Final 4 teams all feature offensive-minded head coaches
SANTA CLARA, Calif. — Chris Foerster had spent nearly two decades as an assistant in the NFL when he first crossed paths with Kyle Shanahan long before he became one of the NFL’s most-accomplished playcallers.
Shanahan was in his third year as an offensive coordinator in the NFL when Foerster joined head coach Mike Shanahan’s staff in Washington as offensive line coach in 2010 and immediately was impressed by the knowledge, creativity and teaching ability of the precocious
That only grew during their four years together in Washington and the past four in San Francisco where Foerster has been an assistant on Shanahan’s staff.
“I’ve been amazed since I’ve worked with him and I don’t stop doing that,” Foerster said. “It’s just how he does it and it’s just his grasp on what he’s doing.”
Shanahan’s success in San Francisco overseeing productive offenses without elite quarterback play is a reason why so many teams each January are seeking the next trendy, play-calling offensive coach to take over their teams.
All four head coaches in the conference championship games come from an offensive background with Kansas City’s Andy Reid and Cincinnati’s Zac Taylor also calling plays like Shanahan, while Philadelphia’s Nick Sirianni delegated that duty during his first season.
“Plays are just plays,” Shanahan said. “It’s how you tie them together, how you hide them, how you do things off of them and it’s how you coach them.”
Few do it better than Shanahan and Reid, whose influence on modern offenses runs deep with nearly half the teams in the NFL running offenses inspired by those two coaching philosophies.
Shanahan’s offense is based on the running game, with his commitment to sticking with the ground game leading to opportunities with playaction passes downfield.
“He’s not just copying plays from other people,” 49ers defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans said. “He has that very creative mind and he’s always putting his players in position to make plays. That’s what sets him apart from all the other coordinators in the league.”
The Niners use frequent motion and different formations to disguise their intentions and Shanahan has created a nearly position-less offense that allows him to move playmakers such as Christian McCaffrey, Deebo Samuel, George Kittle and fullback Kyle Juszczyk all over the field to create mismatches.
“He pays attention to detail on every little thing,” 49ers rookie quarterback Brock Purdy said. “He’s the one that’s installing the plays every single day, which is pretty cool to have your head ball coach be the one that teaches you what you’re running.”
Shanahan built on the offense his father ran during two Super Bowl runs in
Denver in the 1990s and has evolved it to the modern game.
He has built an encyclopedic knowledge of his system that allows him to pull plays from his past and tailor them to his current team.
Foerster also said Shanahan has the uncanny ability during a game to see how a defense is playing the Niners and will pull out a play they didn’t even practice that week.
That has led to several big plays already this season.
“He’s just looking, where’s that dagger,” Foerster said. “Where’s that