Jeanna Thomas, an NFL contributor for SBNation as well as reporter for The Falcoholic covering the Falcons, has been watching Kyle Shanahan work some magic in Atlanta for the past few seasons.
After she wrote some thoughts about Shanahan’s potential fit as a head coach for the Niners, we thought it would be worthwhile to get her take on his potential fit as the Broncos next head coach.
Spoiler Alert: she loves the idea of Shanahan being a head coach here (after he wins a Super Bowl for the Falcons, of course!)
“One interesting thing about Shanahan is that he can be abrupt as hell,” Thomas noted. “I think he hates talking to the media, which I don't really hold against him. If you get him talking about his offense, though, he's really engaging, and it's clear he's brilliant. I actually have really enjoyed covering him and I'll be disappointed when he leaves.”
As far as the Broncos, though, I'd be thrilled for Kyle if he ended up there. He was a ball boy for Denver when he was a kid.— Jeanna (@jeannathomas) January 3, 2017
MHR – Going from a coordinator to a head coach isn't always an easy transition (hello, Josh McDaniels!) What makes you think Shanahan will be able to do this well?
Jeanna Thomas: I think Shanahan's experience growing up with a coach for a father has uniquely prepared him for the challenges of being a head coach. Shanahan is also pretty unflappable, which is a key quality teams should be looking for in a head coach.
MHR – One of the strengths you have mentioned is Shanahan's creativity on offense and ability to adjust to defenses. This was an obvious weakness for the Broncos this year...do you think Shanahan could improve the Broncos' offense and develop the quarterbacks?
Jeanna Thomas: I think Shanahan would be a good fit for improving any team's offense. One thing that has stood out for me covering Shanahan since he was hired is how comprehensive his understanding of the offense - and how defenses respond to it - is. He's also very effective at communicating that to the media. You may not see a huge boost in year one, because it's complex, but I think he'd be able to correct the offensive line issues pretty quickly and get more of a run game going, which would help Trevor Siemian or Paxton Lynch or whichever quarterback ends up starting next year.
MHR – Kubiak earned a lot of respect from the Broncos players - even on the defense. Do you think Shanahan can do the same?
Jeanna Thomas: He has done it in Atlanta, and I think that Shanahan has learned a lot from Dan Quinn. The Falcons are a brotherhood, and it includes the coaches. I think Shanahan has seen how that culture of mutual respect breeds success and I think it's something he'll try to emulate as a head coach.
MHR – What is Kyle Shanahan's leadership style - quiet like Tony Dungy or boisterous like Bill Parcells?
Jeanna Thomas: Shanahan is much more reserved. He's calm in practice, and he's definitely a teacher.
MHR – How would he handle something like Aqib Talib ripping the necklace off Michael Crabtree ;) OK, seriously, how do you think he would handle discipline issues and ultimately controlling players without treating them like children?
Jeanna Thomas: I think this may be one area where Shanahan's age is a true advantage. It should help him relate to players as men.
MHR – You have mentioned that Shanahan’s "emotional intelligence" is a weakness but that it has improved. Can you elaborate and/or give an example?
Jeanna Thomas: There was a fair amount of push back from Roddy White and other offensive players last season, and Shanahan was intractable, even as the team was in the midst of its six-game losing streak. This season, though, the players trust him and those relationships seem to be solid.
MHR – So how is Shanahan viewed by the players in the Falcons' locker room? It sounds like it was a rough start but has improved.
Jeanna Thomas: He did get off to a rough start, but the way he's repaired and built those relationships has been impressive. One thing players respect about Shanahan is how well he understands their skill sets and how he can best feature them in the offense, which we've seen the results of with guys like Taylor Gabriel and Aldrick Robinson.
A Kyle Shanahan/Wade Phillips team in Denver would be pretty nice.— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) January 2, 2017
MHR – If Shanahan accepts the job as the next head coach of the Denver Broncos, do you anticipate he would want to keep Wade Phillips?
Jeanna Thomas: I personally love Wade Phillips, and I can't imagine anyone not wanting to keep him. If he keeps any assistants I could see that they would mostly be from that side of the ball, as the Denver defense was really not the problem this season.
MHR - As the Broncos head coach, do you see Shanahan still calling the plays for the offense or letting his coordinator take over? Any thoughts who he might want as his OC?
Jeanna Thomas: Kyle is kind of intractable about his offense, so I would honestly be SHOCKED if he did let someone else call the plays without heavy input from him. I think he has a decent relationship with quarterbacks coach Matt LaFleur, so that's a name to keep an eye on, I think.
MHR – What about potential free agent players - any he may want to bring over from the Falcons?
Jeanna Thomas: Shanahan has a tendency to pull in guys he's worked with elsewhere – Leonard Hankerson, Chris Chester, Taylor Gabriel are all good examples. Gabriel, Chester and Aldrick Robinson are all free agents after the season. Jacob Tamme is, too, and it might be interesting for him to land back in Denver. He's been a good fit in Shanahan's offense.
MHR – Of all the places Shanahan is interviewing for a head coaching position, do you have a "best fit" for him (and you don't have to say the Broncos!)?
Jeanna Thomas: I do think the Broncos is the best fit for him! The defense is pretty well set, and there's a great deal of talent to work with offensively. Plus, his history there – having been a ball boy in Denver when his dad was the head coach – is a damn good story!