Let’s Talk About Kyle Shanahan

We at Pegboards are still saddened over the departure of Gary Kubiak. He is a great coach and an even better person, but the Broncos have no choice but to move on and neither do we. If you want more insight as to our thoughts on Kubes and his legacy here in Denver, we have written about that at length here. This article is all about the future, and the future of the Broncos could very well be centered around Kyle Shanahan.

The prodigal son some would say, and who could blame them? His dad was only the most successful head coach in Colorado sports history and the one who finally got the Broncos to the promise land (with some help from Gary Kubiak). Kyle has also made a name for himself the past two seasons as one of the more capable offensive minds in football, turning the Falcon’s into the NFL’s top offense and resurrecting Matt Ryan’s career (with no help from Gary Kubiak). Considering his ties to Denver and the Broncos’ desperate need for an overhaul on offense, it would seem to be a no-brainer that Shanahan should be far and away the top candidate for the job, right?

Well, not so fast. While there is certainly a lot to like about Kyle following in his father’s footsteps, it may not be the slam dunk that everyone seems to think it will be. Kevin and I bring back our “Let’s Talk About” series to take a closer look at Shanahan and why the Broncos may need to proceed with caution if this is really the route they want to go down.

Jesse: So Kevin, the Broncos need someone to kick start their offense and the offensive coordinator for the best unit in football just happens to be available. If Kyle Shanahan doesn’t get hired here in Denver, the Rams, Jaguars and 49ers all want him too, so he’s going to be a head coach next year if he wants to be. Why shouldn’t that be here working for John Elway?

Kevin: Oh I don’t know. Maybe I’m still damaged by the last time we gave a hot and upcoming young Offensive Coordinator his first gig as a head coach (looking at you Josh McDaniels). Or maybe I’m still wary of choosing our coaches in Colorado based on their history with the team (looking at you Patrick Roy).

Or maybe it’s because I think that Kyle Shanahan is secretly not a good offensive coordinator? Yeah that’s probably it. While I can’t base my argument with facts (who needs those?) I can point to the legions of Redskins, Browns and even Falcons fans who would snicker at giving Shanahan a shot much like you and I snickered at the Chargers for putting Mike McCoy in charge.

Okay fine, let’s use some actual facts. Did you know that Shanahan’s offenses are really good at gaining yards but not so much TDs? In his nine seasons as an OC his offenses have ranked in the top 10 in yards gained six times. In those same nine seasons he’s ranked in the top 10 in points scored only three times. The other six seasons? He didn’t even finish in the top half.

Really the only positive I can think of is that we can say, “God dammit Kyle!” in Cartman’s voice every time Shanahan does something boneheaded.

You know how stubborn I can be about coaches. When I think a poor coaching decision is made I hold a grudge for a long time (isn’t that right Brian Shaw?). So please, do your best to convince me to love this guy before we possibly hire him and I have to spend the next two seasons hoping I can tell everyone, “I told you so!”

Jesse: Seeing as the city of Denver would burn Mile High to the ground if the name Josh McDaniels even came up again in regards to a coaching position, I see your point. I understand your hesitation. Often times, hot shot offensive coordinators struggle to make the transition to head coach. I’ve said as much myself.

I can’t speak as to why Browns and Redskins fans would be chuckling about the Broncos hiring Shanahan (except maybe they laugh to keep themselves from crying over the state of their own teams), but Falcons fans are a mixed bag. Based on about 10 minutes of research I did over at The Falcoholic, some of their fans want to convince Kyle to stay. Others are resigned to the fact that he’s gone and either saw it coming or are surprised because they thought he was trash before this season. Most of them think that whether he leaves or not, the Falcons are still going to win the Super Bowl this season, so maybe all of those people are alcoholics too? The point is that it doesn’t seem like too many of them would be laughing at the Broncos if they hired Kyle Shanahan.

My other concern with bringing him in is that his dad’s legacy would be hanging over him ALL THE TIME, but he doesn’t seem intimidated by that. In fact, it looks like he’s more than willing to embrace that. Take into account that we have a bad offense that is desperately in need of some fresh ideas and innovation, coupled with the idea that Kyle would probably retain the defensive coaching staff (including Wade Phillips) and it’s hard to argue that he’s not the best overall option for 2017 and beyond.

Besides, think how much fun it would be to say, “God dammit Kyle!” in Cartman’s voice all the time. Are you convinced Kevin? Or are you worried that Kyle doesn’t have what it takes to manage a full team and get the most out of his coaches? Those Shanahan’s have been known to have a hard time relating to others…

KevinIf you don’t stop making so much sense our column is going to be cut short to only 1,000 words Jesse! Although I will say your argument is teetering on, “who’s the best bad option?” territory. Didn’t we already go through this mess with the election in November?

Anyway the only real reason I’m comfortable with shrugging my shoulders and inviting Kyle over is because of one man: John Elway. But first, allow me to back track some of my prior argument.

The reason we hated Josh McDaniels wasn’t because of his coaching but rather he had way too much control over personnel decisions (Alphonso Smith anyone?). It wasn’t necessarily a hot shot coordinator who couldn’t handle coaching his guys. It was a hot shot coordinator who probably bit off more than he could chew in his first job being in charge.

In fact do you recall the reason Mike Shanahan’s tenure ended in Denver? From what I can remember it had more to do with, you guessed it, personnel decisions than coaching decisions (Maurice Clarett anyone?).

So why does this ease any concerns over Kyle taking the reins? Well that’s easy, because of John Fricking Elway. We didn’t make it to Super Bowl 48 (sorry) because it was John Fox’s team. It was because it was John Elway’s. We didn’t win Super Bowl 50 (yay!) because Gary Kubiak came in and put the final touches on building the team. He inherited a great team built by John Elway. And don’t look now but this very same team that whatever coach is inheriting next? Built by John Elway and will continue to be built by John Elway.

There you have it. I don’t care what body you put in at head coach as long as he has more passion than John Fox (not hard to do) and is healthier than Gary Kubiak (sigh) and keeps Wade Phillips around. That’s my only criteria.

Am I crazy here? Am I giving John Elway too much credit? Or am I not giving the importantance of the right head coach enough credit? And did I really have to bring up Alphonso Smith and Super Bowl 48 in the same column?

Jesse: This may not be a popular opinion, but you’re exactly right about my argument. I do think this is about finding the best bad option. Maybe that’s not fair and I’m sure that not all the coaching hires this year will wind up flaming out, but none of them inspire much confidence on my end. When I say that Shanahan is the best choice overall, it’s not as much of a compliment as it would usually be.

You’re also not that crazy. Well, except for reminding us about Alphonso Smith and Super Bowl 48 (what the hell were you thinking?). As long as John Elway is playing puppet master up in the owner’s box, this team will be in good hands. He’ll make sure that the Broncos are competing for Super Bowls every year or he’ll kill himself trying. It’s just how he’s wired. That being said, does Peyton Manning get the chance to ride off into the sunset if John Fox had still been the coach in 2015? Doubtful. It took the arrival of Gary Kubiak and Wade Phillips to orchestrate that.

Elway will provide the new coach with the tools that he needs to succeed, but the coach will be the difference between a one-and-done in the playoffs and a Super Bowl champion. That sort of pressure drove Fox out of town and took a huge toll on Kubiak’s health. It’s also not going anywhere. If the new coach is equipped to handle those expectations, then maybe they are more than just the best bad option. Time will tell.

You say that you have a very simple criteria for whoever takes Kubiak’s place, but is there anyone you don’t want? Does Shanahan fit in that category? And if Jeff Fisher kept Wade Phillips, would he be satisfactory?

Kevin: I’ve mostly avoided reading about potential candidates. Mostly because I don’t want to read some knucklehead suggest we reach out to Jon Gruden or Bill Cowher or Tony Dungy.

But my list of people I don’t want is far longer than people I do want. In fact in this small space of a column I have realized I would rather take a shot on a new guy than go with a retread. Which rules out Jeff Fisher and Tom Coughlin.

Okay fine, I can’t think of anyone I’m pining for. I guess Shanahan will have to do. But allow me to raise one final issue, something that is particularly bugging me. It seems everywhere Kyle has coached there has been issues with a star player. It might not be fair to pin it all on Kyle but he was there when RGIII’s career died, he abandoned any hope that Johnny Manziel could play football and he even neglected Roddy White (past his prime but still a legend).

If Kyle takes over the reigns should I be worried about one of our stars?

Jesse: Well that’s the thing about hiring a Shanahan. He’s always going to have an edge to him and probably won’t be showered with love like Kubiak was. And while the Broncos will need to monitor that if they do indeed hire Kyle, like you pointed out at least he won’t be the general manager like his dad was. He won’t be able to ship any of our stars away if they occasionally butt heads in the locker room. And in Kyle’s defense, Manziel is pretty much out of the league, RGIII’s career is hanging on by a thread in Cleveland and it’s not like the Falcons missed Roddy White that much this year. Julio Jones, Matt Ryan and Alex Mack seemed to like the guy just fine.

There you have it. We aren’t completely sold on Shanahan as the next head coach of the Denver Broncos, but seeing as we couldn’t agree on a definitive reason for why he shouldn’t be hired, nor could we present a more worthy candidate, then I’m guessing we’ve made our vote.

But God dammit Kyle, if you get the job don’t screw this up!

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