The Fal­cons’ pass­ing game is not your fa­ther’s — or, more pre­cisely, Shana­han’s fa­ther’s — West Coast pass­ing game.

“There’s a gen­e­sis to it,” Theismann said this week. “It has been mor­phed and ex­panded. Peo­ple put their own per­son­al­i­ties into it. The ba­sic prin­ci­ples of the West Coast of­fence are that you’re go­ing to get the ball out of the quar­ter­back’s hand quickly and you’re go­ing to fo­cus on get­ting yards af­ter the catch. You’re go­ing to use

“Ev­ery (co-or­di­na­tor) takes parts from the guys he has worked with. What you see is an of­fence that has been de­vel­oped over time and adapted to Kyle’s per­son­al­ity and the per­son­nel that he has.” FOR­MER WASHINGTON RED­SKINS QUAR­TER­BACK JOE THEISMANN

screens. You’re go­ing to get the ball into the hands of the run­ning back and treat those throws al­most like run­ning plays.”

There is a ver­ti­cal, down-the­field as­pect to the Fal­cons’ of­fence fo­cused on mak­ing cer­tain that Jones gets his op­por­tu­ni­ties to make big plays.

“Kyle had An­dre John­son in Hous­ton,” Theismann said. “He had Pierre Gar­con in Washington. He has Julio Jones in At­lanta. He’s got his guy and he likes to mould the of­fence around that. Kyle finds a guy that he con­cen­trates on, and that’s the guy that the of­fence goes through ... There are ver­ti­cal as­pects to it. The West Coast of­fence tra­di­tion­ally was not about ‘go’ routes and fades. It was posts and cor­ners. I got into it once with Dwight Clark. I said, ‘Joe Mon­tana can’t throw a fade.’ Dwight said, ‘How many rings does he have?’”

The Fal­cons have a chance Sun­day to win a Su­per Bowl ti­tle. But if they do man­age to up­set the New Eng­land Pa­tri­ots, it won’t nec­es­sar­ily be an­other championship for the of­fence of Walsh, Gru­den, Mike Shana­han, Ku­biak and oth­ers. It will be a ti­tle for Kyle Shana­han’s of­fence.

“We all orig­i­nate from the same thing,” Kyle Shana­han said. “If you go all the way back to like, ‘What’s a West Coast of­fence?’ — we use some of that ter­mi­nol­ogy. So that’s why I think peo­ple would say some of this is West Coast. But every­body’s of­fence is dif­fer­ent. And when you go dif­fer­ent places, un­less you’re just run­ning a play­book, it al­ways changes. And ours has changed ev­ery year. It was dif­fer­ent from the be­gin­ning. And it’s grown a lot dif­fer­ent over the years.”


Matt Ryan talks things over with of­fen­sive co-or­di­na­tor Kyle Shana­han as the At­lanta Fal­cons pre­pare for the Su­per Bowl.

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