Kyle Shanahan’s first head coaching job is going awfully well. After slogging through the first couple years of a rebuild, his third season with the San Francisco 49ers will end in Super Bowl 54. He’s a contender for NFL Coach of the Year and has a chance to be the third youngest coach to win a Super Bowl — behind only Mike Tomlin and Jon Gruden.
And none of it would’ve been possible if Shanahan didn’t pull off the impressive feat of convincing the Browns he deserved out of their dumpster fire. First, some background:
Kyle Shanahan was fired in Washington along with his father
Glaring nepotism concerns aside, Kyle did good work. Washington had a middle-of-the-road offense in his first two seasons, despite starting Donovan McNabb and Rex Grossman — two quarterbacks in the final years of their careers. When the team drafted Robert Griffin III, the offense kicked into gear: It ranked fifth in total yards and fourth in points scored during the 2012 season.
While Washington still finished ninth in total offense in 2013, its record was just 3-13. The whole coaching staff was fired — including both Shanahans.
It only took a month for Kyle Shanahan to get scooped up by the Browns
Less than two weeks after Mike Pettine was named head coach of the Browns, he hired Shanahan to run his offense for the 2014 season.
Then Johnny Manziel happened.
Cleveland picked the Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback in the first round. Shanahan reportedly preferred Derek Carr or Jimmy Garoppolo (imagine that!) in the 2014 NFL Draft class instead. The selection of Manziel proved to be a disaster. Manziel reportedly lost the faith of his teammates early in his Browns tenure due to his lackluster work ethic and immaturity. But late in his rookie season, Manziel was thrust into the starting lineup.
Cleveland lost both games the rookie started and Manziel threw zero touchdowns and two interceptions.
That’s when Shanahan wanted out of Cleveland
Even though Manziel’s rookie season was disastrous, he was still a first-round pick. Ownership and the front office in Cleveland envisioned Manziel as the Browns’ long-term starter. Shanahan reportedly didn’t agree. Via ESPN:
The front office wants Manziel to be the starter, and the source said the coaches do not believe they can win with him.
Shanahan felt the decision to start Manziel was forced on the coaching staff, and that the yearlong insistence to play him when he wasn’t ready wore on Shanahan, the team source said.
So Shanahan decided he wanted out. The only problem was the three-year contract he signed with the team prior to the 2014 season.
A 32-point presentation got him out of Cleveland
There was initially a report that Shanahan used a PowerPoint to convince Pettine to let him quit. It wasn’t until a couple years later Shanahan was asked about it and clarified.
“It wasn’t a PowerPoint presentation,’’ Shanahan said in 2017, via the Cleveland Plain-Dealer. “It was all on paper. I gave a number of points — 32 of them, which you guys were accurate on. I gave them to the head coach.
”I told him he could do whatever he wanted with those, whether he gave them to the owner or the general manager. I’m sure that he did. I just wanted to be up front about it. I had some specific reasons I didn’t think it was going in the right direction, why it wasn’t the best place for me and my family. Pet was real cool about it. He understood.”
Shanahan didn’t want to go into specifics, but he said “a number of things” were problematic — including general manager Ray Farmer illegally texting coaches during games about strategy, and the team’s staff not being on the same page.
Alas, Shanahan’s attempt to convince Pettine that the ship was sinking and he didn’t want to be part of it worked. Shanahan was allowed to resign and he was hired by the Falcons as offensive coordinator just 10 days later.
Cleveland won four games in its next three seasons combined. Meanwhile, Shanahan helped the Falcons become an offensive juggernaut. In his second season with the team, the Falcons led the NFL in scoring and went to Super Bowl 51. Atlanta blew a 28-3 lead in that game — something Shanahan now has a chance to finally put behind him — but the season still earned him the job with the 49ers.
The opportunity he has now in Super Bowl 54 almost definitely wouldn’t have been possible if he was stuck with the Browns for another season. And it’s all thanks to his extremely detailed presentation.